Why You're Even Less Likely to Win Tonight's Massive Lottery Jackpot Than You Think

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 13 2013 2:13 PM

You're Even Less Likely to Win the Massive Mega Millions Jackpot Than You Probably Think

142070483
A Mega Millions lottery ticket is printed out at Bluebird liquor store on March 29, 2012 in Hawthorne, California

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Mega Millions jackpot is now up to an estimated $425 million, making it the second-largest jackpot in the drawing's history, and prompting me to email my friends this afternoon to remind them that we should all buy tickets.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

My willingness to throw down a few dollars to spend the afternoon dreaming of what I'd do with my share of the cash notwithstanding, now's probably good a time for a reality check: Not only are the odds of winning the jackpot overwhelmingly against me, you, and everyone else, they're even worse than they were just two months ago. Really. As the Los Angeles Times' David Lazarus explains today in a helpful PSA, the odds of winning the jackpot used to be roughly 1 in 176 million but, as of Oct. 22, are now an even-more-staggering 1 in 259 million.

Advertisement

The reason for the decrease: Lottery officials (to be fair, publicly) tweaked the game two months ago by increasing the number of white balls in the drawing. In the old system, they were numbered 1 to 56, but now they go from 1 all the way to 75. (The number of possibilities for the sixth, Mega number, meanwhile, dropped from 46 to 15, but that doesn't make up for odds-decreasing additional white balls.)

The change means more frequent smaller prizes, and less frequent grand-prize winners—something that in turn means a steady increase in the size of the jackpot, which means more headlines, which means more people in line for the next drawing, which means a bigger jackpot, which means ... well, you get the point. As UCLA math professor John Garnett explained to Lazarus, "for every three winners under the old system, now there will be two." Or, put more plainly, if your chances of winning the grand prize used to suck, "now they suck even more." It's worth pointing out, after all, that no one's nailed all six numbers since the change went into effect in the second half of October.

All that said, be sure to come back on Monday to see pictures of my brand new private island.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

(h/t Gawker)