March 30th, 2012
01:57 PM ET

You're not going to win Mega Millions jackpot

“Never tell me the odds.”
Han Solo in "The Empire Strikes Back"

Look. We know that you're aware the odds of winning Friday night’s record-breaking $640 million Mega Millions jackpot, or any Mega Millions jackpot, are astronomical.

We also know that for the people who win it, the odds matter not one bit. Someone is going to win at least a share of the prize if not Friday, then in some subsequent drawing. But since we’re covering the historic jackpot and showing people in long lines giddily talking about how many cars or yachts or Dippin' Dots they’d buy if they win, we feel compelled to remind you:

It’s not going to be you.

The odds of a ticket winning a Mega Millions jackpot is 175,711,536 to 1. As Han Solo’s talkative robotic friend would tell you, you have a much, much better chance (1 in 3,720!) of navigating an asteroid field successfully. We didn’t exactly vet that, but you know you’d smash your ship into the rocks. And who are we to question protocol droids fluent in more than 6 million forms of communication?

To hammer home the point, here are a few other unlikely scenarios that, we’re sorry to say, are far more likely than you taking home a jackpot.

From the Harvard School of Public Health:

Chances of dying from a bee sting: 1 in 6.1 million. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

Chance you will be die from being struck by lightning: 1 in 3 million. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

From the University of Maryland Medical Center:

Chance of having conjoined twins: 1 in 200,000. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

From U.S. Hole in One, which insures golf prizes for holes in one:

The chance of an amateur golfer making a hole in one on a par-3 hole is about 1 in 12,500. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

The chance of a golfer hitting a hole in one on consecutive par-3 holes: 1 in about 156 million. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

From a 2011 State Farm study on collisions between vehicles and deer:

 The chance of hitting a deer with a vehicle in Hawaii, the state where State Farm says deer-vehicle collisions are least likely, is 1 in 6,267. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

From the National Weather Service:

The chance of being struck by lightning over an 80-year lifetime: 1 in 10,000. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

From the Florida Museum of Natural History, based on U.S. beach injury statistics in 2000:

Chance of drowning and other beach-related fatalites: 1 in 2 million. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

Chance of being attacked by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million. Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.

What are the odds you will win? Weigh in below, or on Twitter using #whataretheodds.

soundoff (1,701 Responses)
  1. Matt

    I'll laugh if it turns out that the winner read this first!

    March 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. mike

    What a pointless article. Thanks, Captain Obvious. I'm still buying a ticket.

    March 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brad

      Me too, thanks CNN for ruining my dream...................

      March 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      I bought three tickets, so my odds are like 1 in 60 million! Take that, author.

      March 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Billy C

    Someone help me out here.

    My first thought is, "If the chances of picking the right numbers are 1 in 175 million, and the payout is 600 million, why not just buy 176 million tickets? Don't you still come out ahead?

    So I do the math ...
    The rules are to pick 5 different numbers from 1 to 56 and another number from 1 to 46. That makes
    56 x 55 x 54 x 53 x 52 x 46 = 21,085,384,320 possible combinations.

    Assuming the winning numbers are chosen at random, the winning chances for any given combination aren't 1 in 175 million; they're 1 in 21 billion.

    Since I don't play the lottery, I expect there's something going on that I don't understand. Where do they come up with odds of 1 in 175 million?

    March 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Billy C

      Never mind, I figured it out: order doesn't matter, so you divide the 21 billion by 5! = 120. That gives you 175 million.

      So ... why not just buy 175 million tickets? That makes your chances 1 in 1.

      March 30, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      I'm not a mathematician, but are you taking into account that the first five numbers don't have to be in order?

      March 30, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Murphy

      Dude, go back to school, you're doing the math wrong. Your formula calculates the odd if the ORDER of how the numbers come out matters.

      March 30, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Actually, because the order of the first 5 numbers don't matter, you have to devide the number you got by (5x4x3x2x1=120). Basically there are 120 ways to get any 5 number combination. so 21B/120 =176M

      March 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • 176 million combinations

      there are 176 million combinations, so yes in theory you could buy every single combination and win. However, someone calculated it would take you 28 years to fill out the bubble sheets and the national supply of special lottery paper and ink would be depleted well before you printed out enough tickets anyway

      March 30, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • LongOdds

      1 out of 176m is calculated something like this: 56!/(51!x5) X 46 (for the 46 possible megaballs).

      If there was only one ticket sold for each combination then sure....your expected value would be greater than 1 and you'd buy all 176m combinations. But you have to take into consideration the disctinct possibility of splitting the jackpot with multiple winners. Also, you will get absolutely reemed on taxes on gambling winnings. That would he a hell of a 1099-G.

      Good luck, but just don't put in your 2 weeks notice quite yet.

      March 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • 2Ruff4U

      Billy,
      Your math is a bit off. Getting the first number right is not 1 in 56, it's 5 in 56 (any one of the 5 can match the first "ball" chosen), the next one is 4 in 55, etc. So the math is (56x55x54x53x52x46 DIVIDED BY 1x2x3x4x5) = 175,711,536

      March 30, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. lisa

    what a buzz kill!!

    March 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. alfranken

    My que is when it reach's seven hundred and fifty million dollars. The movie Arthur has inspired me and has turned that number into a fetish of a sort. So when I 'm down on my self and blue inside, I lay back and dream of magically having seven hundred and fifty million dollars.

    I will be strolling down to the dealership with cash buy my Jaguar so that I would be properly suited to find my beach house in Malibu that has a nice enough side yard to keep my litter of high end Shutzhund German Shepherds.

    My second home will be a farm in North East China within hours of the North Korean border is which I will train my shepherds to lead groups of North Korean defectors to my farm in preparation for them to seek asylum in South Korea.

    So when it reach's that amount, I will buy my first lottery ticket ever.

    Of course my other inspirational movie is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

    So between Arthur whose got the girl and the money and Charlie who knew what really matters the most, I can never lose because they both have their heart in the right place regardless of what happens.

    March 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. True Odds

    Odds of me reading an article by this writer again: 1 in 200 million, Odds of Winning the Mega Million: 1 in 175 million. So you are saying there's a chance...! Way to try to ruin a fun event CNN.

    March 30, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jeff

    I bought two quick picks today. Cool story, huh?

    March 30, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. MACT

    But, statistically, this is still a good bet. If the odds are 1 in 175 million, and the payoff is $650 million, the 'expectation value' is $3.70 for a $2 ticket.

    March 30, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. hardwired7

    'Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot: 1 in 175.7 million.'

    "So you're telling me there's a chance?." – Lloyd Christmas

    March 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. eh

    this article sucks

    March 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Rick Santorum

    Chances of me becoming President. 1 in 175 trillion billion.

    March 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • alfranken

      If you do win we will all need to win the lottery to survive.

      March 30, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Scott

    I know, whos the Debbie downer who wrote this article?! I wonder if they bought a ticket?!

    March 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mike

    I'll have you know, Mr. Smartypants, that I am an EXPERT at navigating asteroid fields thank you very much....

    March 30, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Jeff

    Imagine having the author of this article as your wife.... OUCH! Buzzkill! Worse yet, imagine if she won the lottery. Ultra buzz kill!

    March 30, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. julie jools

    Odds stated are for a SINGLE ticket. Thats why you buy multiple tickets. Trust, there are people with xtra play money buying huge amounts of tickets. One guy at work bought 1000 tickets. I myself plan to buy 500 today.

    March 30, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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