You’ve likely heard the recent Mega Millions news by now: A player in Illinois just won the second-largest jackpot in the game’s history on July 29.
Until last week, a prize won through the Michigan Lottery held the second-ranking spot. But Friday’s whopping $1.337 billion prize bumped the MI win to No. 3. Now, three jackpots over $1 billion top the list of Mega Millions’ largest.
So how rare is it to take home a life-changing Mega Millions prize? To hit the jackpot, a player has to match all five of the white balls drawn from a pool of balls numbered 1 – 70, plus an additional number between 1 and 25 — the Mega Ball.
The math works out to more than 302.5 million possible combinations of numbers using that game matrix, meaning your odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot with a single ticket are 1 in 302.5 million.
The odds of hitting the second-tier $1 million prize are much better, but still a long shot at 1 in 12.6 million. The overall odds of winning any prize with a Mega Millions ticket are 1 in 24. Prizes range from $2 to the multi-million or even billion dollar jackpot.
What are the chances a Michigan ticket will win Mega Millions?
It’s true that some states tend to have more jackpot winners than others. In fact, only 26 out of the 47 states and jurisdictions have seen a jackpot winner at all. Michigan ranks fifth for the number of Mega Millions jackpots won.
With 46 other jurisdictions in the mix, you could say MI wins its fair share of jackpots, having nabbed 18 top prizes since the game started in 2002. Keep in mind, Michigan has been in the game since the beginning, whereas many states and jurisdictions joined in later years. In 2010, 23 new states joined thanks to the cross-selling agreement between Mega Millions and Powerball. Since then, MI players have hit the jackpot nine times.
It’s important to note that every individual ticket has the same odds of hitting the jackpot, no matter where it was purchased. It’s simply more likely to see a winner in a state where more tickets are sold. Generally, the higher the population of a state, the more tickets that state will sell. Michigan is the 10th most populated state in the US.
Here are the top 10 states for Mega Millions jackpots since 2002. The most populous states top the list.
- New York 40
- California 33
- New Jersey 22
- Ohio 20
- Michigan 18
- Georgia 17
- Illinois 14
- Texas 13
- Maryland 11
- Virginia 9
Where to play the Mega Millions
Mega Millions tickets are sold in 45 states plus Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Every US state participates except for Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah.
Making up a small portion of lottery sales, online lottery sites can spur some participation in states where it’s been legalized. Twelve jurisdictions currently allow online purchase of tickets, including Michigan. The other online lotto states are Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington D.C. and Virginia.
What makes the Mega Millions jackpot hit $1 billion?
The Mega Millions jackpot has only reached $1 billion three times. But how does this happen? With such long-shot odds of anyone hitting the jackpot comes the potential for the progressive prize to grow to an exorbitant sum.
After a jackpot reset, modest prize increases are only met with a modest increase in player interest. Around the $500 million jackpot mark, sales tend to explode. Five of the top 10 largest Mega Millions jackpots were between $500 and $600 million. Sharp increases in ticket sales at that level cause the prize to snowball, but also make a jackpot win more likely.
This time around, it took 29 drawings in a row without a winner for the jackpot to reach the $1 billion landmark. Once it made the top 10 list at $480 million, it only took three more drawings for the prize to double in size and then some. It jumped from the 10th-highest to the No. 2 spot!
What if more than one ticket hits the jackpot?
So, is it a good strategy to wait for a $500 million jackpot before considering buying a ticket? Not necessarily.
An explosion of ticket sales when the prize is soaring also means a higher likelihood of multiple jackpot winners. When that happens, the total jackpot amount is simply split evenly between all the winners. Two of the 10 largest jackpots were hit by more than one ticket. In fact, the fourth-highest jackpot of $656 million was hit by three tickets in different states.
With pretty minuscule odds of winning, the best strategy is to play responsibly.