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Playing the Mega Millions Lottery Part 1: Avoid the Traps and Scams

Mega Millions Jackpot

You’re about to buy a Mega Millions lottery ticket. Somebody will win the jackpot, you think, so why not you? You look for an edge, a strategy for picking those winning Mega Millions numbers. Mega Millions related websites are ready to sell you numbers likely to win, or at least a way to pick winning numbers. You can already see yourself a brand new Mega Millions millionaire. But before you buy that Mega Millions lottery ticket, you should know some things.

The Mega Millions lottery and so-called services around it can scam you out of your money. You can easily avoid Mega Millions lottery traps once you know how. For the best free Mega Millions lottery tips and strategies see Part 2 of this series. But first, what are the Mega Millions traps?

Rules of the Mega Millions lottery

The Mega Millions lottery rules are simple. Pay $1.00, pick five different numbers from 1 to 56, and one more number, the Mega Ball, from 1 to 46. Match the six winning numbers and win the Mega Millions jackpot.

Match five numbers but not the Mega Ball and you win the second prize, $250,000. Match four of the five numbers plus the Mega Ball to win $10,000. All other prizes are $150 or less. Outside California the size of all Mega Millions lottery prizes except the jackpot are predetermined.

Mega Millions lottery trap #1: The odds are stacked against you, more than you imagine

Mega Millions, like every other lottery, is designed to make money for whoever is running it. Over the long term only the operator is guaranteed to make money. The average payout of a drawing the week after someone won the jackpot can be as little as $0.25 per Mega Millions ticket, though the Mega Millions lottery official website claims $0.50 of every dollar wagered is paid out in prizes.

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Mega Millions says your odds of winning are 1 in 40. However, on average, for each 40 tickets ($40) your winnings will be $10 or less 99.986% of the time. Your odds of winning $150 are less than 1 in 7250. You have less than 1 chance in 580,000 of winning one of the top 3 prizes. The odds against your winning the Mega Millions jackpot are more than 175 million to 1.

If you buy a $1 ticket each and every week, plan on playing more than 30,000 lifetimes for a 50-50 chance of winning the Mega Millions jackpot. You’re 8 times more likely to be hit by lightning, 500 times more likely to die in a car accident, and 1300 times more likely to die of accidental injury than you are to win the Mega Millions jackpot.

To get a feeling of just how unlikely you are to win the Mega Millions jackpot, consider playing the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. I can almost hear you muttering “yeah right! Like those are ever gonna win!” You’re (almost) right, but that set of unlikely numbers is just as likely to hit the Mega Millions jackpot as any other set of numbers you come up with!

Mega Millions lottery trap #2: Services or products claiming to give you an advantage

Google search “how to win mega millions”, “mega millions lottery strategies”, “mega millions lottery numbers”, etc. and you’ll find millions of sites offering to tell you about (or more likely sell you) products or services they claim will help you pick winning Mega Millions numbers.

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One such “strategy” is called “wheeling.” Simply put, you put in a set of at least 7 numbers, and the “wheel” gives you all 6-number combinations needed to make sure that if any 6 of the input numbers are drawn, you’ll win the jackpot. A “full wheel” of 7 numbers requires buying 7 tickets for $7. One of 8 numbers costs $28. Full wheels of 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 numbers cost $84, $210, $462, $924, $1716, and $3003 respectively.

As you can see, the cost of “full wheels” increases rapidly as you cover more numbers. The problem remains choosing which numbers to “wheel” while keeping the cost within reason. The only guaranteed way to win the Mega Millions lottery jackpot is to “wheel” all the numbers, but that would cost $175,711,536!

The Mega Millions lottery is based on completely random number drawings. There is no strategy to increase your odds of winning, other than buying more tickets and playing more numbers.

Mega Millions lottery trap #3: Even if you win you have to share the prize

Almost every big lottery winner has friends and relatives crawl out of the woodwork to try and grab a share of the jackpot. But even if you somehow keep it quiet, you still won’t get it all. First, the Mega Millions lottery jackpot is split evenly between all jackpot winners. Second, no matter how much you win, Uncle Sam will grab his bite. Win a Mega Millions jackpot and count on paying about half in taxes.

The bottom line of Mega Millions lottery traps

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Your chances of winning the Mega Millions lottery jackpot, or even the second or third prize are so small, it boggles the mind. The only people guaranteed to make money from Mega Millions are the game operator and whichever slick salesperson you buy a related service or product from.

If you beat the unimaginable odds stacked against you, a long line of folks are ready to grab a piece of your Mega Millions pie, starting with Uncle Sam. No matter how lucky you are in picking jackpot numbers, you still end up with half your winnings at best. It’s not for nothing that lotteries have been called “a tax on the financially illiterate.” When was the last time you heard of someone really wealthy playing the lottery?