What do you consider a good luck charm? Is it carrying a rabbit's foot in your pocket? The fuzzy lucky dice hanging from your car's rearview mirror? Maybe it's wearing a pair of really old socks you refuse to wash to avoid removing their "power".
Whatever your recipe for good luck is, you may want to have it ready for Friday night's drawing of the Mega Millions jackpot, currently sitting at an estimated $1.03 billion, the third time in Mega Millions history the jackpot surpassed the $1 billion mark. That means a potential cash payout of $602.5 million for one lucky winner.
But winning won't come easy. And it requires a little more luck — and strategy — than your preferred talisman can offer.
Professor of Statistics at Rutgers University-Camden Yuchung Wang says it's all a numbers game.
"Two tickets (for the same drawing) will double your winning chance, say from 1/303 million to 2/303 million because each ticket has the same chance of winning," Wang explained.
But playing one ticket for each new drawing has no impact on your overall chances.
"Each game is independent of all previous games; frequently playing does not change your odds. However, buying more tickets (per game) increases your chance of winning," said Wang.
So, could you buy your way to a billon-dollar payout?
Wang says no.
Even if you could afford to buy the 303 million tickets needed to cover every possible number combination, Wang says the logistics make it nearly impossible.
"Assume it takes one second to produce one ticket — 303 million will need 35,069 days which equals 5,009 weeks to complete the task. You can use 5,009 machines that works 24/7 to produce 303 million tickets," Wang said. "It is very unlikely to complete the purchasing 303 million tickets with different numbers. In order to make sure each number is different, you need to manually enter the number, which can slow down the purchase significantly. Then, more machines will be proportionally required."
Even if you could get all 303 million tickets purchased, you could still come out a loser if there's even one additional winner.
"There is the risk of splitting the prize. In terms of making money, it is not foolproof. In terms of winning, it is theoretically foolproof, but not a practical way," Wang said.
And lottery machines already are feeling the pressure of hopeful billionaires.
“Seeing the jackpot build over a period of months and reaching the billion-dollar mark is truly breathtaking. We encourage customers to keep play in balance and enjoy the ride. Someone is going to win," said Pat McDonald, the current lead director of the Mega Millions Consortium.
The estimated jackpot on Friday, July 29, is currently just shy of the $1.050 billion jackpot won in Michigan last year. The highest Mega Millions jackpot in its history was $1.537 billion, won in South Carolina in October of 2018. You can play the Mega Millions in 45 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As for former winners, they don't stand any greater chance of cashing in on Friday night than you do.
"Because the winning number has no memory, the winning chance has nothing to do with the history of playing the game. By design, all the games are independent from each other. One’s playing history won’t alter one’s chance of winning in this week," Wang said.
If you win the jackpot, the Mega Millions annuity is paid out as one immediate payment followed by 29 annual payments. Each payment is 5% bigger than the one before.
The cash option is one-time, lump-sum payment that is equal to all the cash in the Mega Millions jackpot prize pool.
Of course, there's also taxes. A lump-sum winner will forfeit 24 percent — roughly $145 million — right off the top in federal taxes. And that's before Uncle Sam's Garden State cousin takes another cut.
If you're still hoping to win, here's how to play:
Mega Millions tickets cost $2 each. You also can add a Megaplier for an additional dollar per play that increases non-jackpot prizes by two, three, four or five times. Tickets can be purchased at various grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores.
You can also play the Mega Millions and other New Jersey lotteries via the Jackpocket app.
The next Mega Millions drawing goes off at 11 p.m. Friday.
Nicolette White is the Diversity and Inclusion reporter for the Burlington County Times, The Daily Journal and Courier-Post. She is a Temple University graduate with Dallas, Texas roots. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nicolettejwhite. Please support local journalism with a digital subscription.
This article originally appeared on Burlington County Times: Mega Millions jackpot: How to play, up your odds of winning the payout