Skip to Content

What do they draw for Mega Millions?

The Mega Millions lottery is one of the most popular multi-state lottery games in the United States. Mega Millions drawings are held every Tuesday and Friday evening at 11:00 pm ET. At each drawing, five white balls are drawn from a set of 70 white balls and one yellow Mega Ball is drawn from a set of 25 balls. To win the Mega Millions jackpot, players must match all six numbers drawn. The odds of winning the jackpot are approximately 1 in 302 million.

How the Mega Millions Drawings Work

Here is a step-by-step overview of how the Mega Millions drawings work:

  1. The drawings are conducted by the Multi-State Lottery Association at WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia. Officials from the participating lotteries observe the drawings.
  2. Two machines are used – one machine holds the white balls while the other holds the yellow Mega Balls.
  3. Five white balls are drawn from the first machine. Each ball is imprinted with a number from 1 to 70.
  4. One yellow Mega Ball is drawn from the second machine. The Mega Ball is imprinted with a number from 1 to 25.
  5. The five white balls are drawn first, followed by the yellow Mega Ball.
  6. Once all six winning numbers have been drawn, they are confirmed and announced to the public.
  7. The order of the numbers drawn does not matter – players can win by matching the numbers in any order.
  8. All drawings are conducted under tight security measures and audited by accounting firm KPMG.

The same six numbers will not be drawn twice in a row. If the six Mega Millions numbers are inadvertently repeated, another drawing would take place to determine a new set of winning numbers.

What Types of Balls are Used?

The Mega Millions lottery utilizes special ball sets that are customized for the game:

  • The white balls weigh approximately 105-115 grams.
  • The Mega Balls weigh approximately 150-160 grams.
  • The white balls are made of acrylic and have raised black lettering.
  • The Mega Balls are made of acrylic and have raised gold lettering.
  • The balls have special air bubbles inside to allow them to float and bounce around the machines.
  • Each set of balls is inspected thoroughly and replaced periodically.

This specialized equipment allows the drawings to run smoothly and randomly each time. The balls are carefully manufactured to precise specifications approved by independent auditors.

Are the Drawings Really Random?

Yes, the Mega Millions drawings utilize intricate mechanisms and procedures to ensure fully random results:

  • The drawing machines utilize a gravity-fed, ball-blowing mechanism linked to a central computer.
  • The machines are inspected before and after each drawing by officials and an independent auditor.
  • The ball sets are weighed, measured, x-rayed, and certified prior to each drawing.
  • The balls are numbered in a randomized manner with no sequences or patterns.
  • Video cameras record the entire drawing process from start to finish.
  • The results are transmitted to an central computer that generates the official game results.
  • KPMG auditors monitor all equipment, processes, and results to ensure integrity.

With all these safeguards in place, players can trust that the Mega Millions drawings are completely random and fair. No human or technological factors influence which numbers are drawn during any given game.

What Happens if There is a Drawing Problem?

The Mega Millions lottery has contingency plans in place in case any issues arise during the drawing process:

  • If a ball is damaged, deformed, or destroyed, it will be replaced and redrawn.
  • If a ball gets jammed or stuck in the machine, it will be cleared and redrawn.
  • If the machine malfunctions in any way, the drawing will be halted and restarted with fresh equipment.
  • If the video feed of the drawing is disrupted, the results can still be confirmed by officials on-site.
  • If an error occurs announcing the numbers, the official audited game results will prevail.
  • If necessary, the entire drawing can be halted and reconducted if any issues call results into question.

With multiple safeguards and contingency procedures in place, the Mega Millions lottery can quickly recover from any potential drawing mishaps to deliver accurate official results.

Notable Mega Millions Jackpots

Here is a look at some of the biggest Mega Millions jackpots to date:

Jackpot Amount Date Won Winning Numbers State Sold
$1.537 billion October 23, 2018 5, 28, 62, 65, 70 + 5 South Carolina
$1.050 billion January 22, 2021 10, 19, 26, 28, 50 + 16 Michigan
$656 million March 30, 2012 2, 4, 23, 38, 46 + 23 Illinois, Kansas, Maryland

These enormous jackpots capture the public’s attention and imagination, fueling interest and ticket purchases for the Mega Millions game. With more players participating, the jackpots continue reaching unprecedented levels.

Biggest Mega Millions Winners

The largest Mega Millions jackpot to date was $1.537 billion, won on October 23, 2018. Here are details on the lucky ticket holders who split that record prize:

  • A single ticket in South Carolina won the full jackpot amount. The winner chose to remain anonymous.
  • Two winning tickets in California split a $543 million prize from the same drawing. They opted to take the cash lump sum of $320.5 million each.

Some other notable big Mega Millions winners include:

  • A Michigan couple that won half of a $1.05 billion jackpot in January 2021, splitting it with another winner in Maryland.
  • A group of 20 coworkers from New York who called themselves the “Strong Island Six” won a $437 million prize in January 2022.
  • An office pool of 11 co-workers in California won a $543 million jackpot in July 2018 after playing together for years.

While most winners choose to remain anonymous, some opt to come forward publicly to tell their story. No matter their choice, Mega Millions has made many players instant multimillionaires overnight.

Unclaimed Mega Millions Prizes

Despite the life-changing sums of money at stake, there have been some unclaimed Mega Millions jackpots and prizes over the years when winning tickets were never turned in:

  • In 2003, a $46 million prize went unclaimed in New York. The winning ticket expired one year after the drawing.
  • In 2005, a $31 million prize went unclaimed in New York. Again, the ticket expired in 2006.
  • In 2011, a $77 million prize went unclaimed in Georgia. It remains the largest unclaimed Mega Millions prize to date.
  • In 2020, five $1 million second prize tickets were never claimed in Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Arizona, and Arkansas.

Lottery officials are always disheartened when big prizes go unclaimed. They use various methods to try to locate possible winners before time runs out. But after expiration dates pass, unclaimed money ultimately gets returned to the states offering Mega Millions to fund future prizes or special public programs.

Mega Millions Odds and Probabilities

The odds of winning any Mega Millions prize are approximately 1 in 24. Here are the odds for each prize tier:

Prize Tier Odds of Winning
Match 5 + Mega Ball (Jackpot) 1 in 302,575,350
Match 5 White Balls 1 in 12,607,306
Match 4 + Mega Ball 1 in 931,001
Match 4 White Balls 1 in 38,792
Match 3 + Mega Ball 1 in 14,547
Match 3 White Balls 1 in 606
Match 2 + Mega Ball 1 in 693
Match 1 + Mega Ball 1 in 89
Match 0 + Mega Ball 1 in 37

As the odds demonstrate, players are much more likely to win smaller prizes than the jackpot. But those still searching for Mega Millions glory can take solace that huge jackpots are possible, if exceedingly rare.

Mega Millions Probability Simulations

Probability simulations can model the likelihood of various Mega Millions outcomes over very large numbers of hypothetical drawings:

  • In a simulation of 40,000 Mega Millions drawings, the jackpot was won 235 times. This reflects the long odds of 1 in 302 million.
  • Match 5 white balls occurred 329 times in the simulation. The model predicts this prize would be won about once every 121 drawings.
  • Match 4 white balls occurred 13,545 times. Players could expect to win this prize about once every 3 drawings.
  • Match 3 white balls occurred 569,727 times in 40,000 simulations, making it the most common prize.

These probability models give a sense of the relative frequency of different prize tiers over the long run. Of course, each individual drawing is completely random and independent, but computer models can estimate long-term probabilities across huge numbers of hypothetical draws.

How to Improve Your Chances

While there is no way to predict or influence the randomly drawn winning numbers, players can take certain steps to maximize their odds and chances of winning a Mega Millions prize:

  • Buy multiple tickets to gain more number combinations.
  • Join an office pool or lottery syndicate to afford more tickets.
  • Use quick pick numbers to avoid duplicated combinations.
  • Consider using a lottery wheeling system to cover more numbers.
  • Purchase Megaplier to multiply non-jackpot prizes.
  • Consistently play each drawing to increase chances over time.

Though the jackpot odds will always be astronomically high, these tips can help players boost their Mega Millions chances and fun in a responsible manner.

Strategies for Picking Numbers

While the numbers drawn are random, many players use special methods to select their Mega Millions numbers:

  • Birthdays: Use loved ones birthdays or special dates.
  • Lucky Numbers: Pick digits that hold special meaning.
  • Number Patterns: Select numbers in linear or geometric patterns.
  • Quick Picks: Use computer-generated random number sets.
  • Frequency Analysis: Choose due or overdue numbers.
  • Hot and Cold: Pick a mix of frequently and infrequently drawn numbers.

There is no proven strategy for winning the lottery. But playing meaningful numbers or utilizing systems can make the experience more fun for some players.

Reasons for Popularity

Why is Mega Millions so popular among lottery players? Some key reasons include:

  • Huge Jackpots: The game frequently produces enormous jackpots over $400 million.
  • Better Odds: The odds of 1 in 302 million are better than Powerball’s 1 in 292 million.
  • Large Secondary Prizes: Besides the jackpot, other prizes like Match 5 are large.
  • Megaplier Feature: Players can multiply non-jackpot prizes for bigger wins.
  • Broad Availability: Mega Millions is played in 45 states plus D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

With so many digits matched, Mega Millions combines exciting huge jackpots with better odds than other big lottery games. The optional Megaplier feature further sweetens the prize pools for players.


Mega Millions has become a lottery phenomenon in the United States. At each drawing, five white balls and a single yellow Mega Ball are drawn to determine the winning numbers. While the jackpot odds are extremely long, smaller prizes are more achievable for players. The game utilizes intricate mechanisms and procedures to deliver provably random results. Mega Millions continues growing in scope and popularity across the country as players chase down record-setting jackpots in the billions.