Mega Millions jackpot tops $1 billion. Here's what science says about your chances of winning

One lottery player outsmarted the system years ago to become a winner for a total of 14 times. Here’s what he did.
Chris Young
Mega Millions
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  • The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever stands at $1.02 billion.
  • Though the chances of winning the lottery are incredibly small, one lottery player hacked the system long ago.
  • In the 80s a Romanian-Australian economist outsmarted the system, leading to 14 lottery wins.

The Mega Millions U.S. lottery jackpot crossed the $1 billion threshold for the first time, a report from CBS News reveals. The grand prize for the Friday night draw will be an estimated $1.02 billion, according to lottery officials.

The figure will also surely rise before the draw takes place as more people buy tickets in a bid to win the massive sum. The cash option for the prize, meanwhile, is currently $602.5 million.

Why is the Mega Millions jackpot so high?

The reason the jackpot is so high for Friday is that no one won Tuesday night’s draw, which itself had a massive $830 million jackpot, making it the third-largest Mega Millions prize ever. That number was raked up after 29 consecutive draws without a jackpot winner. No one has matched the game’s six numbers since April 15.

As CBS News points out, the largest-ever lottery prize was a $1.58 billion Powerball jackpot won in 2016.

This year, there have been some large winners of the Mega Million jackpot, including a $426 million pot in California in January, a $128 million ticket in New York in March, and a $110 million prize in Minnesota in April. Mega Millions notes that its website has crashed on a number of occasions due to the amount of traffic it receives after draws.

What chance do you have of winning, and can you do anything to improve your chances?

The odds that any lottery player will win the jackpot is incredibly small — roughly 1 in 302.5 million. It’s fairly well known that people are more likely to be struck by lightning or die in a plane crash than win a Power Ball or Mega Millions jackpot.

Mega Millions jackpot tops $1 billion. Here's what science says about your chances of winning
Lottery
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Still, one lottery player actually used mathematics to ensure he won the lottery back in the 80s, as The Hustle recently reported. Romanian-Australian economist Stefan Mandel won the lottery 14 times before retiring on a tropical island in the South Pacific.

Mandel won the lottery for the first two times in his native Romania, before he moved to Australia and won the lottery a further 12 times. He did so by using a six-step process that outsmarted the system and ensured he would win.

Here’s how the six-step process worked:

1. Calculate the total number of combinations. A lottery that has players pick six numbers from 1 to 40, for example, will have 3,838,380 possible combinations.

2. Look for lotteries where the jackpot prize is three times or more the number of possible combinations.

3. Speak to investors and raise the funds required to pay for each combination.

4. Print millions of tickets with every combination.

5. Deliver the tickets to the authorized lottery officials.

6. Win the prize and pay back investors.

Mandel rounded up 2,524 investors when he was pushing to win the Virginia lottery. Of course, he wouldn’t keep the entire winnings. In 1987, for example, he kept $97,000 of a $1.3 million win after paying back the investors.

Unfortunately, Mandel’s formula doesn’t work today. Laws in the U.S. and Australia were adjusted following word of Mandel’s massive success. While his scheme was legal at the time, today you can’t buy lottery tickets in massive quantities or print tickets at home. That means we’re all basically stuck hoping lightning will strike twice.

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