6 Lotto Myths Debunked: Do Odds Really Improve When Jackpot Resets?

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The winning numbers for the historic $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot were released on Tuesday. Those numbers are 10, 33, 41, 47 and 56, and the Powerball is 10. A single winning ticket in California lays claim to the fortune. What were the odds of winning? One in 292.2 million, according to the Multi-State Lottery Commission. 

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How great are the odds of winning the next Powerball Lotto no matter how big or how small? They are still one in 292.2 million. 

This busts a common myth that the odds improve when the jackpot resets. In fact your chance of playing all the right numbers is just as remote. Winning the Mega Million jackpot is even more unlikely: about 1 in 302 million.  

There are a few other Lotto myths making their rounds. 

Picking the Same Numbers Every Time Increases Your Odds

Regular Lotto players might use the same string of numbers every time they play, figuring that their odds are going up ever so slightly each time. This isn’t the case. Lottery numbers are drawn at random, so every number has the same odds of being drawn in each game. In the Powerball, for instance, 10, 33, 41, 47, 56 and the Powerball of 10 could occur again. It would be freakish but not impossible. 

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Nobody Wins the Lotto Twice 

Though you have considerably higher odds of being struck by lightning several times over than you do winning the lottery, you may think that there’s some rule against winning the Lotto twice; or perhaps some universal mathematical law of numbers that makes it impossible. There is no such law. Several people have won the Lotto multiple times. Stefan Mandel, a Romanian-Australian mathematician, for example, won the lottery 14 times in his lifetime. 

Some Lotto Retailers Are Lucky 

Lottery retailers that paid out large prizes to players may be considered lucky, with some believing that the odds of winning there with a randomly generated ticket are somehow greater than if they buy a randomly generated ticket elsewhere. This is a romantic superstition that doesn’t add up in reality. There are no lucky stores, just as there are no unlucky stores. 

Smaller Jackpots Are Easier To Win 

The epic $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot was probably much less likely to be won than, say, a little old $90 million dollar lottery, yes? Nope. The odds of winning even a lesser sum are still one in 292.2 million. That’s because the odds depend on how many numbers are drawn vs. how many numbers are available. Jackpot size and the number of players have no bearing.

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The Lotto Is a Curse 

Another superstitious concept is that the lottery winnings are a curse. It’s not the craziest idea; after all, plenty of Lotto players have won big only to fall upon exceptionally hard times. But the Lotto isn’t a curse — it’s just that winning a windfall of money (that is subject to tax) doesn’t solve all the winner’s problems and, in fact, can create new ones. An airtight financial plan and a crew of financial experts are necessary to keep the fortune from, ironically, breaking the bank. 

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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