By the numbers

The record Mega Millions jackpot: By the numbers

Wishful thinkers in more than 40 states are snapping up tickets, as the top prize reaches an unprecedented $540 million. A statistical look at the game they're playing

Hey, you never know, right? At $540 million, the Mega Millions jackpot has reached an all-time high — setting a world record for any lottery and enticing even snooty naysayers to try their dauntingly terrible odds. The jackpot soared after Tuesday's drawing — which featured a $363 million prize — failed to produce a winner. The gigantic haul could continue to rise before Friday's drawing as more people throw their money into the pot. Here, a numerical guide to the contest that is driving the nation into a frenzy:

$1
Price of a ticket

6
Numbers that must be matched correctly to win the jackpot

$2
Minimum prize, awarded to those who match the sixth number

1 in 40
Odds of winning any prize, including the $2 one

2.9 million
Number of winning tickets (for the smaller prizes) on March 23

1 in 176 million
Odds of winning the jackpot

1 in 280,000
Odds of getting struck by lightning

76
Percent chance the winning numbers will be drawn on Friday

$10,000
Amount Washington Wizards forward Chris Singleton threw down on Mega Millions tickets this week, prompting one fan to note, "You guys are already rich"

$359 million
Immediate cash payout option, before taxes, if you win the $540 million

$390 million
Largest Mega Millions jackpot previously won (not the amount awarded), in March 2007

11, 14, 18, 33, 48
Only set of five numbers picked twice in Mega Millions history (the sixth numbers were different in each case)

40
Percent of jackpot winners who continue working for several years

16
Percent of earnings that winners save, on average

Sources: ABC NewsMega Millions, ReutersToday ShowUSA Today, Wall Street Journal Washington Post

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