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What is the meaning of Megamillions?

Mega Millions is a multi-state lottery game in the United States with jackpots that can grow to be hundreds of millions of dollars. It is one of the two major national lottery games in the U.S., along with Powerball. Mega Millions holds the record for the second largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history at $1.537 billion, which was won in South Carolina on October 23, 2018.

How Mega Millions Works

Mega Millions is coordinated by the Multi-State Lottery Association and is offered in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To play, you pick six numbers – five main numbers between 1-70 and one Mega Ball number between 1-25. There are nine prize tiers based on how many numbers you match. If you match all six numbers, you win the Mega Millions jackpot.

The minimum Mega Millions jackpot starts at $40 million and continues to grow each drawing until it is won. Jackpots roll over when there is no top prize winner, building up the amount for the next drawing. Mega Millions drawings happen twice per week on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 p.m. ET.

Overall odds of winning any prize are 1 in 24. Odds of winning the jackpot are around 1 in 302 million.

Notable Mega Millions Jackpots

Here are some of the largest Mega Millions jackpots to date:

  • $1.537 billion – October 2018 in South Carolina (world record lottery prize)
  • $656 million – March 2012 in Illinois, Kansas, Maryland
  • $648 million – December 2013 in California, Georgia
  • $543 million – July 2018 in California
  • $536 million – July 2016 in Indiana
  • $533 million – March 2018 in New Jersey
  • $522 million – June 2019 in California
  • $451 million – January 2018 in Florida
  • $437 million – January 2019 in New York
  • $414 million – March 2014 in Florida, Maryland

Notable Mega Millions Winners

Here are some of the biggest Mega Millions jackpot winners to date:

  • The October 2018 $1.537 billion jackpot in South Carolina was won by a single ticket holder who opted to remain anonymous. It is the largest lottery prize ever won on a single ticket.
  • The $656 million jackpot in March 2012 was split three ways between ticket holders in Illinois, Kansas, and Maryland. Each received around $218 million before taxes.
  • A group of 20 co-workers in Georgia shared the $648 million jackpot in December 2013, splitting it into even shares of $6.25 million after taxes.
  • The July 2018 $543 million jackpot in California was claimed by an office pool of 11 co-workers who had been buying lottery tickets together for 16 years.
  • The March 2018 $533 million jackpot in New Jersey went to a man named Richard Wahl who opted to take the lump sum of $324.6 million.

Mega Millions Timeline

Here is a brief timeline of the history of Mega Millions and its biggest jackpots:

Date Event
1996 The Big Game lottery begins, with the starting jackpot of $2 million.
2002 Name changes to Mega Millions as the game expands across the U.S.
March 2012 $656 million jackpot won in Illinois, Kansas, and Maryland.
December 2013 $648 million jackpot won in California and Georgia.
October 2018 $1.537 billion jackpot won in South Carolina, the largest ever.
January 2021 Mega Millions reaches 45 participating states.

How to Play Mega Millions

Playing Mega Millions is easy. Just follow these steps when you purchase a ticket:

  1. Pick five main numbers between 1-70. These are the white balls.
  2. Pick one Mega Ball number between 1-25. This is the gold ball.
  3. Choose to play $2 for one board or add the Megaplier option for $3.
  4. Submit your completed ticket before the drawing on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 p.m. ET.
  5. Check the numbers after the drawing to see if you have a winning match.

You can also choose Easy Pick and let the lottery terminal randomly select your numbers. If you match all five white balls and the gold Mega Ball, you win the jackpot prize.

Megaplier Option

Except for the jackpot, all prizes in Mega Millions can be multiplied by adding the Megaplier feature for an extra $1 per ticket. A random multiplier between 2X-5X is drawn before each game. If you win a prize and have the Megaplier, your lower-tier winnings get multiplied by that number, boosting your prize.

Winning the Mega Millions Jackpot

You win the Mega Millions jackpot prize by matching all six numbers on your ticket – the five white ball numbers between 1-70 and the gold Mega Ball number between 1-25. The odds of hitting the jackpot are about 1 in 302 million.

If there are multiple jackpot winners, the prize is divided equally among all the winning tickets. Winners can choose to receive their share through either an annuity paid out over 30 years or as a one-time, lump-sum payment reduced by taxes.

Almost all jackpot winners take the cash option. For example, the October 2018 winner who won the $1.537 billion prize opted for the lump sum of $878 million before taxes.

Remaining Anonymous

Some states allow Mega Millions winners to remain anonymous, while others require the winner’s identity to be made public. States that allow anonymity include Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina. Check with your local lottery to find out the rules in your jurisdiction.


Mega Millions jackpots and other lottery winnings are subject to both federal and state taxes. The top federal tax rate is 37% for prizes over $500 million. State taxes can range from 0% to over 8%. So a large portion of the cash option goes towards taxes, though winners still end up with hundreds of millions in net winnings.

Mega Millions Statistics and Odds

It’s difficult to grasp the long odds of winning Mega Millions, but looking at the statistics can help put it in perspective:

  • Odds of winning the jackpot: 1 in 302,575,350
  • Odds of winning any prize: 1 in 24
  • Overall chance that any Mega Millions ticket is a winner: 1 in 14
  • Number of main number combinations: 258,890,850
  • Number of Mega Ball combinations: 25
  • Total combinations: 302,575,350
  • Average number of winners each drawing: 1.4 million
  • Average jackpot: $92 million
  • Most common Mega Ball numbers: 17, 10, 31, 4, 24
  • Most common main numbers: 7, 3, 20, 11, 39

The table below shows a breakdown of all the Mega Millions prize levels and odds of winning:

Prize Level Match Odds (1 in…)
Jackpot 5 + 1 302,575,350
$1,000,000 5 12,607,306
$10,000 4 + 1 931,001
$500 4 38,792
$200 3 + 1 14,547
$10 3 606
$4 2 + 1 693
$2 1 + 1 89
$1 0 + 1 37

As you can see, matching all six numbers correctly has staggeringly long odds. However, your chances improve dramatically if you match a few of the main numbers or the Mega Ball. Overall, your odds of winning any prize when you play Mega Millions is around 1 in 24.

Strategies for Playing Mega Millions

The numbers drawn in Mega Millions are random, so there is no one strategy to give you an advantage. However, some people use certain approaches when picking their numbers to make the game more fun.

Common Strategies

  • Birthdays: Use birth dates, ages, or anniversaries that are meaningful to you.
  • Lucky numbers: Play digits that feel lucky such as addresses or phone numbers.
  • Number patterns: Select numbers in straight lines or geometric shapes.
  • Quick picks: Let the machine randomly select numbers via Easy Pick.
  • Frequency analysis: Look for commonly drawn numbers and combinations.
  • Balanced mix: Combine high and low numbers and odd and even digits.
  • Reduce sharing: Avoid very popular number choices to reduce split prizes.

Is Any Strategy Effective?

The most effective strategy is to buy more tickets because it increases your odds of a random number match. Buying 20 tickets gives you about 20 times the chance of winning versus buying 1 ticket. Grouping tickets or pooling money with others can allow you to buy more tickets.

Beyond buying more tickets, number picking strategies are more about personal preference than seriously increasing your chances. The numbers are drawn randomly, so no strategy has an inherent mathematical advantage. That means you can play with memorable numbers or try your luck with Quick Pick.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Mega Millions available in my state?

Mega Millions is available in most U.S. states and jurisdictions. The only states that do not participate are Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah. Check with your local lottery to confirm if Mega Millions can be played where you live.

When do Mega Millions drawings take place?

Mega Millions drawings happen every Tuesday and Friday at 11 p.m. ET. Tickets can usually be purchased until 10:45 p.m. ET on the night of the drawing.

How do I claim a Mega Millions prize?

Prizes up to $600 can typically be claimed at any licensed lottery retailer in your jurisdiction. Larger prizes must be claimed at your lottery’s headquarters or other designated redemption center. Be sure to sign the back of your ticket and keep it safe. Prizes expire within 3-12 months depending on where you live.

How are jackpots paid out?

Mega Millions jackpot winners have two payment options: annuity or cash. The annuity pays the full jackpot out over 30 years through annual installments. The cash option is a one-time, lump-sum payment equal to the jackpot’s present value less applicable taxes.

What happens if no one wins the jackpot?

If there are no jackpot winners, the top prize rolls over to the next Mega Millions drawing. This causes the jackpot to grow larger for the next potential drawing until it is won.

How do I calculate my Megaplier winnings?

If you purchased the Megaplier for $1 extra per ticket, you can multiply any non-jackpot wins by the Megaplier number drawn before that game. For example, if you matched four numbers and the Megaplier was 3X, your $500 prize becomes $1,500.

History and Future of Mega Millions

Mega Millions has come a long way from its start as The Big Game in 1996. As more states joined, the name was changed in 2002. Larger starting jackpots and more frequent drawings helped drive the incredible popularity and giant jackpots the game is known for today.

In January 2022, changes were made to boost the starting jackpot from $40 million to $20 million and add a new prize level for matching just the Mega Ball. These changes are designed to create larger prizes and jackpots more often.

The future looks bright for Mega Millions. With strong existing participation across most of the U.S. and culturally significant jackpots measured in the hundreds of millions, the game has cemented itself as a fixture for lottery players nationwide. While another jackpot surpassing $1 billion is unlikely in the near term, Mega Millions will continue offering life-changing prizes for lucky winners across the country.


Mega Millions has delivered some of the biggest lottery jackpots in history, capturing the attention of millions of Americans with its weekly drawings and sensational prizes. It offers an affordable way to take a chance at winning a fortune for just $2 per ticket. Mega Millions jackpots start at $20 million and roll over when there is no winner, reaching staggering amounts.

Playing Mega Millions only takes picking five main numbers and one Mega Ball number. Match all six to hit the jackpot. While the odds are incredibly long, it just takes one ticket to win. Mega Millions payouts get large enough that spending a few dollars each drawing is worthwhile entertainment for many people.

Mega Millions has grown tremendously over the years and continues adapting to keep the game exciting. Dreaming about what could be done with hundreds of millions creates anticipation and fuels ticket sales. While beating the long odds is unlikely, Mega Millions has made multimillionaires overnight, proving anyone can win with a little luck on their side.