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Do Mega Millions need to be in the right order?

The Mega Millions lottery is a hugely popular multi-state lottery game in the United States. Players pick five main numbers between 1 and 70, and one Mega Ball number between 1 and 25. To win the jackpot, you need to match all six numbers. But do the five main numbers need to be in the right order?

Quick answer

Yes, the five main Mega Millions numbers do need to be in the right order to win prizes. The Mega Ball number does not have a specific position, but the first five numbers drawn must match the order of the numbers on your ticket.

How to play Mega Millions

Here is a quick recap of how to play Mega Millions:

  • Pick 5 main numbers between 1 and 70
  • Pick 1 Mega Ball number between 1 and 25
  • Match all 6 numbers in any order to win the jackpot
  • Match just the Mega Ball number to win $2
  • Match other combinations of numbers to win smaller prizes

So while the Mega Ball can be in any position, the first five main numbers must be matched in the exact order they are drawn.

Why order matters

The order requirements for Mega Millions gives players many more possible number combinations to choose from. With the main numbers between 1-70, there are over 259 million different five number combinations possible if order does not matter. However, because the order does matter, there are actually around 302 million possible combinations to pick from. This larger pool makes it harder to win, which allows the jackpot to grow bigger before there is a winner.

Number combination odds

The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are around 1 in 302 million. This table shows the odds for different Mega Millions matches:

Match Odds
5 Main + Mega Ball 1 in 302,575,350
5 Main only 1 in 12,607,306
4 Main + Mega Ball 1 in 931,001
4 Main only 1 in 38,792
3 Main + Mega Ball 1 in 14,547
3 Main only 1 in 606
2 Main + Mega Ball 1 in 739
1 Main + Mega Ball 1 in 54
0 Main + Mega Ball 1 in 21

As you can see, the odds get much better for partial matches that do not require all the main numbers to be in the correct order. But to win the grand prize, the full five numbers must match in the exact sequence drawn.

Examples of order importance

Here are some examples to show why the Mega Millions numbers need to match in the proper order:

Winning scenario

  • Your numbers: 2, 15, 41, 64, 70 & Mega Ball 12
  • Numbers drawn: 2, 15, 41, 64, 70 & Mega Ball 24

You would win a prize for matching the first 5 numbers, even though the Mega Ball does not match.

Non-winning scenario 1

  • Your numbers: 2, 15, 41, 64, 70 & Mega Ball 12
  • Numbers drawn: 41, 2, 15, 64, 70 & Mega Ball 24

You would not win a prize, because even though you matched all 6 numbers, the main numbers were not in the correct order as drawn.

Non-winning scenario 2

  • Your numbers: 2, 15, 41, 64, 70 & Mega Ball 12
  • Numbers drawn: 70, 64, 15, 41, 2 & Mega Ball 24

Again, no prize because the main numbers are not in the proper sequence. They must match the exact order drawn.

Other lottery games

Mega Millions is not the only lottery game where number order matters. Here are some other popular lottery games in which numbers must be matched in the correct sequence:

  • Powerball – The red main numbers (1-69) must be in the right order. The Powerball (1-26) can be in any position.
  • Pick 3/Pick 4 – Straight plays must match the exact number order drawn.
  • Fantasy 5 – All five winning numbers (1-39) must be matched in the correct sequence.
  • SuperLotto Plus – The five main numbers (1-47) must be in the order drawn. The Mega number (1-27) is any position.

Most lottery draws have set structures that require at least some numbers to be matched in position. Games with just a single sequence of numbers, like Pick 3/4, always require the exact match order. But those with a main number set and separate bonus or Powerball number provide more flexibility on matching positions.

Tips for playing

Here are some tips to keep in mind when playing Mega Millions and other lotteries where number order matters:

  • Use Quick Pick to get randomly generated numbers if you don’t have lucky numbers
  • Avoid picking numbers in ascending or descending sequences
  • Use a mix of low, high, and middle range numbers
  • Try a spread pattern like picking numbers from five different number ranges
  • Check your tickets carefully to ensure the main numbers match the draw sequence

Although order requirements reduce your overall odds, it is still possible to win prizes in Mega Millions. Just make sure your five main numbers match the draw sequence regardless of the Mega Ball number drawn.

Guessing numbers is futile

With over 302 million possible number combinations in Mega Millions, randomly guessing the winning numbers is nearly impossible. The odds of simply guessing all six numbers correctly are 1 in 302,575,350 – meaning you are more likely to get struck by lightning over a year’s time than predict the winning combination.

To put those odds in perspective, you would have to pick one set of random Mega Millions numbers every minute of every day for over 19,000 years before you would be expected to luck into the six correct numbers!

Number guessing truly is an exercise in futility. For any realistic chance at winning, your best option is to play quick picks or carefully choose combinations of numbers you feel lucky about.

Near misses still pay

Matching 5 main numbers but not the Mega Ball often produces disappointment, but this situation is still a rather significant win. Hitting 5 main numbers has odds of about 1 in 12.6 million, and pays out $1 million or more depending on the Megaplier option.

Likewise, matching 4 main plus the Mega Ball pays $10,000 or more and happens about once every 1 million draws. So while just missing the full jackpot is tough luck, you still come away with a nice chunk of change.

Go online to check tickets

Rather than sitting around nervously waiting for the Mega Millions draws, you can check to see if you have a winner right away. On the Mega Millions website and most state lottery sites, you can enter your numbers after the drawing to immediately find out if you matched any winning combinations.

The online ticket checkers will clearly alert you if you hit the jackpot or any of the smaller tier prizes. This way you avoid having to watch the drawing and can instantly see if your picked numbers matched in the correct sequence or not.

It only takes one ticket

With jackpots frequently soaring over $500 million, it’s normal to want to buy as many tickets as possible to boost your chances. But the reality is it only takes a single Mega Millions ticket to win big.

In July 2022, a lottery player in Illinois won the $1.337 billion jackpot with a single quick pick ticket. It was the second largest Mega Millions prize ever awarded to just one player.

Despite unfathomable odds, all it takes is one set of numbers in the right order and a $2 ticket to win a fortune. Multiple tickets increase your overall chances, but it just takes one lucky ticket to change your life.

Number patterns are meaningless

Some Mega Millions players look for patterns and trends in winning number sequences, hoping to find the magic formula. But the truth is, past draws have no bearing on future outcomes.

Number picking strategies based around hot/cold numbers, number patterns, mirrored pairs, or other combinations may seem reasonable but are absolutely pointless. In reality, each draw presents a fresh randomness that starts anew.

Don’t put faith in number patterns or analysis of previous draws. It’s a system destined to fail and a waste of time and money.

Annuity or cash option

Lifetime jackpot prizes in Mega Millions are paid out as an annuity – annual installments over 30 years. However, most big winners take the cash option which is lower but paid in one immediate lump sum. For the record $1.337 billion won in 2022, the cash option was still a whopping $780.5 million.

Choosing cash or annuity depends on your situation. The annuity provides stable long term income to hedge against overspending. But the cash payout allows more flexibility to pursue other big projects and investments.

Just be sure to plan carefully before claiming your prize, and work with financial experts to decide on cash or annuity based on your personal needs.

Taxes take a big bite

It’s easy to focus on the headline jackpot and think you’ll walk away with hundreds of millions in hand. But don’t overlook the tax impact on Mega Millions winnings.

Federal taxes immediately take 24% off Mega Millions prizes. On top of that, most states tax lottery winnings between 5-8%. When all state and federal taxes are paid, you typically take home about 60-70% of the advertised jackpot amount.

It’s still life changing money, but be sure to make your plans based on the after-tax sum. Those taxes can quickly knock tens or hundreds of millions off your prize!

Odds can change

The basic rules and format of Mega Millions have remained consistent. But over the years, tweaks have been made to the game’s format and odds in response to lottery sales and jackpot trends.

Most significantly, in 2017 the pool of main numbers was increased from 1-75 to 1-70 while the Mega Ball numbers went from 1-15 to 1-25. This actually decreased the overall odds of winning from 1 in 258 million to the current 1 in 302 million.

While no major overhauls seem imminent, be aware the lottery agency does reserve the right to make periodic adjustments to the game. So don’t assume odds and rules stated today are fixed forever.

Beware lottery scams

When jackpots grow to insane amounts, lottery scams tend to increase as well. Most involve someone contacting you claiming you won and demanding upfront fees to process your “winnings.” Or requesting bank details so they can deposit your prize.

Of course, these are all scams. Legitimate lotteries never contact winners in advance, and they certainly won’t ask for sensitive information or payment. Use common sense, never pay any sort of fee, and know you must have a valid ticket to actually win.

Winning combos get recycled

With so many possible number combinations, you might think a five or six number match that wins would be taken out of the pool. But actually, every possible combination remains in play for every draw.

It’s common to see the same numbers drawn in different orders over time. For example, the numbers 2-22-29-31-34 first hit together on September 15, 2009 but have since matched three other times in different sequences as recently as March 2021.

So don’t worry if you play a particular set of numbers and they hit, thinking they are now unavailable. That winning combination could in fact come up again at any future draw!


While the Mega Millions format seems simple on the surface, there are quite a few intricacies regarding the rules and probabilities. The requirement that the five main numbers match the drawn sequence makes the odds of winning the big prize incredibly small at 1 in over 302 million.

But an understanding of the number requirements, payout structures, and other details of Mega Millions can help you play smarter. While winning still ultimately comes down to incredible luck, being informed on the ins and outs of this popular lottery gives you a leg up.

Just remember, when the jackpot is massive, stick to your budget, have fun dreaming of the possibilities, and most importantly – be sure to play those five main numbers in the right order!