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. Matthew Matusik

    So what I read is ... If I by chance do win ... there is a better chance of dieing soon after!

    March 30, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Steve427

    The 'buy rate' right now will ensure that someone (probably more than 1) hits it tonight. While it would indeed be interesting to see how fanatical buyers could get if it hit $1B, there is no big chance of that happening. The tickets being sold over the last few days have likely ensured a sure set of winning numbers for multiple winners tonight.

    March 30, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. SANJOSEMIKE

    Here are your best financial decisions:

    1. OK, if you must, spend no more than 2 bucks on a lottery ticket once in a while
    2. Have no children or only one
    3. Go to community college and a state university for a business degree, work your way through, get NO debt. Speak and write English WELL.
    4. NEVER get into credit card debt
    5. Invest in no more than 3 stock funds and 1 bond fund, start when you are still in your 20's
    6. Don't buy a house until you can put down 20% (as if you'll get a mortgage otherwise)
    7. Buy ONLY cars that are at least 2 years old, and keep them for 10 years
    8. Marry only a financially responsible person, and talk budget with them each month
    9. Save, save, save at least between 10-20% of your income for investing and emergency funds.
    10. Last of all NEVER, EVER buy a time-share

    Do these things and you will retire at a decent age fine, because your chances of winning a lottery are far less than 0.

    Listen to me. I know what I'm talking about.

    sanjosemike

    March 30, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • TriciaMcMillan

      We do all those things except #3 and #7. We went to ivy league schools, and we like to buy new cars BUT we hold onto them for 10 years. We're engineers and researchers: you need to go to a highly rated school to get into those fields. Everything else you listed works for us.

      March 30, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Sow in order words we should no play and save that one doller

      March 30, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      It is hard to listen to anyone that says your chances at winning something are below 0, because that is impossible. Even 1 and 757 million is greater than 0...duh.

      March 30, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • He Hate Me

      #5 is bad advice. Issuing a blanket statement about how someone should invest his/her funds is irresponsible given the uniqueness of each individual's unique objectives and constraints. No young 20-year old should be invested in a debt fund, unless they have some fixed liability they are trying to immunize.

      March 30, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Name*stive

    I know I'm gonna win it I've allready made plans

    March 30, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tess

      Me too! Guess we'll have to split it...

      March 30, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bob

    The odds of the lottery organization mistakenly sending you somebody else's annuity check is thousands of times more likely than actually winning the lottery. So for all you who are sure you have won, let all of us who don't buy tickets on that bandwagon, we are much more likely to get a piece of the pie, and still have years worth of dollar bills stuffed in our pockets.

    March 30, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. The Ceej

    I love it how all these journalistic idiots who think they're so smart always talk about the odds of winning but neglect to mention the payoff odds. This is why they never have success at gambling.

    Let's break this down into terms even an idiot can understand:

    Someone gives you 2:1 odds at guessing the outcome of the roll of a die. You don't take that bet because the actual odds of guessing correctly are 6:1.

    Someone gives you 6:1 odds at guessing the outcome of a fair coin toss. You DO take that bet because the actual odds of guessing correctly are 1:1.

    So, let's break apply this logic to the current MM drawing. The odds of winning are 176M:1. The payoff odds they're giving you are 640M:1.

    In conclusion, your payoff odds are nearly four times better than your winning odds, so only a fool would turn down that bet. Especially with a buy-in so low.

    March 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • The Ceej

      CORRECTION: The odds of guessing the die roll outcome are 5:1. I was thinking one in six, but typed 6:1. One in six is 5:1. But, you get the point.

      March 30, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      But you did not consider the tax and other implications ... so figure you lose 30% to bring it up to immediate payout, and you take out another third to cover taxes ...

      That means you are looking at 200 million net IF you are the only one to win ... if anyone else wins, you get 100 million ... so the odds are back to worse than the payout.

      March 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Weeble Wobbly

      You are forgetting that the payout can be shared by multiple winning tickets. When these type of jackpot lotteries get up over ~$300M, they typically have multiple winners. That, combined with taxes, will likely result in no one having a payout greater than $175M.

      March 30, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • He Hate Me

      Ummm, you are assuming that no one else picks the winning numbers alongside you. The implied odds (or true odds) are unknown given that you cannot predict what overlapping tickets exist. I would be VERY surprised if someone took down this whole jackpot on his/her own given the hype surrounding it. Also, the jackpot is not $640 million I don't believe. Some of the total will be paid out for people who get 3, 4, or 5 numbers correctly. If you are going to criticize someone's math, at least be correct.

      March 30, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Ceej

      Nope, Rob. Even after taxes and taking the cash option, the payoff is more than twice the expected odds.

      Webble, I left the multiple winners possibility out because, at the time I typed that, I was unaware of exactly how many players there were and, the last I heard, it was unlikely there would be more than two winners, which would have still surpassed the odds. Now we're looking at a probable three-way pot (or by now, maybe even a four-way pot), which really complicates things. I'd rather not figure all that out and my ticket was bought for me by someone who lives in the area where they do MM as a gift, so I really don't have to.

      March 30, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Ceej

      On top of all that, there are ways to decrease the odds of picking the same numbers as someone else, if you study what numbers people are likely to pick. It doesn't increase your chances of winning, but it decreases your chances of sharing the pot if you DO win.

      March 30, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tiger Yorktown

    I look at this as entertainment – the same way you should look at gambling in Vegas. You set a limit of what you will spend, and stick to it. I will only buy one ticket to a lottery like this – and only if I hear about it and its in the 100's of millions of dollars. I have just as good a chance of winning as anyone else – and even though the article is very clear it is extremely unlikely that I will win – someone will win – and to have a chance at winning half a billion dollars – it's worth a buck.

    March 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. xfool

    I would buy my gravity booster back from the government and develop it the way I intended it to be used.

    March 30, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • xfool

      R u Reytentwo?

      March 30, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Randy

    The only government approved pyramid scheme. They shut down pyramid groups that the public run because they don't get a cut like they do with the lottery.

    Can't lose if you don't play!

    March 30, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • TriXen

      Exactly! ;)

      March 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joel

    Hey, I just pulled some quarters out of my coin jar. Might as well spend a few dollars when the jackpot is this big, then just look for free parking downtown for a couple of days and walk to the office.

    March 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. TriXen

    I've only made one lottery purchase in the last 10 years, and it was about 5 years ago when I bought a scratch-off. I had a dream one night that I won the lottery, and woke up laughing because I never, ever play. The next morning, I was paying for gas and the cashier asked if I wanted a scratch-off. I started to say, "no," but then remembered my dream and said, "Sure, why not?" I paid a dollar for the scratch off, took it to my car, and realized it was a $100 winner. The cashier asked if I wanted more tickets. I told him, "Heck no!" I took the cash and haven't bought a scratch-off OR a lottery ticket since. In case you're wondering, I won't be buying a Mega Millions ticket!

    March 30, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • banasy©

      Bet you would if you had another dream like that!
      I know I would!

      March 30, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Andrew

    I'm just playing for fun. I rarely play the lottery and I spend $10 on lottery tickets. I know most likely I'll win nothing at all, but it's all good and fun.

    March 30, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. nodoubtrocks

    I don't listen to ratios/odds and all that garbage because it's all false. If you buy a ticket you have a chance at winning it. Simple as that. Don't buy a ticket, then you have a zero chance of winning. How about all the thousands of other people in the past who won the big jackpots? All they did was go to the store and purchase a lotto ticket for a $1.00, came home and won. Yet they never got struck by lightning, hit a deer in Hawaii, etc. Goes to show odds don't mean a thing. When it's your time to win...it's your time.

    March 30, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • flairtimewhooooo

      If I win I will double down and buy 200 million tickets for the next drawing!!!

      March 30, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Adam

    To quote Jim Carey in Dumb and Dumber.... "So your saying there's a chance!" lol

    March 30, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Grumpster

    Chance of winning if you don't play.....Zero.

    March 30, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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