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Mega Millions Lottery: Mathematician Shares Winning Secrets

Tonight's drawing is at 8 p.m. local time.

1/8 UPDATE: The winning numbers in tonight's Mega Million lottery were 3, 20, 21, 38, 42 and 19. There was no jackpot winner in California for the Jan. 8 draw.

1/8 ORIGINAL POST: There were no tickets sold with all six numbers in last week's drawing of the multi-state Mega Millions lottery and the estimated jackpot for Tuesday's drawing has grown to $47 million.

The numbers drawn last week were 1, 2, 23, 25, 55 and the Mega number was
39. The estimated jackpot was $39 million.

The drawing was the sixth since the last time a ticket with all six numbers was sold.

The odds of matching all five numbers and the Mega number is 1 in 175,711,536, according to the Mega Millions website. The overall chance of
winning a prize is 1 in 40.

The Mega Millions game is played in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Last year, mathematician Aaron Abrams from Emory University in Atlanta spoke with NPR host Robert Siegel about strategies for playing the Mega Millions lottery.

So given his expertise, did the professor drop any tips on how to increase the odds of winning?

He sure did: You're about 100 times more likely to be killed by flesh-eating bacteria than you are to win the lottery.

Abrams offered that if you're going to take the foolish step of playing the lottery to begin with, there are some numbers—“uncommon numbers”—that are better than others. They won’t increase your odds of winning, but if you do win, you can increase the likelihood that you're the only one who wins, Abrams said. Afterall, who wants to share?

Uncommon numbers, Abrams explained, are those that fewer people pick.

“Many people tend to pick birthdays, favorite numbers, and these tend to be small. The numbers that you can pick for Mega Millions go as high as 56. But, of course, dates only go as high as 31. People tend to pick odd numbers more than even numbers. So, even numbers larger than 31 are less common. But, again, whatever strategy you pick for choosing your numbers doesn't increase your odds of winning,” Abrams told Siegel.

When computing the numbers, Abrams said “every now and then, there's a lottery that has somewhat decent odds. What it takes to have decent odds is a relatively large jackpot. The second, a relatively small number of tickets to be sold.”

Abrams said the mega jackpot is very atypical, but someone will eventually win. Abrams said this at a time when the jackpot had reached more than $500 million.

“One thing that we noticed is that we never expected the jackpot to get this large, ever. It should happen about once every 200 years. And, of course, Mega Millions has only been around for a few years. So, this is a rare event, but rare events do happen.”

And one more thing: Abrams reminded listeners that, mathematically speaking, if you don’t play, you can’t win.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

The Teller of Truth January 08, 2013 at 08:59 PM
Its a game of chance, pure & simple. What cracks me up are these nuts that proclaim how they've lead such decent lives and DESERVE to win! Like that has something to do with it.
Interloper January 09, 2013 at 11:15 AM
To guarantee a winning ticket all you have to do is buy 175,711,536 combinations. Simple, isn't it? If you don't play, you can't win, but if you don't play, you can't lose.

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