Mega Millions? Other big payout lotteries? Before you play (again), please consider this. Pick 5 numbers between 1 and 70. Any numbers are equally likely to be picked at random and once you have picked a number it cannot be picked again. So, why not pick 70 69 68 67 66? Or, 11 22 33 44 55. These sets are just as possible as any set of random numbers. But, when was the last time 5 numbers in a pattern were drawn at the lottery? Never! So, what my gut tells me is your chance of winning the big lottery are so close to zero as to be indistinguishable. Let's see.

According to the Mega Millions website, your chance of winning the big lottery jackpot if you buy one ticket is 1 in 302,575,350. How does that compare to things with which we are more familiar? Imagine trying to flip a coin and have it land heads many times in a row. How about a 28 times in a row (1 in 268,435,456)? Your odds of flipping a coin and it landing heads 28 in a row is roughly similar to what you are trying to achieve when you buy a Mega Millions ticket.  Imagine how likely are you to do that? Or, how about rolling a dice? Are you lucky enough to roll a six.... 11 times in a row (1 in 362,797,056)?!! How about cards? Your odds of winning Mega Millions are similar to your being able to randomly pull the ace of spades out of a shuffled deck with one pick.... 5 times in a row (1 in 380,204,032). That's really amazingly difficult! Should you be betting $2 that you could do that?

How about buying multiple tickets to improve your odds? Yes that sort of works. If you spend $50 and buy about 25 tickets, each with different number combinations, then your odds of winning a particular drawing becomes just about the same as your chances of dying in the United States in an earthquake (1 in 12,583,363). You are 50 times more likely to be killed by a meteor strike than an earthquake. Are either of those things going to happen to you? Also, if you play the lottery on different days, you do not improve your odds of winning at all. You are much better off buying 10 tickets for one drawing then one ticket 10 different drawings on different days. In other words, increasing your frequency of play does nothing to increase your odds of winning. The god of lottery has no memory from one event to the next and does not favor you if you play more frequently; you are actually hurting yourself. Your best strategy to win Mega Millions, Powerball or other big lottery is to wait until the jackpot prize climbs substantially above your odds of winning, about $600,000,000 then hit it with your entire saved budget for tickets each with different picks all at once. Still it will be a lost cause most likely. A better bet is to take that money and dollar cost average it into the S&P 500 index of the US stock market and hold it for a long period of time. But, that's another story (compound interest is your friend)!

Ok, let's look at it another way. Suppose you had a computer random number generator and you asked it to generate a number between 1 and 302,575,350 (the odds of winning the big jackpot). Further, you picked a number in your head for the random number generator to match with. You pushed the button on the random number generator once per second - if there's a match then you win. How long would you be at it? On average you would need to push the button 151,287,675 times to get a match (at about 50% the way through your button pushes). You would be at it 1751 days at 24 hours per day. But, you need to sleep, so if your full time job was to push the button 8 hours per day, it would take 5,253 days on average to win. Or, about 14.4 years of button pushing - every second for 14.4 years; 8 hours per day. If you were unlucky, it might take you 302,575,350 pushes or 28.8 years. If each push was a bet, it would cost you on average $302.5 million dollars at $2 per chance to win. But, according to (05-02-2021) the average jackpot is $147.39 million (before taxes).

Yes, someone does eventually win the prize, but that's out of hundreds of millions of tickets being sold. Of course you have the freedom to choose. Who knows maybe you are the one person who can draw the ace of spades out of a random deck of cards 5 times in a row? GOOD LUCK! Otherwise, it's just a tax on people that are not so smart. Be smart, live and learn, and in every endeavor play your cards the best way you know how. Best of luck in life.

--Glenn Conti