MARK RALSTON | AFP | Getty Images
At some point, whether Friday night or down the road, someone is going to win the Mega Millions jackpot.
It just probably won’t be you.
With the odds stacked against players matching all six numbers needed to hit the mother lode, the lottery game’s top prize has reached an estimated $970 million for Friday night’s drawing. The cash option — which most winners choose over an annuity — is $716.3 million (pre-tax). The jackpot also is the third-largest in U.S. lottery history.
Friday night’s drawing is coming just a few days after another lottery game had a huge amount of money won: A ticket purchased in Maryland hit Powerball’s $731.1 million jackpot ($546.8 million cash option), which ranks as the sixth-largest prize ever.
“We know that players love big jackpots, and when the numbers are this big, it becomes a national phenomenon,” said Gordon Medenica, Maryland lottery director and lead director of Mega Millions.
“Everyone wants to dream about what they’d do if they won,” Medenica said.
The Mega Millions jackpot has been climbing since mid-September, when someone scored $120 million ($95.4 million cash) and the top prize reset to $20 million. That’s 37 weeks of no one matching all six numbers in twice-weekly drawings, marking the longest stretch ever with no winner, according to lottery officials.
Each Mega Millions ticket has about a 1 in 302 million chance of winning the jackpot. For Powerball, it’s slightly better: 1 in 292 million.
Even if you buy multiple tickets, you wouldn’t move the needle much. To give yourself even a 50-50 chance of winning the Mega Millions jackpot — i.e., the same odds when you flip a coin once — you’d have to buy more than 151 million different number combinations. Even then, though, you wouldn’t be able to guarantee that you’re the only winner.
In fact, the largest jackpot in U.S. history — a $1.59 billion Powerball prize in 2016 — was split three ways.
For the Friday night drawing, lottery officials estimate that 40% of all possible number combinations will be played.
Of course, you can win in the game without hitting the jackpot. The last Mega Millions drawing, held Tuesday night, produced nearly 5.2 million winning tickets, according to lottery data. That included two winners of $2 million each, 11 winners of $1 million each and 139 winners who nabbed at least $10,000.
Once the Mega Millions jackpot is won, it will reset to $20 million.