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How much is it per game for Mega Millions?

Mega Millions is one of the two major multi-state lottery games in the United States, along with Powerball. Mega Millions is played in 45 states, as well as Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The game is coordinated by state lotteries and drawings are held every Tuesday and Friday evening at 11:00 pm Eastern Time.

Mega Millions Game Basics

To play Mega Millions, players pick six numbers from two separate pools of numbers. The first five numbers (called “white balls”) are chosen from a pool of 70 numbers (1-70). The last number (called the “Mega Ball”) is chosen from a separate pool of 25 numbers (1-25).

To play a game of Mega Millions, players must pick:

  • 5 white balls numbers (from 1-70)
  • 1 Mega Ball number (from 1-25)

Players can either pick their own numbers using a play slip, or have the lottery terminal randomly select numbers for them (“Quick Pick”).

The price of a Mega Millions ticket is $2 per play. Players can multiply this by playing multiple “boards” all on one ticket. For example, playing 5 boards costs $10.

Mega Millions Prizes and Odds

The Mega Millions jackpot starts at $20 million and continues growing until it is won. Jackpots can roll over for many drawings if no ticket matches all 6 numbers drawn. The record Mega Millions jackpot was $1.537 billion, won in South Carolina on October 23, 2018.

The overall odds of winning any Mega Millions prize (across all prize tiers) are 1 in 24. However, the odds of winning the jackpot are only 1 in 302,575,350.

Prize Level Prize Amount Odds of Winning
Match 5+Mega Ball Jackpot 1 in 302,575,350
Match 5 (no Mega Ball) $1,000,000 1 in 12,607,306
Match 4+Mega Ball $10,000 1 in 931,001
Match 4 (no Mega Ball) $500 1 in 38,792
Match 3+Mega Ball $200 1 in 14,547
Match 3 (no Mega Ball) $10 1 in 606
Match 2+Mega Ball $10 1 in 89
Match 1+Mega Ball $4 1 in 37
Match 0+Mega Ball $2 1 in 31

As the table shows, the odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are exceedingly small at 1 in over 302 million. A player is more likely to be struck by lightning (around 1 in 500,000 chance) than win the Mega Millions jackpot. However, it is possible to win smaller prizes at the other prize levels, ranging from $2 up to $1 million.

Payout Options

Mega Millions winners have two options for receiving their prize money:

  • Cash Option – A one-time, lump-sum payment equal to the cash in the Mega Millions jackpot prize pool. The cash value is typically about 70% of the advertised jackpot.
  • Annual Payments – The full jackpot prize paid out as an annuity over 30 graduated payments over 29 years. The annual payment increases by 5% each year.

Most jackpot winners take the cash option. The annuity option helps spread the tax liability over multiple years. However, financial advisors generally recommend taking the cash, as you can earn more in interest than the 5% annual increase with the annuity.

How the Jackpot Grows

The Mega Millions jackpot starts at $20 million and grows based on ticket sales for each drawing. The more tickets sold, the bigger the jackpot grows. About 50% of each $2 ticket sold goes into the jackpot pool.

If no one wins the jackpot by matching all 6 numbers in a drawing, the jackpot rolls over to the next drawing. This is how the jackpot can grow to massive amounts like the record $1.537 billion. Rollovers can go on for months if no one hits the jackpot, accumulating bigger and bigger prizes.

Once the jackpot is won, the prize pool resets to the minimum $20 million to start the process over again.

Probabilities of Multiple Winners

For massive Mega Millions jackpots, there is a chance of multiple winning tickets matching all 6 numbers. When this happens, the jackpot prize is split evenly among all winning tickets.

The odds of there being multiple winning tickets goes up as more tickets are sold. In October 2018 when the $1.537 billion jackpot was won, over 363 million tickets were sold. Statisticians estimated there was a ~50% probability of multiple winners splitting the record prize due to sheer volume of ticket sales.

However, only one winner ended up hitting the jackpot, making this the largest single prize payout in history. For smaller jackpots, the odds of a split prize are much lower based on fewer tickets sold.

Advantages of Buying Multiple Tickets

Some players try to increase their odds by buying multiple tickets for a Mega Millions drawing. This can improve your odds slightly across the different prize tiers, however the odds are still exceedingly long for the jackpot.

Buying 5 single tickets instead of 1 ticket with 5 number boards does not increase your odds of hitting the jackpot. No matter how many tickets are bought, there are still 302 million possible combinations. However, multiple tickets do increase chances of winning smaller prizes for matching some of the numbers.

Playing 5 separate tickets gives you 5 chances at the smaller prizes for matching 3, 4, or 5 numbers. This only marginally improves odds from 1 in 769 to 1 in 606 of matching 3 numbers, for example. But it could mean the difference between winning some prize money versus none at all.

Tips for Playing Mega Millions

Here are some tips to consider when playing Mega Millions:

  • Stick to your budget – Only play what you can afford to spend for fun, never bet money needed for bills or expenses.
  • Try Quick Pick – Avoid playing sentimental numbers and let the computer pick random numbers to spread out your odds.
  • Join an office pool – Pitch in a few dollars with co-workers to buy more tickets and share in any prizes.
  • Sign your ticket – Sign the back of your ticket as soon as you buy it to prove ownership if you win a prize.
  • Check your numbers – Always double check your numbers against the winning numbers from the drawing to verify you didn’t miss a prize.
  • Purchase early – Buy your ticket early to avoid last minute lines at the lottery counter right before the drawing.

History of Mega Millions

Mega Millions can trace its origins back to 1996 when the multi-state Powerball game was launched. In response, several states that did not participate in Powerball formed the Big Game consortium and began selling tickets in August 1996.

The first Big Game drawing took place on September 6, 1996 with a starting jackpot of $2 million. The game initially launched with six member state lotteries – Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Virginia.

Over the next several years, more states joined the Big Game consortium while Powerball also continued expanding across the U.S. By 1999, nine state lotteries were participating in Big Game drawings.

The Big Game Becomes Mega Millions

In May 2002, the Big Game consortium and the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) reached an agreement to allow states to offer both Powerball and Big Game. Missouri and Oregon joined Big Game at this time, bringing membership up to 11 state lotteries.

With both games available to more states, Big Game decided to differentiate itself from Powerball with a name change. In May 2002, the Big Game officially changed its name to Mega Millions.

The starting jackpot also increased from $2 million to $5 million and players now picked 5 numbers from 1-52 (increased from 1-50) and the Mega Ball number from 1-25 (increased from 1-36). Ticket price rose to $1 per play.

Mega Millions Continued Growth

Throughout the 2000s, Mega Millions continued expanding as more and more states joined the consortium. Some key dates:

  • 2010 – Cross-sell expansion so states can offer both Mega Millions and Powerball.
  • 2012 – Mega Millions reaches 43 participating states plus D.C. and Virgin Islands.
  • 2013 – Mega Millions sees largest-ever changes, including jackpot increase to $20 million, better overall odds, higher secondary prizes, and ticket price rise to $2.
  • 2017 – Mega Millions expands to 47 total lotteries with addition of Wyoming.

Today, Mega Millions can be played coast to coast across 45 states plus D.C. and U.S. Virgin Islands. The only states that do not participate are Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah. However, players in those states can still purchase tickets from neighboring participating states.

Biggest Mega Millions Jackpots

Jackpot Amount Date Won Winning State
$1.537 billion October 23, 2018 South Carolina
$1.050 billion January 22, 2021 Michigan
$656 million March 30, 2012 Kansas, Illinois, Maryland
$648 million December 17, 2013 California, Georgia
$543 million July 24, 2018 California
$536 million July 8, 2016 Indiana
$533 million March 30, 2018 New Jersey
$522 million June 7, 2019 California
$451 million January 5, 2018 Florida
$437 million January 1, 2019 New York

As the table shows, Mega Millions has produced some monumental jackpots over the years. After no one hit the big prize for three months, the October 2018 Mega Millions drawing awarded a U.S. lottery record $1.537 billion to a single ticket in South Carolina. And just recently in 2021, the jackpot reached over $1 billion again when a winning ticket in Michigan split that prize to claim a $1.050 billion jackpot.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to play Mega Millions?

Mega Millions tickets cost $2 per play. You can multiply this by adding more number boards to a single ticket. For example, a 5 play ticket costs $10.

Can you buy Mega Millions tickets online?

Yes, many states that participate in Mega Millions do sell official lottery tickets online. You need to be located in that state to purchase tickets over the internet. Third-party courier services exist to buy tickets on your behalf if your state doesn’t offer online sales.

When do Mega Millions drawings take place?

Mega Millions drawings are held every Tuesday and Friday evening at 11:00 pm Eastern Time. Many convenience stores and lottery retailers can print the winning numbers shortly after the drawings.

How late can you buy Mega Millions tickets?

Cutoff times for buying Mega Millions tickets vary by state, but usually fall 1-2 hours before the 11:00 pm ET drawing on the night of the drawing. Check with your local lottery for exact sales cut-off times.

What happens if no one wins the Mega Millions jackpot?

If no ticket matches all 6 numbers in a drawing, the Mega Millions jackpot rolls over and continues growing for the next drawing. This can result in enormous jackpot amounts after consecutive rollovers.

What is the lump sum cash value of the Mega Millions jackpot?

The advertised Mega Millions jackpot is the annuity amount paid out over 30 years. Winners can opt for the cash value, which is typically 70% of the annuity prize and paid out immediately in one lump sum.

Where does the money for Mega Millions prizes come from?

All prizes for Mega Millions are funded by ticket sales. About 50% of ticket sales go into the prize pool. A portion of each $2 ticket helps fund the ever-growing Mega Millions jackpot.


Mega Millions offers players a chance to play for huge multimillion dollar jackpots twice a week. Tickets only cost $2 per play, giving you a shot at becoming an instant millionaire for a small investment. While the odds are stacked against hitting the jackpot, it’s still fun to play.

Remember to always play responsibly and never spend more than you can afford on lottery games. Mega Millions can be enjoyed as a recreational activity, but the long odds mean you should never count on hitting a jackpot as a retirement or wealth-building strategy.

With jackpots starting at $20 million and frequently reaching into the hundreds of millions, Mega Millions will continue giving players across the country a chance to strike it rich. It could just take one lucky ticket to win a massive Mega Millions prize.