Revealed: The Chance of Winning the Mega Millions Jackpot Compared to Other Extraordinary Events

Revealed: The Chance of Winning the Mega Millions Jackpot Compared to Other Extraordinary Events

Following Friday night’s draw, when no ticket matched all six numbers in Mega Millions, the jackpot reached the mouth-watering $1.55 billion, urging thousands of people to go buy a ticket for the next drawing on Tuesday night. The lucky winner (if there is one) will also have the option to take home a lump-sum payment of roughly $757.2 million.

But what are the odds of hitting the big jackpot? The team at decided to look at the jackpot history of Mega Millions and compare the likelihood of winning with other rare events.

It turns out that finding a four-leaf clover is much more likely than winning the grand prize. In fact, there are not many things in this world with worse odds. Yet, winning the lottery is not as hard as you think.

What Are the Odds of Hitting the Mega Millions Jackpot?

Offered in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Mega Millions is the most widespread lottery game in the United States. It has also paid out some of the largest lottery prizes in history – the Mega Millions record was set on October 23, 2018, when a single ticket sold in South Carolina won $1.537 billion.

The likelihood of this happening, however, was extremely low because, since the last change of rules (October 28, 2017), players have had to match 5 numbers out of 70 plus 1 Mega Ball out of a separate field of 25 balls. This means that the odds are 1 in 302,575,350, way worse than the initial odds when the game was launched in 1996. Back then, the chance of winning was 1 in 52,969,000.

To put that in perspective, the odds of finding a four-leaf clover are 1 in 5,076, according to a 2017 research that included some 5.7 million clovers. And while the lucky plant is rare in the wild, it cannot compare to the Mega Millions jackpot odds.

How Do the Mega Millions Odds Compare to Other Unlikely Events?

Hitting any lottery jackpot is extremely unlikely but winning the Mega Millions grand prize is particularly improbable. If we take the largest lotteries in the United States, we can see the odds are clearly against us, with Cash4Life probably offering the easiest prize to win (it is not a progressive jackpot, though). Its odds are 1 in 21,846,048, slightly better than Lotto America’s 1 in 25,989,600. The likelihood of hitting the two biggest jackpots, on the other hand, is almost non-existent – 1 in 292,201,338 for Powerball and 1 in 302,575,350 for Mega Millions.

Interestingly enough, the chances of becoming fish food are much higher, calculations from the Florida Museum show – the risk of dying from a shark attack is estimated at 1 in 4,332,817. Statistics are quite close to this – at 1 in 5,693,092, for meeting one’s end during a tornado. If that sounds too dark and macabre, the odds of a meteorite hitting the Earth are much, much better at 1 in 300,000.

By comparison, being dealt a Royal Flush when playing poker is estimated at 1 in 649,740. Becoming a billionaire in the U.S. is quite similar at 1 in 674,012 if we look at the current number of U.S.-born, self-made billionaires – 422 according to the 2023 Forbes Billionaires List. The odds of coming across a four-leaf clover are 1 in 5,076, while the odds of living to a hundred years have been estimated at 1 in 5,000.

Event Odds
The odds of being alive 1 in 102,685,000
Shuffling a deck of cards and getting the cards ending up in perfect order 1 in 1068
Picking the perfect NCAA bracket 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808
Winning the Mega Millions Jackpot 1 in 302,575,350
Winning the Powerball Jackpot 1 in 292,201,338
Winning the New York Lotto Jackpot 1 in 45,057,474
Winning the Lucky for Life Jackpot 1 in 30,821,472
Winning the Lotto America Jackpot 1 in 25,989,600
Winning the Cash4Life Jackpot 1 in 21,846,048
Being killed in a tornado 1 in 5,693,092
Dying in a shark attack 1 in 4,332,817
Becoming a self-made billionaire in the US 1 in 674,012
Being dealt a Royal Flush in poker 1 in 649,740
The Earth being hit by a meteorite 1 in 300,000
Getting stuck in an elevator 1 in 100,000
Getting hit by lightning 1 in 15,300
Finding a four-leaf clover 1 in 5,076
Living to 100 1 in 5,000

Is Hitting the Mega Millions Jackpot Nearly Impossible?

Winning the Mega Millions jackpot may sound nearly impossible but it still happens. We discovered several things that, statistically, are less likely to happen than matching all six numbers in Mega Millions. According to Jeffrey Bergen, a professor of mathematics at DePaul University, filling out the perfect bracket for the NCAA tournament is much harder than winning the lottery. He calculates the odds are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 or 1 in more than nine quintillion.

Shuffling a deck of cards and getting the cards to end up in perfect order is even harder – the odds of this ever happening are calculated to be 1 in 1068, which means 10 to the power of 68. If you wonder how big this is, just imagine the number 1 followed by 68 zeroes. Meanwhile, mathematicians have estimated the chances of a particular person being alive – the odds are 1 in 102,685,000. The probability of you being born (and not your brother) is practically zero, yet you exist.

This comes to show how odds work in real life – no matter how unlikely an event may be, it still can happen. The chances of winning the lottery may be slim but there are thousands of people who have successfully overcome the odds, becoming millionaires in an instant.

Lucky States with the Most Jackpot-Winning Tickets

When it comes to Mega Millions, in particular, there have been hundreds of jackpot winners, with many jackpots being hit by a group of people rather than a single person. Tickets sold in some states seem to be much luckier than others – out of all states and territories where Mega Millions is currently available, only 28 jurisdictions have had winning tickets. Since May 17, 2002, there have been 236 individual winning tickets, 210 jackpots, and many more winners.

States with the Most Jackpot Winning Tickets Sold
State Number of Jackpot Winning Tickets Sold Percentage of All Jackpot Winning Tickets
New York 42 17.80%
California 34 14.41%
New Jersey 25 10.59%
Ohio 20 8.47%
Michigan 18 7.63%
Georgia 16 6.78%
Illinois 13 5.51%
Texas 14 5.93%
Maryland 11 4.66%
Virginia 9 3.81%
Massachusetts 5 2.12%
Washington 5 2.12%
Florida 3 1.27%
Pennsylvania 2 0.85%
Arizona 2 0.85%
Indiana 2 0.85%
Missouri 2 0.85%
North Carolina 2 0.85%
Tennessee 2 0.85%
Arkansas 1 0.42%
Idaho 1 0.42%
Kansas 1 0.42%
Maine 1 0.42%
Minnesota 1 0.42%
New Hampshire 1 0.42%
Rhode Island 1 0.42%
South Carolina 1 0.42%

A total of 42 tickets or approximately 17.8% of all jackpot-winning tickets have been sold in New York State. California ranks second with 34 tickets or 14.41% of all, while New Jersey follows in third place with 25 tickets (10.59%).

The luckiest state, however, might be New Jersey if we take into account the population of only 9.2 million people. Calculations show that it has had the most winning tickets per capita – 2.7 wins per 1 million people. New York State comes close to it with 2.1 winning tickets per million residents, followed by Michigan with 1.79 per million, Maryland with 1.78 per million, and Ohio with 1.7 wins per 1 million people.