Getting struck by lightning has better odds than winning the lottery. But with a $475 million jackpot, you can daydream


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There’s a pretty good chance — okay, an overwhelming chance — that you won’t win the $475 million Mega Millions jackpot.

Then again, someone at some point has to win. And, there’s generally no harm in daydreaming.

“Buying a Mega Millions ticket gives our players ‘permission to dream’ for just a few dollars,” said Gordon Medenica, Maryland lottery director and lead director of Mega Millions. “That’s what buying a ticket does — it allows us to dream, even if we don’t win.”

With no ticket matching all six numbers drawn last Saturday, the top prize jumped immediately to $468 million and then was adjusted again to $475 million ahead of Tuesday night’s drawing. The cash option — which most winners choose instead of an annuity — for this jackpot is $319.4 million (pre-tax).

In other words, a $2 ticket could morph into a slip of paper worth more than the entire economic activity of some small countries. The amount marks the ninth-largest prize in the game’s history.

The jackpot has been climbing since mid-February, when a New York couple won $96 million. That was a few weeks after a group of players in Michigan landed the top prize: a (mind-blowing) $1.05 billion.

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Each Mega Millions ticket has about a 1 in 302 million chance of snagging the jackpot. (For Powerball — whose jackpot is $201 million for Wednesday night’s drawing — it’s slightly better: 1 in 292 million).

The chance of being struck by lightning in your lifetime is far better: 1 in 15,300, according to the National Weather Service.

And, buying multiple tickets wouldn’t move the needle much in the odds department.

To give yourself even a 50-50 chance of winning the Mega Millions jackpot — i.e., the same odds when you flip a coin once — you’d have to buy more than 151 million different number combinations. Even then, though, you wouldn’t be able to guarantee that you’re the only winner.

The largest jackpot in U.S. history — a $1.59 billion Powerball prize in 2016 — was split three ways.

Of course, you can win in the game without hitting the motherlode. Since the jackpot was last won Feb. 16, there have been more than 16.4 million winning tickets at all prize levels, including 26 worth $1 million or more, according to Mega Millions data.

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