The 30th of March, 2012 saw the biggest lottery jackpot in World history. The
pre-tax total was approximately 640 million dollars, and despite the odds of
winning being rather narrow, nearly 1.4 billion dollars was spent on lottery
Whenever there is a large lottery jackpot, the same crop of articles always
appear, such as:
- What you could buy with $X million
- How to pick your numbers
- 10 things more likely to happen than winning
I'm going to focus on the last one, because the statistics are usually wrong (or
rather, used incorrectly).
The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are 1 in 179 million. That means
that there are 179 million different number combinations that can occur. If you
buy one ticket, there us a 1 in 179 million chance your numbers will come
up. Buy two tickets (with different numbers), and the odds are halved. Nothing
Normally there's something about how much more likely it is that you'll be
struck by lightning than win the jackpot. The odds of being hit by a lightning
strike in the US are 1 in 10,000 . This makes it sound much more likely,
but these odds are spread over an average lifetime (80 years) rather than a
single event (a lottery drawing).
A slightly more realistic set of odds would be: if you buy a lottery ticket,
what are the chances of you being struck by lightning before the draw compared
to winning the jackpot?
|Odds of being struck in a year
|Time between lottery draws
|Odds of being struck in 1 day
|Odds of being struck in 4 days
Assuming you buy a ticket as soon as the previous draw ends, you have nearly a 1
in 71 million chance of being hit by lightning. Of course, this doesn't take
into account the current season or state you live in (people in Florida are
twice as likely to be killed or injured than people in Michigan ).
So, in order to be more likely to win the jackpot than being zapped by Zeus,
just buy two tickets.