The U.S. is still full of soon-to-be millionaires.
The record-breaking pot reached $1.6 billion — yes, that’s with a B — with the next drawing Tuesday evening.
The amount is the result of several drawings yielding no winner and a steady stream of customers buying tickets across the country, making it the highest lottery prize in U.S. history.
“It's the fun dream,” said Carole Gentry, managing director of communications for Maryland Lottery and Gaming, summing up why she thinks people love to play a game that is statistically not in their favor. The odds of winning the jackpot are more than one in 302,500,000, according to the Mega Millions website.
Many players are relying on numbers that they have deemed to be good luck in the past.
“I use 6 and 13 a lot,” said Janine Peterson, an elevator operator at the Neil Simon Theater in Manhattan. “Six was my nephew’s number that he used wear playing baseball, and 13 is a number that my family has always loved. Number 13, everybody thinks it’s bad luck. We’ve always found it to be a good number.”
Standing in front of an electronic sign displaying the current Mega Millions amount, Peterson said she has one $10 dollar ticket at home full of six-number combinations representing favorite numbers, anniversaries and her mother’s birthday.
“I only play that if it’s a big amount,” Peterson said.
Depending on the year, Peterson could have seen better odds of having one of her numbers winning the jackpot, according to data from Mega Millions. The number 6 appears among the top 10 main ball pool numbers, the five numbers preceding the final Mega Ball number on a ticket, for the Mega Millions lottery from 2002 to 2005. The number 6 was selected 34 times in a total of 324 draws during that three-year time frame. However, frequently appearing numbers do not mean that the self-selection method increases your odds of winning.
Various lottery officials across the country told NBC News that there is no proof that a computer-generated combination, known as a Quick or Easy Pick, would give you a better chance of winning the lottery. In fact, when compared to hand-picking the numbers, experts say that a player’s chances are still 50-50.
“More people do the Quick Pick so there would be more Quick Pick winners over all, but that's because more people use Quick Pick,” said Sally Lunsford, director of public affairs for the Kansas Lottery. “If you are going to get lucky, you’re going to get lucky.”
If the odds of choosing the winning numbers are the same regardless of a player’s selection method, then why do people still choose to select their own numbers? Patrick Johnson, a public information specialist for the Oregon Lottery, said he has one theory.
“Today, we live in such a technological society,” Johnson said. “I think some people just like that feeling of control. They like picking their luck."
The number combinations players can play have changed over time as the lottery group adds and subtracts numerical ranges from the ball lineup. From 2002-05, the main ball and mega ball numbers that players could choose from went from 1 to 52. Now, players can play main ball numbers 1 to 70 and Mega Ball numbers 1 to 25, according to Mega Millions statistics.
But that doesn’t stop people like Mark Brea, who said he plays the same numbers — mostly family (and dog’s) birthdays — every week.
“I keep playing the same numbers over and over,” Brea said. ”I feel like if you play the same numbers, you have a better chance.”