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. divedeep714

    Dos Equis man has won 4 times, with a quick pick.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Yo Mammy

    I'm going to win, and remain anonymous. Thank you.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gray

      Actually, most state laws require your name to be disclosed and made public. Your address and phone number is private, but if people know you well around town, chances are they would know who you are from your name, especially if your name is uncommon.

      August 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. casey george

    I would like to thank all the lottery players. The lottery is a tax on the stupid. Because of taxes and delayed payments, a ticket is never really worth what you pay for it. And the person above who claims you can only win if you play; that is not true. I could find a ticket or get one as a gift and that ticket could be the winning ticket. What are the odds of that. Pretty close to the current odds of buying a ticket.

    August 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yo Mammy

      Your whining annoys me...as it probably does with anyone else who reads this.

      August 15, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Wow, what a fun guy you must be! zzzzzzzzz

      August 15, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      I love it when the so called "educated elite" take it upon themselves to teach us poor fools a valuable lesson. Do you REALLY thinkpeople don;t know the odds are impossibly long? The fact is that this is the only place where $1 (or $3 or $5) can turn into half a billion dollars literally overnight.

      Its also a chance to dream for a few days a et a little excited about the possibility no matter how long the odds. You act as if most people are using this an an investment strategy.

      August 15, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rob

    Your odds of winning if you don't play; absolutely zero !!!

    August 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ficheye

    I'd rather float along thinking that I could win. I think we all already know that the odds are ridiculous. But how it improves our lives by telling us that you are never, never going to win... and then stating all the odds against you.... is just really stupid. There's a state of depression across the whole nation and all CNN can think of is "let's post an article that says there is no hope of ever winning! That'll go viral!". Just let us cling to a little fantasy if that's all we have, you jerks.

    August 15, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Howard

    Unfortunately its the poor, uneducated, unemployed and ignorant that fuel these lotteries.. Hopefully someone will win and the media stop covering it and poor will stop wasting money they don't even have to begin with...

    August 15, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. APB

    So what you're really saying is there's a chance I might win!

    August 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bill smith

    statisticians wouldlike you to believe their veiw of the odds are correct but they are wrong. The odds of any one ticket winning the lottery is 50/50. Either the ticketholder wins or they do not win. Plain and simple. I don't how many tickets are sold the odds of winning are always the same.50/50.

    August 15, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      This is completely idiotic. Please keep buying tickets so that my taxes will go down.

      Can you then also say that 'the odds of my leaping from Earth to Mars" are 50/50, because either I can or cannot?

      If everybody had 50/50 odds then why do all but at most one not win? That outcome alone proves that the odds are not 50/50.

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

      I disagree with your premise. 50/50 would indicate equal odd of a win or loss. A player does not have a 50% chance of winning. It is virtually a 100% chance of losing with an infinitesimal fraction of a fraction of winning. BUT, if you don't buy a ticket your chances are absolute zero.

      August 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob nob

      It would be 50-50 if there were only 2 numbers to chose from. You need to brush up on permutations.

      August 15, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. john

    Unfortunately, most people don't begin to understand the mathematics behind lottery games. For example, it is commonly believed that the more you enter a lottery and lose, the greater your odds of winning 'next time.' So I know a guy who bought tickets every week for years, thinking that 'now my time has come.' In reality, his odds of winning any particular lottery are exactly the same as anyone else. As the writer states, except for the enjoyment of 'being in the game' (and losing) people who have little money are going to continue to lose what little they have.

    August 15, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ken

    I am neither poor, uneducated, unemployed and ignorant and I play lottery and enjoy playing. I neither smoke, drink booze or do drugs but I do gamble on the lotto. That is my entertainment and my way of supporting the schools (what little they get). I gamble within reason knowing the odds........

    August 15, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. king kinder

    chances of winning if you don't play 0%
    somebody will win.
    you have as much a chance as anyone else, but only if you try.

    August 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. TJ Sam

    buy 1 million non duplicated tickets, your odds of winning is 1 in about 176!

    August 15, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • TomGI

      That is a common supposition. However it is not true. There are plenty of explanations on line detailing this if you chose to research it.

      August 15, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mathie

      Actually, it is true.

      August 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. BobOso

    I play for entertainment. I buy a three dollar quick pck, and get to dream for three days on how I will spend my millions. Cheaper than a movie, and like the aricle says, somebody will win. Their odds are the same as mine.

    August 15, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. joe

    I want to punch the author of this article in the face. Killjoy

    August 15, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nota Statistician

      Hahah... what's the probability of that happening?

      August 15, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. isabella

    My dad, an accountant and math whiz, used to warn me that the odds of winning a lottery could be compared to picking the right blade of grass from a football field – in other words, statistically almost impossible. It was good advice and I can count on one hand the no. of times I've bought a ticket in my life. Lotteries are fine as entertainment if one can afford to lose the ticket price, but unfortunately the majority of lottery ticket buyers are poor, and for them, it gives them a sad and empty sense of hope. I'm a dreamer too, I get it, but I've seen people spend far more on lotteries than they can afford.

    August 15, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
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