7 burning questions about the Mega Millions lottery answered

The historic $1.6 billion jackpot has led to a lot of interest.

October 23, 2018, 4:53 PM

All eyes are on the Mega Millions drawing Tuesday night, with a historic jackpot of $1.6 billion.

But before you start planning whether or not to buy a yacht before a jet, there are a few things to know about the game and your chances of winning.

1. How many number combinations are there?

The chances of winning the jackpot are 1 in 302,575,350, but there might be more than one winning ticket.

People can have the same ticket numbers. Someone could randomly have the lucky numbers picked for them while a different person could choose the numbers intentionally.

2. Can you increase your chances of winning by buying more tickets? Or joining an office pool?

If you buy one lottery ticket, that means you have a 1 in 302,575,350 chance of winning the jackpot. If you buy more tickets, you have more chances of to win. For example, buying 10 different tickets means you have 10 chances of winning -- but that is still only a 10 in 302,575,350 chance.

Other people who have the same numbers as you does not affect your odds of winning, but it would affect the payout if you won.

As for office pools, Seth Elkin, a spokesperson for Maryland Lottery and Gaming, said that they have been very popular.

“We do see many groups of co-workers, friends or relatives pooling their money to buy tickets, and that's something fun that allows people to enjoy the drawing with those around them,” Elkin told ABC News.

PHOTO: Group of people on a business meeting in an undated stock photo.
Group of people on a business meeting in an undated stock photo.
STOCK/Getty Images

3. Are there tricks to winning?

According to the officials, there aren’t.

“There are all sorts of fun ways to think about the jackpot, and everyone is always trying to figure out a trick for winning, but there is no trick. There are 302 million possible combinations of the numbers, and it's just a matter of having the one that gets drawn,” Elkin said.

4. Is it better to pick your own numbers or have the machine pick for you?

It probably doesn’t matter.

“We don't have any statistics on whether more jackpots have been won with quick pick numbers or those that the winners selected themselves. But it really makes no difference. Again, there are 302 million combinations, and it's just a matter of having the right one,” Elkin said.

5. If you win, is it better to take the cash option or the annuity?

It’s impossible to say for sure that one way is “better” than the other, as everyone’s circumstances are different.

One thing is certain: with Tuesday night’s $1.6 billion jackpot, the amount that a winner takes home will be different if they take the immediate cash-out option or if they go for the annuity, when the money is paid out in installments over many years.

The cash-out option means that the winner will get an estimated lump sum of $904 million, while the person who opts for the annuity will receive $1.6 billion over the course of 30 years.

“A winner who takes the cash option will receive one payment, the applicable automatic federal and state tax deductions would be made, and then the winner would be responsible for reporting the income on their annual tax return,” said Elkin.

With the current $1.6 billion jackpot, the first annuity payment would be $24 million, and the amount of the payments would progressively increase, ultimately culminating with a $99 million payment in 30 years.

“Most people though, by in large, take the cash option,” said Carole Bober Gentry, spokesperson for the Maryland Lottery and Mega Millions.

6. What can you win if you don’t win the jackpot?

You can still win other prizes!

If you get the first five numbers of the winning ticket, you win $1 million. And if you opted to spend an extra $1 to get a Megaplier ticket, that quintuples your winnings and you will walk away with $5 million.

If you get the first four numbers and the final number, you win $10,000 which can then be bumped to $50,000 with a Megaplier ticket.

As the amount of matching numbers on a given ticket decreases, the payout decreases to $500, $200, $10, $4 and $2.

7. Which states have had the biggest lottery winners?

According to data compiled by Mega Millions officials, the top nine Mega Millions jackpots in the U.S. were spread out among 14 tickets, but those tickets only came from eight states: Kansas, Illinois, Maryland, California, Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, and Florida.

In four of the nine top jackpots, there were multiple jackpot winners. In the highest jackpot to date, $656 million in 2012, there were three winners from three different states.

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