The Mega Millions jackpot is in uncharted territory, and the $1.6 billion prize has a lot of once-in-a-while lottery players looking to the internet for some strategies on how to pick their numbers.
Friday’s $1 billion drawing failed to find a winner, and the Mega Millions jackpot has now risen to the largest single prize ever in lottery history — topping a $1.5 billion Powerball prize in January of 2016. The enormous prize has attracted many people who don’t normally play the lottery — and also led to an increase in people looking for some help in how to pick their Mega Millions numbers.
This week, CBS Chicago published a list of the most common numbers to show up over the last year. They are: 01, 02, 28, 70, 14, 17, and 42. Among those, the 01 is No. 1 in terms of prevalence, showing up 18 times in the last 102 drawings. The numbers 02, 70, and 28 have all been picked 12 times, while the rest showed up 11 times. The most common Mega Ball numbers are 22 and 09, both showing up seven times.
If you’re a Mega Millions player who likes to go against the grain, the least-picked Mega Millions numbers are 50, 63, 57, 36, and 09. The least common Mega Ball number is 05.
No one has won the Mega Millions jackpot and it's ballooned to $1.6 billion — but if you do the math, that's not surprising at all https://t.co/x04bA7IfvR
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) October 22, 2018
But unless you have a feeling that lottery officials are tipping the scales a bit, there is no advantage to playing the most common Mega Ball numbers. As the Washington Post pointed out back in early 2016 in the run-up to the $1.5 billion Powerball drawing, experts say that the human brain can be tricked into finding patterns where they don’t exist. All numbers have an equal chance of being picked, regardless of prior results.
“People should behave as if these things are totally random,” said Melissa Kearney, a University of Maryland economist. “But they don’t.”
Kearney studied the concept with stores, noting that lottery buyers tend to gravitate toward ones that sell big winners. The idea works with picking Mega Millions numbers as well, and is known to economists as the “gambler’s fallacy.” The most common comparison is a gambler at a roulette table who won’t play a number that just hit — or a gambler who thinks that because the last five spins of the wheel landed on a black number, the odds are higher that the next spin will land on red. Neither of those things are statistically accurate, experts point out.
So if you’re the kind of Mega Millions player who finds comfort in picking some of the most common numbers then go ahead — but know that it doesn’t change your odds of winning it any more. Your odds will still be 1 in 302.5 million, just like everyone else playing.