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. JOHNNY TRIGG

    I play, because i enjoy it to a small point, but it is like any form of betting where you place your money "down" in the hope of a gain, " If you can not afford to lose your bet, then you should not play, simple.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. more2bits

    Duncan McCloud could win it in his lifetime.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • fidgetwidget

      That's McLeod, not McCloud.

      August 15, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Guggo

    Man-suck the fun out of it why don't ya? Can't a guy dream-even if for a moment-that he might be able to retire before dropping dead while working?

    August 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. J

    I'd rather give the lottery a couple bucks each week for a chance to win than I would more tax money to Obama.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lou

      J
      you win THAT kind of money my friend, you'll be giving Obama a LOAD of additional tax money, lol. Good luck to you!

      August 15, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      You understand that lottery money is spent on education, right? It's indistinguishable from a tax.

      August 15, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Larry1019

    The lottery is (and always will be) a tax on the stupid.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dunlar

      Is this your homework, Larry???!!!!

      August 15, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dunlar

    If you're not going to win, why is the column just below this one, advice on what to do, if you win?

    August 15, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Skeptic

    If you buy a $1 ticket, the odds that you win are something like 176 million to one. Buying more than one ticket doesn't change your odds much., i.e., if you buy 176 tickets your odds are still a million to one. BUT If you do NOT buy a ticket the chance of your winning are zero, zilch, nada, nil, none. Your choice.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eric

      Firstly powerball tickets are two dollars. Second the odds do not change the way you think they do I would advise some remedial statistics and probability course work. Thirdly 1/1000000 is close enough to zero that in most lines of work it is assumed as the same number. Hell NASA probably accepts an error of 1/1000000 as zero so what does that tell you if they can put people on the moon and assume such a small number as 0.

      August 15, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Michelle

    Well i has to be somebody!

    August 15, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Bill

    Mega Million Jackpot odds – imagine standing on a street corner anyheres in the continental United States. Imagine you bump into a person accidently. Now you are back in your hotel room and realize you must reach the same person you bumped. Somehow you gather all the phone books for every location in the US. Now you select one phone book from the room filled with phone books. You randomly open the phone book to any page and scroll down to some point and select the corresponding phone number to call. – what are your chances the person answering your phone call is the person you bumped into? Reaching the person on the corner is the same odds of winning the Mega Jackpot – Good Luck

    August 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. steve

    chance you cant get it right,its not the mega millions up there now its the powerball .chance of correcting it 1 in 175.7 million

    August 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Danno

    It's fun to drop a few bucks on a big jackpot and fantasize about what you would do if you won. A little entertainment.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Isobel

    I only buy one ticket, occasionally, so it['s not breaking the bank to get in it... Hell, someone has to win it... it may as well be me!

    August 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Beam

    Lol...one article...why you're not going to win...next article...advise for the winners....

    August 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Kevin

    What are your chances of being struck by lightning if standing in an open field with a 10 foot metal pole? I really don't know that answer but odds have to drastically increase don't they? Or did they factor that into the odds given? What are your chances of hitting the lottery if you don't play? That I do know. ZERO

    August 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eric

      Actually your pay out by not playing is 100% you get 100% of what you put in which is nothing and thus you win all the time and hit the numbers everyday.

      August 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John Richard

    In 1990 I won $500,000.00 in the California Lottery. Eighteen years later, in 2008, my wife won $82,750.00 in the California Lottery. If we had followed the author's advise, we would have missed out in $600,000.00 in winnings. I play because ONLY players have the chance of winning and real people win real money every day in lotteries across the country. Now if you're talking about spending the rent/grocery money then I might agree with you. I'd be willing to bet, though, that most people waste more money in fast food take-out, shopping sprees, etc than I spend playing Lotto.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eric

      Well considering the powerball is 2 dollars minimum and gets drawn 102 times a year I win $204 dollars a year by not playing. Thats if you only play one ticket. Considering the lottery is for profit as in state revenue I would say that to expect to come out anything but behind is foolish and frankly people can spend whatever they want on the lottery if they aren't in debt, starving, or neglecting more important things in life to play.

      August 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      The argument that only people who play win is the same one made by lotteries themselves in their advertising campaigns. It's also irrational. It's also true that only people who play lose, only it involves a lot more people and a lot more money. Suggesting that people waste money on fast food and other frivolous goods is hardly a convincing reason to waste more money on lottery tickets. From a purely mathematical point of view buying a lottery ticket is indistinguishable from throwing money in the street.

      August 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
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