Ramblings of a Tampa engineer
ball with number lot
Photo by dylan nolte / Unsplash

I bought my first 5 lottery tickets ($10) a couple days ago for the $960 million jackpot. I heard it on the news and figured it was worth a random shot in the dark. No one won, so this week is a $1.6 billion jackpot. I wondered why these jackpots were so high, this wasn't common to hear so something had to be different.

I found an image that described and showed the chances of winning. If you are interested in the jackpot, you are out of luck. I can't even come up with a good analogy for what one in 302 million odds are.

Chance % - Oct. 21, 2018
Players may pick six numbers from two separate pools of numbers - five different numbers from 1 to 70 and one number from 1 to 25

source - Mega Millions

The math isn't too hard to do if you remember permutations and combination class. You just break the problem down into different thinking.

  • You want how many combinations of 5 numbers can be drawn from 70 unique numbers.
  • You want how many combinations of 1 number can be drawn from 25 unique numbers.

From there you can calculate each chance of winning (all 5 white balls + gold ball).

I got curious why the lottery doesn't get higher more often. After viewing old versions of the website, I found a change occurred around October of 2017.

Chance % - Oct. 7, 2017

So the lottery became more difficult to win the grand prize. My thought behind this is that not everyone has "lottery fever", I venture to say most people go day to day without having a clue when the next lottery drawing is. If the lottery wants to attract attention, they need to hit the news – which means larger jackpots.

The larger jackpot attracts attention of all walks of life. What is $2 to spend, if the payout is life changing? This means that more flock to the lottery increasing the jackpot, but also more entries equals more chances at a possible winner.

The last time the lottery was this high, 3 people won at once. I'll take a random guess and say we will have multiple winners on this next drawing. Until then, I'll take 5 tickets and join the fever.

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