How To Win The Lottery: Powerball and Mega Millions

Published 6/27/09 (Modified 6/17/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

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Since I was a little kid, I've always dreamed of hitting it big and winning the lottery. I'm not talking about winning the Texas Holdem poker pot at your buddy's house, or lucking out at grandma's Bingo night, but rather about���� landing one of those mega jackpots - the ones you see on TV that feature the screaming people holding the oversized checks - the Powerball's and the Mega Millions lotteries. Alas - I've yet to experience success in any type of sweepstakes or lottery drawing other than that one time I won my elementary school's carnival raffle as a kid (and even then my "prize" was simply a free lunch and movie date of sorts with my school principle). But certainly one can dream right?

For many people, winning a multi million dollar lottery jackpot is truly the ultimate once-in-a-lifetime fantasy. In light of spiking unemployment rates and the ongoing recession, some people now even see lotteries as their best and only chance to ever gain a personal net worth of a million dollars or more. But unfortunately for them and the millions of people who participate in the daily and weekly lottery drawings, the odds are astronomically stacked against them - so much so that their chances of being struck by lightening or even drowning in their own bathtubs are much higher than that of ever winning. Participants of the popular Powerball lottery currently face an unfathomable 1 in 195 million chance for the top prize. Players of Powerball's biggest rival, the Mega Millions game, face slightly better odds at 1 in 175 million, but still face a daunting uphill climb to the pinnacle prize.

Play The Lottery Only If You Can Afford It, and Play Only For Fun

The terrible combination of staggering odds and irresistible lures of behemoth jackpot rewards of $300 million or more is precisely why these multi-state lottery games have exploded in popularity over the years, and are now legalized and widely available in the majority of U.S. states. Rather than raise taxes and offend mainstream taxpayers, state governments seem content now to fleece the participants of lottery games with heavy taxes to pay for government expenses like new prisons, new schools, and public transportation costs.

Unfortunately, it's also been said that state lotteries and legalized gambling activities sanctioned by politicians and governments are nothing more than taxes on the poor and the addicted. A variety of online statistics show that nearly 20% of lottery players contribute more than 80% of the revenue that multi-state lottery games rake in - and that disproportionately, the majority of participants are lower income, minority men who have less than a college education (which explains why it always seems like those on the lower rung of the socio-economic ladder tend to win these lotteries on TV). While wealthier folks do occasionally snap up lottery tickets for amusement purposes, it's frequently the financially poor and downtrodden who pump their weekly pay checks and life savings into chasing the elusive and nearly unattainable lottery windfall.

When it comes to playing the lottery, there are two important rules of thumb - play only if you can afford it, and secondly, play only for fun. A live lottery drawing is a wonderful rush of adrenaline inducing amusement, but remember, it is just a game - one with such distantly long shot odds that even with the advantages of multiple lifetimes, the odds of winning it all are still incredibly slim. Furthermore, be forewarned that while money can certainly solve a wide host of life's problems, bear in mind that too much of it at once has been known to inflict massive chaos and misery on those who are ill prepared to handle the emotional windfall and public attention that ensues. Don't believe the Powerball curse? Don't believe that all of your fair weather friends, envious enemies, distant uncles, and hand out desiring cousins will be coming out of the wood work to clamber for some of your new found cash? Then take a look at this news story of 8 recent lottery winners who won the lottery but ultimately squandered their new found fortunes, filing for bankruptcy years later. If their testimonies don't dissuade you from playing the lottery and hoping to land it all, you might as well follow these lottery pointers for the most efficient path to winning the jackpot:

The Not-So-Secret Secrets To Winning The Lottery:

1) You Must Play To Win: Like many things in life, you must pay to play, and assume some measure of risk for the big pay off. Each Powerball and Mega Millions ticket only costs a $1.00 to play, but if you don't actually go out to your local supermarket, gas station, or convenience store to purchase one, you have absolutely zero chance of winning, no matter how slim the odds are to begin with.

2) Buy Just One Ticket Or Two Tickets Every Week (At Most): The key to winning a major lottery is to always be a participant and prospective candidate to win by simply playing. There is no sense in ever buying multiple tickets to any one lottery drawing to increase one's odds. With Powerball odds of 1:195 million and Mega Millions odds of 1:175 million, changing that 1 into a 2 or 3 isn't going to make a noticeable dent in your long shot odds. There is no appreciable statistical difference between odds of 1 in 195 million chances and 5 in 195 million chances - your odds are still incredibly slim. However, there is a huge difference between odds of zero in 195 million and 1 in 195 million. The key to winning the lottery is to just be a player, not try to increase your odds of striking the jackpot. Think of it this way - with a single ticket, your odds of losing are likely 99.99999%. Even with hundreds of ticket entries, your odds of losing likely only improve marginally to 99.99998% - still pretty unfavorable. But with that one lone ticket, at least you have a chance.

3) Lottery Numbers Are 100% Random: Presuming that there is no hidden conspiracy among the lottery conductors to rig the lottery balls and barrels in those live drawings - the presumption is that the final lottery drawing numbers are determined by random luck and chance. Unless you can somehow calculate wind velocity, drag, angle, and physical trajectory to such a degree that you can mathematically calculate how the individually numbered ping pong balls will end up in the lottery machines, there is no sense trying to predict the final number.

If you opt for the self selection method when picking your numbers during the ticket buying process, there is no sense fussing to ensure that you have a broad mix of numbers with an ample mixture of high and low numbers, or odds and evens. The final selected numbers are determined at random - plain and simple. Feel free to pick your lottery numbers based on your own propriety formulas derived from special dates and numbers such as birth dates, wedding anniversaries, and juxtapositions of your house number or a family member's age. But if you want to save time - go with the automatically generated number options. Or in the alternative for better tracking purposes, you can stick to playing the same sequence of numbers your entire life. Randomly generated and self selected numbers all stand the same equal chance of winning. Unlike the creation and algorithm generation of credit card numbers, the outcome of lottery numbers follow no precise formula.

4) Past Number Results Have Zero Bearing On Future Results: As I indicated above, lottery results are generated at random depending on how the numbered balls land during those televised drawings. The lottery machines do not search for particular numbers or combination of numbers which have not been selected in the past. They have no memory of past results. There is no real meaningful pattern in past and future lottery numbers and you will be better off saving your money rather than going out and buying useless books on lottery number picking strategy.

5) Lucky Charms and Lucky Numbers Are Useless: Go out and purchase rabbit foots, four leaf clovers, and kidnap leprechauns all you want - they are simply amusing talismans that have not been proven to yield any tangible results beyond abstract and completely unverifiable notions of luck. Seek lottery number inspirations from your dreams and prayers, or go with numbers that you found luckier than others if that will make the lottery game more inspirational or exciting for you. But do bear in mind - it still boils down to pure 100% unadulterated luck and good fortune.

6) Reduce Your Lottery Odds By Playing the Quick Picks: In almost all cases, the scratch off tickets that you frequently find in supermarket vending machines and at gas stations feature better odds than your run of the mill Powerball and Mega Millions lottery tickets. The potential jackpot pay outs for the quick pick scratch offs are much lower, but the odds are much better than those for the mega multi-state lotteries.

Instead Of Gambling Your Life and Betting Against The Odds, How About Playing The Sure Thing?

The sight of that beaming person on TV holding up that gigantic check and presenting all those zeros for all to see is no doubt quite a tantalizing scene. It certainly is an infectious and dazzling lure, and a very powerful television media message to those of us sitting on our sofas at home watching the spectacle. But frankly, such a fruition in our own lives is not statistically realistic and within the realm of practical possibility. It is certainly tantalizing enough of an incentive that I am personally willing to pluck in my fistful of dollars for a few lottery tickets whenever the Powerball or Mega Million jackpots rise to ungodly sums every blue moon, but in terms of my day to day life, I try to focus on the lifestyle decisions that emphasize savings and paying down debt that really do matter. Certainly, go ahead and play for fun on occasion if you wish, but don't make it into an addiction or bad habit, especially if you can't afford the financial cost of even putting food on the table. If you truly want to jump start or improve your financial life and fix those money troubles, there are things you can do today where the odds of financial success are not so prohibitively onerous. Yes, those actions are not as sexy or glamorous as the dream of winning the lottery, but the favorable results of those actions are more within the realm of possibility for people like you and I.

If you really want to improve your monetary situation, instead of chasing the unattainable home run hit of a lottery jackpot, why not pay yourself the money you would have spent on lottery tickets by saving it or investing it for the future? Try depositing the cash you have set aside into a high interest savings account or opening a discount broker account and investing the funds in the stock market. With high interest bank accounts and tax advantaged investment options like Roth IRA accounts and 401k's, there are numerous ways for you to take advantage of the amazing power of compound interest to grow your fledgling investment into a lottery jackpot size reward many years down the road. As some financial pundits and gurus have astutely pointed out, if you take that $150.00 a year you would have spent on lottery tickets and put it into a tax deferred IRA or 401k plan at age 30, you'll have grown it to $28,000 by age 65, assuming a reasonable 8.00% rate of return. To turn your investment into a hefty $500,000 nest egg, you'd only have to save away a little less than $100.00 a month starting at age 21. Think of it - which one of these two scenarios is more likely - that you will be able to find an extra $100 a month lying around to save up or invest, or that you will hit the 1 in almost several million odds of even snagging the lower end 6 figure lottery jackpots? Play the lottery for amusement purposes if you wish to be entertained, but don't make it a fool's bet for your financial salvation.

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22 Responses to “How To Win the Lottery | Winning the Lottery | Money Blue Book” 

  1. Ashley says:

    Well I just read on the news that some California man working 3 jobs recently won a $39M lottery - playing the Super Lotto Plus or something (these lottery names are confusing). The guy's a blue collar guy, married with a kid, drove a limo and worked extra hours and shifts at a local restaurant for the extra money. Happy it was him and not some well to do fella

    Basically he's been playing twice a week for several years now. You're right....the key to winning is not to play more than one hand but to play regularly with just a single ticket. All it takes is that one magical lottery ticket with the golden wrapper to make it all worthwhile. What a dream come true!

  2. Raymond says:

    Well it's all about luck. I believe I saw this news bit on Yahoo News, but I'm happy for the guy too. When asked what he wanted to do with the money, he replied that he planned to take his wife on a vacation to Hawaii (smart move) and to hire a financial planner (even smarter move).

    Overall, I'd much rather have an ordinary Joe Plumber type win one of these mega lottery jackpots than some millionaire from West Virginia snagging up the winning tickets.

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