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. Just Me

    "'Face it, you wont win it"", yeahh idiot, you said that to the moron who won it in Mayland last night. That is, If he knows how to read which I doubt he does..it is sad...he probably will spend everything at Walmart and with his trailer trash friends watching Nascar and drinking beer,,,sigh....

    March 31, 2012 at 8:09 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rossko

      First, let me try to explain to you the subtext of the "idiot" as you state; she was wrong on 3 counts, and right on 175,711,533 counts. Second you display ignorance so well – do you understand that Maryland is very close to Washington DC? Wait, maybe you do have a point. I always laugh with ignorant narcissists from the northeast or west coasts make fun of people in other states. As a person who has actually been to every state in the union I can tell you there are idiots and intellectuals equally distributed in the country – take Just Me for example.

      March 31, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Britt

      I agree with Just Me on the first sentence. When you make a statement "you are not going to win" then it is all inclusive. So this article is wrong. When something is correct, it is correct 100% of the time. Not 99%. Now you expect better from CNN. How about throwing a "most likely you won't win" or something along those lines if you really want to show the dim chances of winning the lotto. Although maybe the idiot comment or the rest might not have been called for... the article's header is plain wrong.

      March 31, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • joethejuggler

      If you want to take the "you" collectively, then we indeed lost. (Lotteries only pay out something like 60% of what they take in. So we collectively paid in a lot more than was won back.)

      Otherwise, you have to look at it the way Rossko presented it. The author of this article was right wrt 175 plus million. The number of winners is far less than the rounding error in that bigger number. It's really a shame that so many people don't understand probabilities.

      March 31, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  2. Brian

    The odds of winning are essentially zero, but the COST of buying a ticket is also essentially zero, whereas the cost of smashing a ship into an asteroid belt is a violent death in the cold, merciless vacuum of space.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:13 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. TOM F.

    Chance you will win the Mega Millions jackpot, if you buy a ticket: just slightly greater than if you don't buy a ticket.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:37 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jim M

    I still think I have a chance to win last night's drawing.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. suckfesterous Megalouss

    This is the ultimate capitalist dream...take from everyone and give to the one.....but when poor wall street does that, everyone condemns them....you know I am starting to get warm feelings for the poor bankers who have been so maligned by all these "extremists" socialists commies....Wall street is good, GREED IS GOOD, live the Dream, OF YOU HAVING WHILE EVERYONE AROUND YOU HAS SUCK....and let them lick your boots.....live the dream.....AND GET A LAWYER.....you will get sued because lawyers live that dream too....by creating nigthmares for bankers, and corporations....and other POOR PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO LIVE THE DREAM.

    March 31, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. dave

    Winner revealed!

    March 31, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Rip Korde

    Thank you CNN for a lighthearted, overdue article. Life isn't all gloom and doom! We need many more of these! By the way, of course the odds of pigs flying out of my keester (sp), 1 in 5 are a lot better than my having won the lottery 1 in 175.7 million!

    March 31, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. David

    I know I won't win. That's why I didn't buy a ticket.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Michael

    I know my odds of winning aren't that great, but so are my odds of earning that much money in my lifetime!

    March 31, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. angel611

    Yes, two people that won $340,000,000, you are NOT going to win because some negative loser said so.
    No wait, they DID win.
    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

    March 31, 2012 at 9:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. room88

    So what I want to know is who got lucky and died from a bee sting yesterday?

    March 31, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Ernie

    "It's not going to be you."

    Unless it is, however remote the odds, and then this smug, pessimist Author is wrong.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Brian Allen

    Tell those 3 winners again please, you won't win, don't bother, Oh OK.

    March 31, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. dreamersempire

    Why this is a stupid article. The writer is essentially confessing that the odds of the winner(s) reading this article is also astronomical. This is one of those "Cloud without Rain" types of articles that doesn't seem to serve a point other than make a bold statement and them move on without imparting anything useful. Whenever I meet someone who likes to tout this kind of 'knowledge' soon afterwards, they are nowhere to be found. Its a pattern, make a bold statement to bum people out, then move along and do it somewhere else.

    March 31, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. joethejuggler

    @Britt: What if it's 99.99999% of the time? Isn't it entirely reasonable to round that off to 100%?

    March 31, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • SDN

      joe: No. 3 is as close to infinity as 48 bazillion. Asymtopes.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Britt

      Perhaps me and you can explore that :) I still strongly believe "right" should be 100%. I expected that from sources such as CNN. Not a fan of media that's "opinionated" and irresponsible with wording instead of factual. Let me and you discuss and debate and have opinions. People get swindled this way. We are not discussing something THAT major ... I get that. But this is what you see all the time on other issues and that just rubs me the wrong way.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Britt

      @Joe. Last I thought about probabilities was centuries ago ha! .. but you and me both know that's not what we are disagreeing with here. I'm disagreeing only on the article's header. It didn't even leave room for the three tickets that won. Which is 100% wrong. And they knew that when posting. Because we know that there WILL be a winner. So I hope you understand what I'm trying to convey.

      March 31, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • joethejuggler

      Again, the percentage of people who will lose is closer to 100% than it is to 99%. (Much closer!)

      And if you take into account the fact that not everyone who plays the lottery will read this article, the author is absolutely correct.

      And, for the record, in fact we do not know for sure there will be a winner to each lottery. I don't think you understand how they work. It's not a raffle drawing (where there is a guaranteed winner). We approach certainty that there will be at least one winner (speaking again in terms of probability) when we have sold at least 1.75 million unique tickets (that is tickets with different combinations of numbers picked). But noting that it's nearly certain that there will be *a* winner doesn't change the fact that "your" probability of winning is essentially zero. The article clearly explained which of these it was talking about.

      Unfortunately, many people don't understand the difference, so they have a severely distorted idea of the advisability of spending money on lottery tickets.

      April 23, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
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