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For all the anticipation about whether someone will finally snag the gigantic Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots, the games come down to two things: simple math—and very long odds.
But there are some quirks and surprises about the math equations that likely will soon vault someone into stratospheric wealth after the jackpots grew for months without a winner.
WHAT ARE THE JACKPOTS?
The biggest quirk starts with this fact: The advertised $1.6 billion Mega Millions prize—the world's largest ever lottery jackpot—and $620 million Powerball prize aren't quite real. That is, those are the amount you'd be paid if you chose an annuity, doled out over 29 years. Nearly every winner opts for cash, which is the amount of money the lottery folks actually have in the bank ready to pay out to the company that would fund the annuity.
Cash - Option - Mega - Millions - Powerball
The cash option is still massive, at $904 million for Mega Millions and $354.3 million for Powerball. But those numbers aren't splayed across billboards and shown in countless mini marts across America.
The dismal odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot—1 in 302.5 million—means there are 302.5 million potential number combinations, or a little less than one combination for all 328 million people living in the U.S. For last Friday's drawing, about 59 percent of possible combinations were taken. But by Tuesday night's drawing, officials estimate that 75 percent will be sold.
Percent - Chance - Winner - Combinations - Drawing
That would mean a 25 percent chance of no winner. If that happens, it's likely even more combinations would be covered before the next drawing three days later. Officials don't have an estimate on how many tickets would be sold for that potential drawing, and they haven't said how large the estimated prize would be. Could it reach $2 billion?
The odds of winning Powerball are 1 in 292.2 million.
The odds of winning don't change as...
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