$640M Lottery Jackpot: What Are the Odds?

What are your odds of winning Friday's Mega Millions jackpot?

By Patrick Healy and John Simerson
|  Friday, Mar 30, 2012  |  Updated 11:35 AM PDT
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Tommy's Tobacco in Imperial Beach sold a Mega Millions number to one Michael Lange, who came forward Wednesday afternoon to claim $308,000 after matching 5 or the 6 numbers. Elena Gomez spoke to Patrick Fitzsimmons, probability professor at UCSD about the likelihood of winning this $500 million jackpot.

Tommy's Tobacco in Imperial Beach sold a Mega Millions number to one Michael Lange, who came forward Wednesday afternoon to claim $308,000 after matching 5 or the 6 numbers. Elena Gomez spoke to Patrick Fitzsimmons, probability professor at UCSD about the likelihood of winning this $500 million jackpot.

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Calculating the Odds of Winning the Big Jackpot

With the Mega Millions jackpot at an all-time high of $540 million, what are the real odds of you winning? Patrick Healy investigates
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With Friday’s Mega Millions jackpot now at a whopping $640 million, ticket sales are brisk all over Southern California.

At convenience, liquor and grocery stores, customers are lining up hoping one of the tickets in their hands will be the big winner.

But at $1 a ticket, what are the odds of picking a Mega Millions winning ticket?

According to Dr. Ken Alexander, a mathematics professor at USC, the odds of winning are one in 175.7 million.

That raises the question – with the jackpot expected to be $540 million, why not guarantee you win by buying all 175 million possible ticket combinations?

“Well, a number of things get in the way of that,” Alexander said.

Assuming 350 million tickets are sold, there’s a better than 90 percent chance that there will be at least two winners. So after taxes, you’ll likely come out with a loss.

But what about the strategy of choosing outlets that have previously sold winners?

"If you buy them from some store that sells a lot of tickets, then the store is more likely to have a winner,” Alexander said. “But your 10 (tickets) have the same probability as if you buy them from anywhere else.”

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