Is there a strategy to winning Powerball and Mega Millions? Top tips for picking numbers (2024)

In 2016, Nicholas Kapoor, a professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, bought alottery ticketto teach his statistics students about mathematical probability.

“I always buy a Powerball ticket to show my students how improbable it is to win,” Kapoor said.

Then something unexpected happened.“I ended up winning,” he said.

Kapoor’s Quick Pick matched four of the five numbers drawn plus the Powerball number. The grand prize was$100,000.

After stowing the winning lottery ticket in a safety deposit box, he made a copy to show the class.It wasn’t exactly the lesson plan he had in mind.

“It is extremely, extremely rare," Kapoor assured his students. "I always say I am a one-off. I am a statistical anomaly.”

Is there a strategy to winning Powerball and Mega Millions? Top tips for picking numbers (1)

Becoming a Mega Millions and Powerball prize winner is a long shot

People dream about becoming the lucky ones whoput the mega in millions. Massive jackpots – that have only gotten more massive in recent years – feed those fantasies of mind-blowing winnings.

But lottery games are mostly only lucrativefor the private companies that states hire to run them, says Lew Lefton, a faculty member with the Georgia Tech School of Mathematics.

“The lottery always makes money. Just like Vegas, the house wins,” Lefton said. “Otherwise it would not be a business.”

In fact it’s even harder to win Mega Millions and Powerball than it used to be because recent rules make the odds even longer so lottery games can sell more tickets, Lefton says.

Lucky numbers, Quick Picks

But that hasn't kept us from trying our luck.

Americans spend moreon lottery tickets every year than on cigarettes or smartphones, some $91 billion in 2020 alone,according to historianJonathan Cohen, author of“For a Dollar and a Dream: State Lotteries in Modern America.”

The lottery is most popular among those who've been denied economic opportunities and see it as their best shot at theAmerican dream.

"Studies indicate that the players who spend the largest percentage of their income on tickets and who play the most often are disproportionately male, lower income, less educated and non-white," Cohen wrote in the Washington Post.

Does buying more Powerball, Mega Millions tickets work?

Many lottery players hope they can increase their odds by playing lucky numbers such as birthdays and anniversaries, buying tickets every week or only choosing Quick Picks, where lottery machines randomly select a group of numbers.

Magic numbers, hot numbers, cold numbers, significant dates, the odds are still stratosphericthat your ticket will be the one to hit the big jackpot, Kapoor says.

For example, the odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are about 1 in 302 million. You are much more likely to be attacked by a shark, die in a plane crash or get struck by lightning.

“The only way to really increase the odds of winning any lottery is to buy more tickets. The more tickets you buy, the more chances you have to win,” Kapoor said.

Other than that, you can’t game the system, says Larry Lesser, a math professor at the University of Texas at El Paso

“I've seen it all and those tips are usually technically true but useless, or are just not true,” said Lesser, who maintains a website on lottery literacy.

Significant dates or random lottery numbers: What's better?

Harvard statistics professor Mark Glickman recommends selecting random numbers or buying Quick Picks.

If you win Mega Millions and Powerball, you have to split the prize with anyone who had the same numbers.People like to pick their children’s birthdays or ages so there is a greater chance of more than one person picking those same numbers, Glickmansaid.

Lesser agrees. “If you pick numbers like birthdays or sequences that hundreds of people play (e.g., 1-2-3-4-5-6) you still have the same chance to win but your share of the prize would be a lot less,” he said in an email.

Is there a strategy to winning Powerball and Mega Millions? Top tips for picking numbers (2)

What about buying lottery tickets for less popular games?

If you play less popular games or daily games that are only available to state residents, you will have a higher probability of winning the jackpot but the prizes will be smaller, Glickman said.

“You are never going to end up with a life-changing amount by playing smaller lotteries,” he said.

Does it matter where you buy Mega Millions and Powerball tickets?

Contrary to popular belief, where you buy lottery tickets does not matter.

Geographic clusters of winners is a function of more people buying tickets in those areas, he said. Buying tickets at odd hours does not work either, according to Glickman.

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Can you spot patterns by studying winning lottery numbers?

Glickman also debunks the idea that studying past lottery number winners can help you spot patterns.

“There is no pattern,” he said. “It’s entirely random.”

Should you play Mega Millions and Powerball?

Go ahead and play the lottery as long as you don’t spend money you don’t have and as long as you don’t count on winning, Lefton says.

“As soon as you’ve bought one ticket, you are now in that psychological space of imagining that you win. ‘I’m going to take a trip down the Nile.’ Or ‘I am going to buy that house up on the mountaintop,’” he said. “You are having this dream and this dream somehow feels more possible when you have a lottery ticket that might be a winner. That’s hope, that’s a stress-reducing, enjoyable moment.”

Glickman says he plays the lottery when the jackpot hits nosebleed levels so he can fantasize about how he would spend theepic windfall, but he does not make it a habit.

Lesser occasionally buys a single lottery ticket “when jackpots get huge” just to “be in the game.” He has never won a prize over $600 and doesn’t expect that to change.

“If you view this not as financial planning but as entertainment, it's not a bad deal,” Lesser said.

Is there a strategy to winning Powerball and Mega Millions? Top tips for picking numbers (3)
Is there a strategy to winning Powerball and Mega Millions? Top tips for picking numbers (2024)
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