Does buying more lottery tickets improve your odds of winning?

We all know that winning the jackpot prize in any major lottery draw game—such as Powerball or Mega Millions—is a long shot. But that doesn’t keep lottery fans (like me!) from wondering about strategies that just might put the odds a little bit more in our favor. One question that comes up frequently is whether buying more lottery tickets will improve a player’s chance of winning?

Experts say buying more lottery tickets for each game will improve your chances of winning a prize. In theory, buying more tickets gives a lottery player more chances to win. However, the overall improvement in your odds of winning will be relatively small.

Still, there are some rare examples of lottery players who have beaten astronomical odds to win huge lottery jackpots by using strategies that focus on large volume ticket purchases. In this article, we’ll review some of these examples along with the challenges of buying more lottery tickets to boost your odds of winning.

How buying more tickets affects your chances of winning the lottery

Let’s take the example of the Mega Millions lottery game. If you buy one ticket, the odds of winning the grand prize jackpot are a truly hard-to-fathom roughly 1 in 302 million.

If you buy two tickets, then you have improved your odds to 2 in 302 million. Buy a third ticket and you’ve just bumped your odds to 3 in 302 million. And so on and so on…

But as you can see, the numbers don’t lie. While buying more tickets does increase your odds of winning, the increase is extraordinarily small relative to the overall odds of winning. In reality, you’d likely have to buy a massive number of lottery tickets to make this strategy a profitable one.

Just how many lottery tickets would you have to buy to guarantee you’d win the jackpot?

Well, according to numbers expert and Harvard Professor Mark Glickman, you’d have to buy 302,575,350 lottery tickets to make this a “100% guaranteed” jackpot-winning strategy. That’s because there are 302,575,350 million number combinations that could be drawn in any given Mega Millions drawing.

At $2 a pop for each Mega Millions ticket, you’d have to spend over $605 million to play all the possible combinations.

Yes, Glickman acknowledges this strategy seems preposterous on the face of it. But in those instances where the Mega Millions jackpot soars to $1 billion, $2 billion, or more, the math works out. You would pay $605 million and get back billions in return.

Thus, Glickman says the strategy of buying every single lottery ticket combination begins to become more attractive. A big risk, however, is if other players also have a jackpot winning ticket. If you have to share the jackpot with others, your return will plummet, and you could lose money.

Obviously, Glickman’s strategy is just a thought experiment and not a practical solution for lottery players. It does put into perspective how challenging it is to rely on the “buy more tickets” method for winning the lottery.

For complete details on this Harvard professor’s “guaranteed” Mega Millions jackpot strategy, check out this video from WCVB Channel 5 Boston:

Are there examples of lottery players who’ve bought large amounts of lottery tickets and have won big?

While extremely rare, there are a few notable examples of individuals or groups who have purchased large amounts of lottery tickets as part of a winning strategy.

Stefan Mandel

This Romanian economist developed an algorithm that would guarantee him a lottery win by identifying jackpots that had gotten three times larger than the total potential number of winning combinations. Mandel would then purchase tickets for every number combination possible. (Sound familiar? This is similar to the strategy Professor Glickman theorized would work.)

Mandel created a lottery syndicate to fund his expensive endeavor. Using funds from investors, he bought millions of tickets for each draw, based on his predictions. His strategy worked, and he won the lottery 14 times.

It’s important to note that Mandel’s method would be hard (if not impossible) to duplicate by the average lottery player today. Mandel had a deep understanding of mathematical theory, access to significant computational power, and substantial financial resources to buy the tickets. It’s also worth noting that many lotteries have since changed their rules to prevent this kind of strategy from being used again.

The MIT Group

In 2004, the Massachusetts State Lottery introduced their Cash Winfall game. The game included a little-known loophole that under the right conditions put the odds in the players’ favor to win way more than normal. Some savvy Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students discovered this technicality and took full advantage of it.

The students realized that if no one won the jackpot in a certain drawing, the prize money would be redistributed in such a way that smaller prizes became more valuable than the cost of the ticket. To best exploit this loophole, the students would need to purchase massive amounts of tickets.

They formed a betting group and started buying hundreds of thousands of tickets on these “rolldown” days, and reportedly won millions of dollars over a period of several years. The lottery eventually closed the loophole, and the group disbanded.

Jerry and Marge Selbee

This retired couple from Michigan also exploited a loophole in a different game in the Michigan State Lottery. Like the MIT group, they realized that under certain conditions, the potential payoff from a “rolldown” was greater than the cost of the tickets.

They formed a betting company and started buying hundreds of thousands of tickets for each “rolldown” draw, eventually winning $26 million. They used a similar strategy with the Massachusetts State Lottery’s Cash WinFall game.

A few caveats to keep in mind…

As you probably realized from reading the above stories, these strategies relied on specific rules and conditions in certain lottery games. The lottery players involved had to recognize the loopholes in the games and they had to act on a grand scale to benefit.

All required significant resources and organization to execute. They also involved a certain amount of risk, as there was no guarantee of winning even with the increased odds. Most lotteries have since changed their rules to prevent these kinds of strategies from being used.

While it’s technically true that buying more lottery tickets increases your odds of winning, it’s important to understand that this increase is usually very small and comes with significant risks. You could spend a large amount of money on tickets and still have virtually no chance of winning the jackpot. It’s important to remember that the lottery is a form of entertainment, not an investment strategy or a reliable way to make money. While it’s fine to play the lottery for fun, it’s not a good idea to rely on it to improve your financial situation.

Elizabeth Blessing

Elizabeth Blessing is the founder of Windfall Wealth Report. She has over 10 years of experience as a freelance personal finance writer. Her clients have included Investopedia, Investing Daily, The Lazy Trader, and Leeb Financial.

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