Your odds at the Mega Millions jackpot are slim – but can you increase them?
(NEXSTAR) — After yet another winnerless drawing Friday, the Mega Millions jackpot has grown to an estimated $820 million ahead of the next drawing.
The jackpot has been growing since April, and will continue to grow until a ticket (or tickets) successfully matches all six numbers in a drawing. It currently ranks as the fifth-largest Mega Millions jackpot on record, positioned just behind a $1.05 billion prize won by a 2021 ticket in Michigan.
If you, like millions of others, are ready to try your luck at the Mega Millions pot, you should know your chances of winning it are roughly 1 in 302.6 million, slightly worse than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot. You have a better chance of being attacked by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park (roughly 1 in 2.7 million for all park visitors) or an alligator in Florida (about 1 in 3.1 million, according to the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission).
But is it possible to increase your odds?
Some data suggest certain numbers may be more likely to win. Since October 2017, when the main ball pool shifted from 75 to 70 and the Mega Ball pool grew from 15 to 25, the five most frequently-drawn white balls are 14, 10, 17, 46, and 3, and the most frequently-drawn gold Mega Balls are 22, 11, 9, 19, and 4 (none of these were pulled in Friday’s drawing).
Only a few of the aforementioned numbers have been “hot” since the last Mega Millions jackpot was won.
Maybe you’re focused on picking the right combination of the above numbers. If so, you may want to reconsider.
As Rong Chen, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Statistics in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick explains, all combinations of numbers have the same chance of winning (1 in 302.6 million). That means the numbers drawn Friday have the same chance of being drawn again on Tuesday.
You can, however, opt for numbers that others would be less likely to select. This won’t increase your odds of winning, but it could decrease your odds of having to share the Mega Millions jackpot with another winner. To do this, Chen suggests avoiding numbers between 1 and 31 (many people like to use their birthday or other dates when selecting their numbers) or those on the edges and corners of the ticket form.
Your odds of winning will still be the same, though.
You may have heard of other methods used by lottery players trying to increase their chances of winning. There’s lottery wheeling — picking a group of numbers and playing every combination or permutation of those numbers — or selecting numbers that are “hot” or “cold,” meaning they have or haven’t been picked recently. Some also try the Delta Lotto System, which uses a bit of math to reduce the number of digits you’ll pick from, though many note it doesn’t take probability into account.
Unfortunately, the drawing won’t be happening on Friday the 13th (we won’t see one of those again until October), a day that has proven lucky for Mega Millions jackpots. Throughout the game’s history, six jackpots have been hit on a Friday the 13th. This isn’t much of a surprise, though — drawings are held on Tuesdays and Fridays, and there are usually one or two such Fridays every year.
If you subscribe to the “hot” or “cold” method, you may want to seek out a ticket from Michigan, or maybe from a state where the most jackpot-winning tickets have been sold. If you’re looking for a “cold” state that hasn’t seen a Mega Millions jackpot recently, you may want to look at the 18 states that haven’t had any big winners at all.
But, as Chen and other mathematics experts have said, there are no numbers, combinations, or methods to give you a better chance at the Mega Millions jackpot. You can, however, increase your chances by simply buying more tickets. Buying 100 tickets would cut your odds from 1 in 302.6 million to roughly 1 in 3.026 million.
If you want to purchase nearly every possible number combination, that would set you back about $600 million. Though, because the estimated cash value of the jackpot is $422 million, you’d really be spending all of your winnings — and then some — before you get them.
“A perfectly ‘rational’ person will not buy a lottery ticket, because the expected gain is always less than the price of the ticket — this is how the states make money from lottery,” Chen said in a press release. “But we are not rational.”
Regardless of your odds (which are the same as everyone else’s), it’s important to play responsibly. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, contact the National Problem Gambling Hotline.
The next Mega Millions drawing is scheduled for 11 p.m. ET Tuesday. Mega Millions is played in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Tickets are $2 and there are a total of nine ways to win a prize.