A risky way to win the biggest lottery jackpots every time

Everyone loves to dream big. That’s why lotteries exist.

As the Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots both surge again, we wanted to investigate just how a big-spending, risk-taking person could guarantee that they win the biggest jackpots.

Here’s the breakdown.

  • The odds of winning Mega Millions are one in 302,600,000 based on the total number of possible ticket combinations.

  • The odds of winning Powerball are one in 292,201,338 – also based on the total number of possible combinations.

Those odds never change. So, under the basic premise that if you (or you and your friends) spend $2 per ticket:

  • It would cost you $605,200,000 to buy one of each possible Mega Millions combination to guarantee a win.

  • It would cost you $584,402,696 to buy one of each Powerball ticket to guarantee a win.

That’s the math. So conceivably yes, you could guarantee a winning ticket.

The next big thing is to make sure the winning jackpot is big enough to make it worth it.

As of Thursday, the Mega Millions jackpot is projected to be $977 million, but the cash option is only $461 million. So, you wouldn’t want to spend $605 million to win $461 million. Not a smart investment.

However, the annual installments are projected to be $977 million. So yes, if you have the cash and you’re fine with being paid back over a couple of decades, you could take the annual installments tonight and win big. But the lottery tells us that most people take the cash because they can invest much better on their own.

Once you have the available funds to make your huge lottery ticket purchase, the lottery says logistics might get in the way. Each ticket machine can print ten numbers on a ticket at a time.  But you need 302,600,000 numbers… so at least 30 million tickets. Even printing tickets constantly, if you could find a retailer to man the machine 24 hours a day, you’d probably run out of time before the drawing.

So, you would need to plan carefully for what would be the biggest office pool of all time. But then how many people are splitting that money – and is it still worth it?

Maybe yes. Maybe not.

If you’re still reading this and think it’s totally crazy, know that a group of investors tried this before… and almost beat the system!

February 1992, the New York Times reported on a group of investors in Virginia.

“One investment group came tantalizingly close to cornering the market on all possible combinations of six numbers from 1 to 44. State lottery officials say that the group bought tickets for 5 million of a possible 7 million combinations, at $1 each, in a lottery with a $27 million jackpot. Only a lack of time prevented the group from buying tickets for the remaining 2 million combinations.”

The State of Virginia actually held public hearings after the stunt and enacted new rules to ensure that people standing in line could still get their lottery tickets and not be boxed out by someone tying up the machine to buy their millions.

So now you know.

Carolyn Becker at the California Lottery told KTLA that it’s really fun to work out the math on the back of the napkin, but no one can realistically do it.

And here’s the simple reason why.

Just because you get a winning ticket doesn’t mean that another random person in another state, or perhaps several others, won’t also hit the same combination.

What if you went through all that work, organized a group to buy every single winning ticket, and then some guy went to Hawthorne’s Blue Bird Liquors in Los Angeles, plunked down two dollars, and struck gold? Then you and your army of friends/investors/risk-takers would be in the hole for hundreds of millions of dollars in what would be the greatest lottery fail of all time.

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