Mega Millions jackpot climbs to an estimated $1.55 billion

A woman walks by a liquor store advertising Mega Millions
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

With Tuesday's Mega Millions drawing at an estimated $1.55 billion, people are lining up at gas stations and grocery stores across the country, hoping that they'll be the one to buy the golden ticket.

It's fun to dream, while also being realistic: you have about a 1 in 302.6 million chance of winning a Mega Millions jackpot. When it comes to winning a much lower prize, like $2 for matching the Mega Ball number, the odds are obviously much better, at roughly 1 in 24.

Higher jackpots mean more people are buying tickets, so the odds increase that there will be more than one winner who matches all of the numbers, leading to a split pot. The winner — or winners — will have the option of choosing an annuity that is paid out over 29 years or a significantly smaller cash payment. Most of the time, winners take the cash.

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People buy lottery tickets for different reasons — one player might like to briefly dream about being a billionaire, while another is in desperate need of rent money and thinks this could be their only shot at getting it. It's important to remember that these tickets aren't investments, and "there's an expectation that you will always lose money," Matthew Kovach, an assistant economics professor at Virginia Tech, told The Associated Press.

Those who regularly buy lottery tickets, as opposed to those who only get a ticket when the jackpot is huge, should consider taking their lotto money and using it to open an investment account or buy partial stock. "You will actually probably see a return over time," Kovach said.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.