Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots this weekend are worth more than $400 million. A Harvard statistician discusses lottery odds
Lucky lottery players could win big this weekend as the Mega Millions jackpot and Powerball jackpots are both above $400 million each.
Friday night's Mega Millions drawing offers a top prize worth $405 million. Saturday's Powerball jackpot is $457 million with a lump-sum option of more that $331 million.
You must beat incredible odds to win one of these prizes. According to the lottery game, the odds of winning Mega Millions are 1 in 302.5 Million, while Powerball's odds of winning the top prize are 1 in 292.2 Million.
Lottery players use tactics to increase their chances of winning. These include playing every week to play "lucky" numbers such as a birthday, playing the same numbers every day in the hope that they'll be selected eventually, or using Quick Pick where a set of numbers is automatically selected by the lottery machines.
However, there is a big difference between what people believe will work and actual mathematical probability.
According to Harvard statistician Dr. Mark Glickman, there's only one way to increase your odds of winning the lottery. You can buy more tickets for each game to improve your chances, he told CNBC Make It.
This is because regardless of the number you choose or if you purchase a ticket for every draw, your odds of winning any lottery are the same. No matter if you play the lottery daily or if you buy your first scratch-off ticket, your chances of winning any drawing or ticket are the same.
Even if you have won the lottery before, your chances of winning the next drawing are the same as any other person who purchases a ticket. Ask multiple winners such as Peggy Dodson who won $1 million with a Max-a-Million scratch-off lottery ticket purchased at the same Pennsylvania convenience store that she bought another ticket for $100,000 two years prior.
Glickman stated that if someone has won the lottery before, the chances of them winning again will be the same as if they have never won it before. In other words, winning the lottery before does not make it less likely that you will win the lottery again.
This means that buying lottery tickets every day or every other week does not increase your chances of winning because all lotteries have independent odds.
Even if you buy a few more tickets for a drawing, it doesn't increase your chances of winning. This is especially true when the odds are approximately 300 million to 1. Five tickets will give you a chance to win the $405 million Mega Millions jackpot. These odds are higher than buying just one ticket but they're still much better than buying five.
According to Dr. Lew Lew Lefton of Georgia Tech's School of Mathematics, purchasing more tickets also means that "the amount you invest in playing multiple games increases and the payouts in real lottery may vary." Lefton explained that investing in more tickets may not be worthwhile.
Lefton said, "My advice to you is not to play the lottery expecting to win." It can be fun to imagine winning the lottery, but it is not a good idea. This is a completely different approach and you should only spend what you can afford.
If you do win the lottery, financial professionals recommend that you take the lump-sum option and invest your winnings into long-term stocks, rather than multi-year annuity payments. You will be subject to a significant tax hit if you win the lottery more than $5,000. The minimum federal tax charged on winnings is 24%. This is withheld from the IRS before any money reaches a winner's account. There are also state taxes which vary depending on the state.