What Chance do I Have of Winning the Lottery?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco
Some lotteries have longer odds than others.
Some lotteries have longer odds than others.

When it comes to your chances of winning the lottery, you are either in the group that believes it's absolutely impossible or in the group that believes you have a very good chance, so why not play? You may have heard the odds that you are seven times more likely to be struck by lightning than you are of winning the lottery. Believe it or not, those odds are true.

One common misconception of those playing the lottery is that you have more chances to win in an obscure lottery few people are playing on than on the national jackpot where millions are buying tickets. The truth is that your odds of winning are connected to the numbers you play, not to how many people are buying tickets.

For example, in the US, you have 1 in 120,526,770 chances of winning the Powerball, and 1 in 135,145,920 chances of winning the MegaMillions. In the UK, you fare a little better with 1 in 13,983,816 chances of winning the Lotto. These numbers are fixed every time the lottery is running. How many people are playing is irrelevant. That, of course, refers to the Jackpot. You have a much better chance of matching three (1:57) or four (1:1000) numbers, but the payoffs for those wins are minimal.

Buying several tickets does little to increase your chances of winning the lottery. If you buy two tickets, you now have two chances in 13,983,816, but the numbers remain the same. The same is true of you playing the same lottery numbers every week for a year. There is no more chance than those numbers will come up than any other numbers will. You may as well play random numbers every time. Even if you play the same numbers every day, it may take more than 35,000 years to guarantee a win.

Some lotteries are harder to win than others. The MegaMillions is especially difficult because the drawing order is as important as the numbers drawn. This means the last number to be picked, the Powerball, must also be the last number picked by the player.

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Discussion Comments


The big jackpot is rare, but it is actually the smaller prices in the lottery that are interesting and encourage playing. If there are many more chances of winning lets say $50 or $100 people will continue playing.

That seems to be the trend because nearly one half of all lottery sales are scratch off tickets.

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    • Some lotteries have longer odds than others.
      Some lotteries have longer odds than others.