The big lottery win: Here are the probabilities

When the balls fly through the basket, lottery players eagerly await the draw. | Image: dylan nolte on

Winning the lottery is often used as a metaphor for particularly unlikely events. You hear sayings like: “That’s as rare as hitting six in the lottery!” The phrase is not too far-fetched, because the chances of winning a big jackpot in the lottery are extremely small. So it’s particularly unusual that Massachusetts has just had 50 people win a lottery drawing at the same time, breaking a record. We therefore ask ourselves how big are the chances of really winning big in the lottery and similar games?

The biggest records in the lottery

Winning by 50 people at the same time set a real record. So far, only once in the Massachusetts state lottery have 34 people simultaneously guessed the five correct numbers. Even then, people were puzzled by the case. Big wins occur mainly when a combination of numbers is particularly popular or there are many classic lucky numbers in it. The game in the U.S. state works like any other lottery. For just one dollar, players could pick five numbers between 1 and 35 and compete for a jackpot of 100.000 dollars. However, because so many winners hit the jackpot this time, the prize per person was increased to 48.000 dollars reduced. This was significantly less than other jackpots, but the number of winners still broke a record in Massachusetts.
Probably the biggest lottery in the world is waiting for participants in Spain. The Spanish Christmas lottery is played for incredible amounts of money. In 2012, the jackpot for all the correct numbers was around 720 million euros, with a total of 2.5 billion euros distributed, if you also count those winnings where not all the numbers matched. The tickets for the lottery are pre-printed each year, which means that players cannot pick numbers. However, number combinations are awarded several times, which is why there are several winners each year who get to share the bombastic prize pool. The 720 million euros were paid out at 4 million each to a total of 180 winners. In the U.S., a particularly large jackpot was also handed out in 2018 – and it was to a one-way ticket. In the Mega Millions, one participant won 1.53 billion US dollars in one go. This win counts as the highest single win of all time. After taxes, the player would effectively be left with $877 million.

What is the probability?

To find out if winning the lottery is really realistic, you have to calculate all possible number combinations. This requires combinatorial mathematics, with which the total number of all combinations can be determined. For this purpose, a certain formula is applied, which simplifies such a calculation. In relation to the Mega Millions jackpot, the following occurs z. B. a probability of 1:302.575.350 out. Other games similar to the lottery, such as the Chinese Keno, have better chances, because there are no additional numbers with which the result of the formula must be multiplied. In the German Lotto usually six numbers are required, in addition there is a Joker. The number of digits changes the probability of winning of course. The fewer numbers you have to guess correctly, the higher the chance of actually winning. That this case really occurs is very rare with a probability of 1 in 140 million. However, if it is not to be a sixer, the chance increases of course. Winning anything at all is not that unlikely: the probability of receiving a small amount of money is 1:54. However, it can of course happen that you only get back the price of the ticket.

The probability to win in bingo is higher than in lotto or keno. | Image: Samueles,, Pixabay License

The probability of winning in Bingo is higher than in Lotto or Keno. | Picture: Samueles,, Pixabay License

Lotto, Keno & Bingo – Where you can win most likely?

Lotteries have been around for centuries and have given rise to many different forms of gambling. Keno is a game that originated in China and can be played in online casinos or casinos. Unlike the lottery, you sit at a table and find out relatively quickly whether you have won or not. There are different variants of keno, which means that it is not possible to say across the board how likely a win really is. However, there are calculations of the house advantage that you can use to calculate your chances of winning. The house advantage in Keno is between 4 and 35%, which is why you should choose your gaming table carefully. At 35% of the house edge, the bank retains an average of 35 cents from each dollar wagered, so the odds of winning are relatively low. In the lotto, we have already established that winnings are also extremely unlikely, at least if you want to hit the jackpot. Most winning tickets in the lotto turn out with very small sums, thereby one can often only recoup the price of the ticket. To win the jackpot in Mega Millions, you need to have the odds of 1:302.575.Beating 350 – it seems impossible, but as experience proves, there are a few real lucky ones. The more tickets you buy, the higher the chances of winning something, but it is often not worth the effort if only one ticket wins in the end and the amount is still small.
With bingo, the odds of winning look better. Here you do not have to have an exact series of numbers printed on your ticket, but must find a combination in a large number of numbers. So on a grid there are different numbers and players have to try to form one or more rows. Ideally, you create a full house and all numbers in the grid are called. The probability of bingo depends on several factors. This includes how many balls are used, how many numbers there are in the grid and how many rows you have to reach for a jackpot. Basically, it is easier to win at bingo than at lotto or keno, but the probability of winning is also very low. A comparison at the lottery of Lower Saxony shows that before. In Lotto 6 out of 49 the probability of winning is 1:140 million, in Keno 1:2.2 million and in Bingo 1:1.3 million. Of course there is no sure win anywhere!

Who plays Lotto or similar games of chance, must rely on the coincidence. There are few strategic steps you can take to make a win more likely. The odds are basically against you, but that’s exactly why the sums are so high when you do take the cake. Sometimes you just get lucky!