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. Henry

    For the winners, the chances of wining is 100%, for the losers, it is 0%. Since no one knows this information beforehand, throwing statistics does not make you look smart. It is truly no better than "I don't know". So, stuff the "1-in-whatever chances" bull crap. Go ahead, buy few tickets, at very least for fun and entertainment.

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

      Thank you, Henry and people like Henry, for helping keep my taxes just a little lower.

      August 15, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joel

      The point is that you aren't going to win. Someone will win, but it won't be you. You will never win. You have no shot. It's throwing away your money. People spends hundreds of dollars with the idea that they can actually swing the odds in their favor.

      August 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mick J.

    The people that actually won were also part of the statistic so go tell it to them-Kind of dumb, dont you think? From what I see, somone always wins.

    August 15, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. John _Atlanta GA

    Your chances of winning are better than the chances of reading this article not completly waisting your time. People win the lottery all the time, that means you are wrong, all the time!

    August 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. disagreement

    So what you're saying is... I'm gonna win?

    August 15, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sgt. York

    Lottery tickets are a tax for the stupid

    August 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Highly Motivated

    Buying 3 tickets is 3 chances to win, buying 20 tickets is 20 chances to win, buying 50 tickets is 50 chances to win, etc.

    August 15, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. john

    Well then I'm going to win it single-handed just to prove all these statistics to be absolutely worthless against the fact that it's still always "1" out of the total odds rather than "0."

    August 15, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. mike

    Absolutely no chance in winning if you don't buy a ticket. Absolutely a chance to win if you do.

    August 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. bubba

    What if you bought 3000 tickets to EVERY drawing...do you think your chances would be pretty decent? Well, consider that whenever an outlet sells a winning jackpot ticket – they get a piece of it. A busy outlet probably sells 3000 tickets (or more) to EVERY drawing...yet I'm sure the VAST majority of outlets have NEVER sold a winning jackpot ticket, even if they've been selling tickets for 10-15 years. So, that kinda puts it in perspective...but I buy tickets anyway (hey – SOMEBODY has to win...why not ME?).

    August 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. SB1790

    I've often wondered if you bought a number of tickets equal to your chances in winning, if you'd guarantee yourself a win. Even a split is still a profit in this case.

    August 15, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • ShannonInCT

      Not only is there a high risk of splitting the jackpot with several other winners, but also remember that the immediate lump-sum payoff is only like 70% of the advertised jackpot, and that the winnings are taxable at the highest tax bracket.

      August 15, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT137

      SB1790,

      If you ensured that each ticket you bought was unique (so that you didn't have any 'duplicate' tickets that had the same 6 numbers), you would indeed have a winning ticket, since you would guarantee that you had one ticket for every possible lottery combination. However, it would take quite a long time to print out all those tickets! Imagine that your lottery machine could print 100 tickets per second. Since there are 175 million tickets to print, that would still take more than 1 million seconds, which is more than 11 days. That would mean that the lottery drawing would have come and gone by the time all of your tickets were printed.

      You might try to get around this buy having friends buy tickets at different locations at the same time, so that you aren't relying on one machine to print out the tickets. However, if you do this, and all of your friends buy tickets randomly, you end up with the chance of duplicate tickets, and the chance that any one of you ends up with a winning ticket drops. Imagine that you have 175 million friends, and each one buys one lottery ticket, with all numbers chosen randomly. In this case, even though you've bought a total of 175 million tickets, the chance of having at least one winning ticket is only 63% !

      August 15, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • bubba

      Several years ago, some lotteries had odds low enough that you actually could purchase a tickets for every possible number combination...and when the jackpot had rolled over several times – it was possible to purchase every number combination for LESS than the jackpot value. At least one crime syndicate actually suceeded in pulling it off. Which is why they added another number or two to every lottery, making it MUCH more difficult to purchase every number combo.

      August 15, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ed

    so your saying theres a chance!!!

    August 15, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Marc

    ....and it's estimated that 41% of facebook 'fans' are idiots. That means this 41% are also lottery players. Do what the rich do, -stay clear of this 'idiotic' game.

    August 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. This guy

    I usually buy one ticket a month and when I don't win I always tell myself "Best waste of dollar ever!"

    August 15, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Klaus

    That much money will certainly ruins anyone's life.

    August 15, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Buy a ticket

    So this guy that had a rough week at work said to God, "Please God, if you could help me win the lottery it would help so much". The lotto came and went and the guy didn't win. The next week he lost his job and he said to God, "Please God, if I could just win the lottery it would really help". Again the lotto came and went and he didn't win. The next week he got an eviction notice and once again he said to God, "God, I could really use the help winning the lotto this week". A voice from above came back, "Help me out here – buy a ticket".

    August 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • harryhaller

      Not quite as funny as when I heard it thirty years ago....

      August 15, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
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