The Mega Millions lottery 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. To play Mega Millions, players pick five main numbers from 1 to 70, and one Mega Ball number from 1 to 25. If all six numbers on a ticket match the winning numbers in the exact order, the ticket holder wins the Mega Millions jackpot prize. Even if the jackpot is not won, there are eight other prize tiers that players can win depending on how many numbers they match.
The first five numbers that are picked on a Mega Millions ticket are known as the main numbers or white balls. Players must choose five different numbers ranging from 1 to 70. The order in which the numbers are picked does not matter. The five winning main numbers are drawn from a pool of 70 white balls.
The odds of matching all five main numbers is 1 in 12,607,306. This makes matching all five main numbers the hardest part of winning the Mega Millions jackpot. Even if a player matches all five main numbers but misses the Mega Ball, they can still win $1 million or more, depending on the Megaplier option (explained below).
Mega Ball Number
In addition to the five main numbers, every Mega Millions ticket must have a Mega Ball number, also known as the gold ball. Players choose one Mega Ball number from a pool of 25 numbers ranging from 1 to 25. The Mega Ball number drawn is the sixth and final number needed to win the Mega Millions jackpot prize.
The odds of guessing the Mega Ball number correctly are 1 in 25. While this may seem like favorable odds, matching the gold Mega Ball number is crucial to winning any of the big Mega Millions prizes. A player must match the Mega Ball number as well as at least one main number to win any prize.
Except in California, all Mega Millions players can pay an extra $1 for the Megaplier option when buying a ticket. The Megaplier is a multiplier number from 2 to 5 that is drawn before the main Mega Millions numbers. If a player wins one of the eight non-jackpot prize tiers and they purchased the Megaplier, their prize gets multiplied by the Megaplier number. This allows players the chance to significantly boost their secondary prize winnings.
The Megaplier number is drawn from a pool of 15 balls. Five of these balls are marked with a 2, six balls are marked with a 3, three balls have a 4, and just one ball is marked with a 5. The odds of the Megaplier being a 5, which would multiply a player’s winnings by the maximum, is just 1 in 15.
Mega Millions Winning Numbers
During the Mega Millions drawing held on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 p.m. ET, six numbers are randomly drawn from two machines containing balls marked 1-70 and 1-25. The first five numbers drawn are the main numbers, while the sixth number is the Mega Ball.
Here is an example:
Main Numbers: 3, 15, 34, 45, 63
Mega Ball Number: 25
The 3 main numbers are 3, 15, 34. The Mega Ball bonus number is 25. A player would need to match these exact numbers, in this exact order, to win the Mega Millions jackpot prize.
There are 9 ways to win a prize in Mega Millions, ranging from $2 to the jackpot, based on how many numbers a player matches. The Megaplier option can increase secondary prize winnings by 2x, 3x, 4x or 5x. Players must match the Mega Ball number, in addition to main numbers, to win any prize.
Mega Millions Prize Tiers
The Mega Millions prize structure is divided into nine tiers:
|Prize Tier||Match||Odds (1 in…)||Prize Amount|
|1 – Jackpot||5 main + Mega Ball||302,575,350||Starting jackpot of $40 million, grows based on rollovers|
|3||4 main + Mega Ball||931,001||$10,000|
|5||3 main + Mega Ball||14,547||$200|
|7||2 main + Mega Ball||693||$10|
|8||1 main + Mega Ball||89||$4|
|9||Mega Ball only||37||$2|
As shown in the prize chart, matching all five main numbers and the Mega Ball wins the jackpot, which starts at $40 million and continues growing by rollovers until someone wins. Matching the Mega Ball plus just one main number wins $4. Winning the Mega Ball number by itself nets a player a $2 prize.
The second prize tier of matching just the five main numbers is worth $1 million. Players can multiply their secondary prizes by up to 5 times if they paid for the Megaplier option.
Mega Millions Statistics
Since Mega Millions began in 1996, over $93 billion in total prizes have been awarded. Some interesting statistics on Mega Millions numbers and winners:
- The most common Mega Ball number is 17, which has been drawn 50 times since 1996.
- Number 31 has been the most frequently drawn main number, having been selected 72 times.
- The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever won was $1.537 billion shared by one ticket in South Carolina on October 23, 2018.
- There have been 5 jackpot winners in 2022 so far. The most recent winner on July 29 won $1.337 billion.
- Mega Millions tickets sales are 35% higher on drawing days.
- Not every Mega Millions drawing has a big winner. About 50% of drawings don’t match any tickets with 5 main numbers.
These statistics show just how rare it is to match all six numbers and win the jackpot. Big jackpots attract more ticket sales, allowing the top prize to roll over and grow larger across multiple drawings until someone finally gets lucky enough to win.
Notable Mega Millions Jackpot Wins
Here are some of the biggest Mega Millions jackpots that have been won over the years:
|12, 14, 26, 28, 33 MB: 09||Oct 23, 2018||South Carolina||$1.537 billion*|
|04, 26, 42, 50, 60 MB: 24||Jan 22, 2021||Michigan||$1.050 billion|
|13, 36, 45, 57, 67 MB: 14||Jul 29, 2022||Illinois||$1.337 billion|
|08, 27, 34, 04, 19 MB: 10||Dec 17, 2013||California & Georgia||$648 million*|
|46, 23, 38, 04, 02 MB: 23||Mar 30, 2012||Illinois, Kansas, Maryland||$656 million*|
*Jackpot split between multiple winning tickets
As the table shows, Mega Millions has produced enormous jackpots topping $1 billion three times in recent years. Other notable big winners include a $451 million jackpot in California on January 5, 2018 and a $437 million prize in New York on January 1, 2019.
Tips for Winning Mega Millions
While there is no magic formula to picking Mega Millions numbers, some people follow certain theories and strategies:
- Check Hot Numbers – See which numbers have been drawn most frequently
- Try a lottery wheeling system to cover more possible number combinations
- Use important dates like birthdays when selecting numbers
- Follow your intuition and pick numbers that feel lucky
- Don’t just play birthdays or other patterns – mix it up
- Consider buying tickets when the jackpot is especially large
- Buy tickets early to avoid last-minute lines
- Join or form a lottery pool to afford more number possibilities
Keep in mind that every combination of numbers has an equal chance of winning. Strategies like lottery wheels attempt to cover more possibilities with number groups, but playing random numbers has the exact same odds. In the end, a major factor in winning is luck.
How to Play Mega Millions
Here is a summary of how to play Mega Millions:
- Pick 5 different numbers from 1 to 70 for the main numbers
- Pick 1 number from 1 to 25 for the Mega Ball
- Mark your selections on a Mega Millions play slip or have the lottery terminal randomly choose numbers
- Pay $2 for each Mega Millions ticket
- For an extra $1 per ticket, add Megaplier for a chance to multiply non-jackpot prizes
- Check the winning numbers after the Tuesday and Friday 11 p.m. ET drawings
- Match all 6 numbers in exact order to win the jackpot
- Secondary prizes are won for matching just the Mega Ball or various main numbers
- Winning tickets must be redeemed in the state they were purchased in
Mega Millions can be played in most states where lottery games are operated. Tickets can be purchased until 10:45 p.m. ET on drawing nights. Players have 180 days from the draw date to claim any prizes won in California. Other states may have different deadlines.
Jackpots start at $40 million and roll over when there is no top prize winner. Buying a Megaplier ticket for an extra dollar is a simple way to boost non-jackpot winnings by up to 5 times their normal amounts. Players have a 1 in 24 chance of winning any Mega Millions prize.
Where to Play Mega Millions
Mega Millions can be played in these 45 states, plus Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia
Five states do not currently sell Mega Millions tickets: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah. In Virginia, Mississippi and Louisiana, Mega Millions winners can remain anonymous. Other participating states may require disclosure of winner identities for publicity purposes.
Mega Millions tickets cannot be purchased by mail or online. Players must buy tickets in person from authorized retailers in participating jurisdictions before sales close approximately one hour prior to the nightly drawings. Lottery winnings are subject to both federal and state taxes.
Mega Millions FAQs
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Mega Millions:
How much do Mega Millions tickets cost?
Mega Millions tickets cost $2 per play. Players can add the Megaplier option for an additional $1 to multiply non-jackpot prizes.
When are the Mega Millions drawings held?
Drawings are held every Tuesday and Friday evening at 11 p.m. ET.
What are the odds of winning Mega Millions?
The overall odds of winning any Mega Millions prize are 1 in 24. The odds of winning the jackpot are approximately 1 in 303 million.
How late can I buy Mega Millions tickets?
Sales cut-off times vary by jurisdiction, but usually occur about one hour before the drawing on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Can I buy Mega Millions tickets online?
Mega Millions tickets can only be purchased in person from authorized retailers in participating states. Tickets cannot be purchased online or by mail.
How do I claim a Mega Millions prize?
Winning tickets must be redeemed in the state where they were purchased. Players have 180 days from the drawing date to claim prizes. Jackpots can be paid annually or as a one-time cash lump sum.
Where does the Mega Millions revenue go?
Mega Millions ticket sales are divided between the participating lottery jurisdictions. Revenue funds public education, senior citizen programs, and other state government initiatives.
What are the biggest Mega Millions jackpots?
The record Mega Millions jackpot is $1.537 billion won in South Carolina on October 23, 2018. The second-largest jackpot was $1.337 billion won in Illinois on July 29, 2022.
The Mega Millions lottery offers players a chance to win huge jackpot prizes that can reach over $1 billion. To play, pick five main numbers from 1-70 and one Mega Ball from 1-25. Match all six numbers in exact order to win Mega Millions’ starting jackpot of $40 million or whatever amount it has rolled up to. There are also eight secondary prize tiers for matching some numbers.
While the odds of hitting the jackpot are about 1 in 303 million, it’s still fun to play for a chance at a massive fortune. Mega Millions tickets are $2 each and can be purchased in most states where lottery games are operated. Drawings take place at 11 p.m. ET every Tuesday and Friday.
Review the game’s prize chart and official rules before playing. Know your jurisdiction’s requirements for claiming prizes and applicable taxes. With giant jackpots that can grow to over $1 billion, Mega Millions offers excitement and abundant dreaming potential with every ticket purchased!