Mega Millions Lottery: How to Play and Be a Winner

Could You Be the Next Mega Millions Winner?

Photo of Mega Millions tickets.
Woman purchasing Mega Millions tickets.. Kevork Djansezian/Staff/Getty Images

What Is the Mega Millions Lottery?

Mega Millions, like Powerball, is a multi-state lottery in the United States. Tickets for the Mega Millions Lottery can be purchased in all but seven states, as well as Washington, DC and the Virgin Islands.

More Info: Can Non-US Residents Play to Win the Mega Millions Lottery?

Mega Millions began in August of 1996 under the name, "The Big Game." Only six states participated at first, but the lottery grew in popularity over time, and nearly every US jurisdiction participates today.

The name has changed twice, to "The Big Game Mega Millions" in 2002 and to "Mega Millions," as it's known today, in 2005.

In October of 2013, the structure of the lottery changed to make it more likely to win and to have bigger, more exciting jackpots.

Each Mega Millions Jackpot starts at $15 million and increases by $5 million for every drawing that does not produce a jackpot winner.

Mega Millions holds the world record for the biggest lottery jackpot, a $656 million prize that was awarded on March 30, 2012.

How Do You Play Mega Millions?

To play Mega Millions, you pick five numbers between 1 and 75 and one additional number between 1 and 15. The additional number is known as the "Mega Ball." The first five numbers do not have to be in any particular order.

A basic Mega Millions ticket costs $1. Most states also offer a "Megaplier" option, where you pay $1 per ticket to multiply any prize you win (other than the jackpot) by two, three, four, or five.

The value of the Megaplier is drawn at random at the same time that the winning numbers are generated.

You have the option to choose your lottery numbers, or to do a "quick pick" to let the computer randomly generate the numbers you will play.

More Info: Want to boost your odds of becoming a lottery winner? Read Lottery-Winning Tips that Really Work.

How Do You Win the Mega Millions Lottery?

Mega Millions numbers are drawn from two drums, one containing 75 balls and one containing 15 balls. The first five numbers are drawn from the first drum, and the Mega Ball is drawn from the second drum. A seventh number is then drawn, to determine the level of the Megaplier, from 2 through 5.

If your five numbers match the five drawn from the first drum in any order, and your Mega Ball matches the number drawn from the second drum, you've won the jackpot. You may also win a prize for matching a lesser number of balls, as outlined below:

Mega Millions Payouts:

  • 5 numbers plus the Mega Ball: The rolling jackpot.
  • 5 numbers without the Mega Ball: $1,000,000 (multiplied by the Megaplier value, if you purchased that option).
  • 4 numbers plus the Mega Ball: $5,000 (multiplied by the Megaplier value, if you purchased that option).
  • 4 numbers without the Mega Ball: $500 (multiplied by the Megaplier value, if you purchased that option).
  • 3 numbers plus the Mega Ball: $50 (multiplied by the Megaplier value, if you purchased that option).
  • 3 numbers without the Mega Ball: $5 (multiplied by the Megaplier value, if you purchased that option).
  • 2 numbers plus the Mega Ball: $5 (multiplied by the Megaplier value, if you purchased that option).
  • 1 number plus the Mega Ball: $2 (multiplied by the Megaplier value, if you purchased that option).
  • Only the Mega Ball: $1 (multiplied by the Megaplier value, if you purchased that option).

Odds of Winning the Mega Millions Lottery:

  • 5 numbers plus the Mega Ball (Jackpot): Odds of 1 in 258,890,850.
  • 5 numbers without the Mega Ball: Odds of 1 in 18,492,204.
  • 4 numbers plus the Mega Ball: Odds of 1 in 739,688.
  • 4 numbers without the Mega Ball: Odds of 1 in 52,835.
  • 3 numbers plus the Mega Ball: Odds of 1 in 10,720.
  • 3 numbers without the Mega Ball: Odds of 1 in 766.
  • 2 numbers plus the Mega Ball: Odds of 1 in 473.
  • 1 number plus the Mega Ball: Odds of 1 in 56.
  • Only the Mega Ball: Odds of 1 in 21.
  • Overall odds of winning any prize: 1 in 14.7.

These odds are from March 19, 2014. To see whether the odds have changed since then, visit the Mega Millions website.

How Can You Find Out if You Won the Mega Millions Jackpot?

Mega Millions winners are drawn on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11:00 pm. You can buy tickets up to 15 minutes before that time. Winning numbers are announced on television, in newspapers, and in the stores where you can buy tickets, or simply visit the Mega Millions website to view the latest winning numbers at any time.

Many of the state lottery websites also have handy smartphone apps or RSS feeds that can keep you abreast of the winning numbers.

More Info: If you're interested in state-specific lottery results see this article: Winning Lottery Numbers by State.

Do You Have to Go Public If You're a Mega Millions Winner?

In all but five states, you have to reveal your identity publicly if you are a Mega Millions winner. The states that allow you to collect your winnings anonymously are Maryland, Ohio, Kansas, Delaware, and North Dakota.

If You Win the Mega Millions Jackpot, How Will You Get Your Prize?

If you win the jackpot, you'll be able to choose from two payout options: lump sum payout or an annuity. The annuity will be paid out over 29 years, receiving 5% more each year than the year before. If the winner passes away before the annuity has been paid out, his or her heirs will continue to receive the payments.

If the winner takes the lump-sum payout, he or she will receive the entire jackpot at once.

Which States Do Not Participate in the Mega Millions Lottery?

The Mega Millions Lottery is not currently offered in Alabama, Mississippi, Utah, Wyoming, or Nevada.

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