Why Buying Enough Mega Millions Ticket to Cover Every Possible Combination is an Error-Prone Plan
Monday January 7, 2019 06:41 am
The Lottery Lab Staff
The record-setting Mega Millions jackpot worth $1.6 Billion is still to be claimed. It is the largest single jackpot in the history of all lotteries. Even if the winner chooses to take their prize in lump cash, they would still end up having $904 million.
To draw the Mega Millions results, five numbered balls are drawn from a drum with balls numbered from 1 to 70 and a final bonus ball is drawn from a drum with balls numbered 1 to 25. To win the jackpot, players must match all 6 numbers. But there are smaller prizes that give you the chance to win substantial prize money even if you don’t win the jackpot. There are 12,103,014 possible combinations of the first five numbers ranging from 1 to 70 and by multiplying that by 25 options for the final ball you get a total of 302,575,350 possible combinations for Mega Millions.
Considering that each ticket costs $2, for $605,150,700 you could purchase a ticket with every possible combination of numbers. Even though doing so would guarantee you a win, there are a couple drawbacks. First, to purchase that many tickets, you would have to be a multi-millionaire already! But when the jackpot amount is that high, it is worth taking a shot! Isn’t it? There are a few extra complications to this plan. Stefan Mandel, the famous lottery legendary, did the same thing and succeeded. But after that incident, lottery commissions updated their rules and made it even more cumbersome to beat the odds.
The first problem is the logistical challenge of simply buying over 300 million Mega Million tickets. No single retailer is prepared to sell that volume of tickets. A second serious logistical problem is that you would have to fill out every play slip manually. Mandel used a computer printer to fill out play slips, but one major update adopted by lottery commissions was to require that play slips be filled out by hand. Quick pick tickets let you get around the requirement for manually picking your numbers, but since you need to make sure that you play every possible combination, computer-generated random numbers would risk duplicating combinations.
The next problem that such a scheme would face is that to make it work, you would need to involve a large number of people. Take the large banking institution Wells Fargo, which has about 232,321 employees. If the CEO of Wells Fargo had each employee purchase 1,302 Mega Millions tickets and if each employee spent 10 hours a day purchasing and filling out the tickets for three days, each employee would have to fill about 43 tickets per hour. Even for such a large organization, perhaps this is not the best use of resources.
But let’s imagine you somehow successfully established a lottery pool using an online community for Mega Millions. And suppose you overcame the obvious logistical coordination problems of such a consortium, you would still have to face complicated legal and practical difficulties after your win.
Splitting the Jackpot would be a large problem in and of itself. But the entire plan could be destroyed if another player (not part of your pool) also had a winning ticket. If there was another winner of the jackpot, it would only give you $452 million before taxes which is far less than $605 million cost of tickets, leaving at a loss of about $78 million. According to reports, total sales of the jackpot ticket crossed 280,217,678 tickets just before the final drawing. With that assumption, there is 60% of the chance that there can be another winner as well. So, increasing sales of tickets will directly hurt the chances of winning the jackpot.
The third problem with such an approach is that if one person or group can do it, then there will be other people trying the same scheme. Normally people just purchase a ticket, pick random numbers or lucky numbers and hope for the best. But all over the country math geeks are dreaming the same dreams. When the jackpot reached $1.6 Billion, it became the highest jackpot in history. If buying every possible combination were really worth the expense and effort, banks and billionaires would have started purchasing every Mega Millions ticket to make the same deal.
When Stefan Mandel took this approach, it was much easier. Because he was the first one to do it (or at least the first one to do it on such massive and professional way) there weren’t rules to create logistical barriers. After their case, lottery commissions increased number pools to increase the odds, ultimately making it more difficult to buy enough tickets. Mandel recruited investors and hired employees to sort out the whole procedure. With computer systems and printers, he made the whole procedure automated, he also hired pin-point people to represent their pool. In spite of all this, there were several logistical snags that prevented him from purchasing all of the combinations in time. Their plan eventually worked and they won a jackpot worth $27 million. However, they ran into long legal complications.
The winning ticket of the Mega Millions jackpot worth $1.6 billion was sold in South Carolina and still unclaimed. The current estimated jackpot of Mega Millions is rolling at $425 Million. So, it’s better if you just pick your desired numbers and hope for the best! Keep playing, Good Luck!