Math Professor Shows How Bad Your Odds Of Winning Lottery Are

Powerball Jackpot Expected To Reach A Whopping Record-Breaking 1.5 Billion Dollars

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BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- The Mega Millions jackpot, which has a drawing tonight, has grown to $450 million, while Saturday night's Powerball drawing is at an estimated $570 million.

You might think this is your chance to finally become a millionaire--but Professor Steven Morrow has some harsh mathematical truths for you.

For starters, he says, the odds of winning Mega Millions are 302,000,000 to 1. For Powerball, the odds are 292,000,000 to 1.

Considering that the odds of getting struck by lightning in a given year are about 1,000,000 to 1, Morrow tells WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Ben Parker that you have a better chance of lightning striking twice from nature than once from the lottery.

"The odds of getting struck by lightning twice in your lifetime is better than winning with one ticket," he said.

Morrow, an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics at Wentworth Institute of Technology, crafted an analogy to explain just how long those odds really are.

"Suppose you had a friend, and you agreed to meet some time in the future, and you both randomly chose a day in the next 27 years to meet without telling each other," he said. "And you randomly chose a state, and in that state, you randomly chose a county to meet. And the odds that you both meet up on the same day, in the same state, in the same county would be the same as winning this jackpot."

There are, of course, ways to better your chances--but only so slightly that you'd hardly notice.

"If you bought two, it would double your odds," Morrow said. "But the odds are so small, it's so incredibly small that you can play for fun, but as soon as you start putting a lot of money at it, your odds are still so small that it's really not a good financial decision anymore."

There are many people playing because the jackpots are so huge, while others play more regularly. Morrow says those regular players don't have any kind of advantage.

"They do not have an advantage in an individual drawing," he said. "If they're playing regularly, then they have many more chances occurring over a month, but it doesn't exaggerate their chances of winning any individual drawing."

No matter what your preferred method for choosing numbers, Morrow said no method is better than any other, statistically speaking. 

"You can have a computer choose your numbers, and your odds are the same as if you chose them according to, you know, your family's birthdays or whatever your favorite numbers are," he said.

Good luck, anyway.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Ben Parker reports.

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