Beg a million

By now the word is out — the record-breaking, $640 million jackpot of last night’s Mega Millions lottery drawing will be split between three winners. Or as I like to call them, lucky bastards.

When I woke up, I heard the winning tickets had been purchased in Illinois, Kansas, and Maryland; knowing I hadn’t been to any of those three states since the last drawing, I figured the odds were against me. But I still checked my numbers dutifully, just in case. No such luck; I matched one number. Stupid balls.

Then again, maybe I’m lucky for not having won. I’ve read time and again about people who say winning the jackpot ruined their lives. They won all that money, but lost most of their freedom and happiness. And then there are the morons who live the high life for a couple of years, blow every one of their billions of cents, and end up broker than they were before they won.

Wouldn't this line suck if you came to the store just to buy a pack of Twinkies?

Yet there’s an undeniable draw toward a jackpot like that. The nation went into a ticket-buying frenzy when the amount passed the half-billion mark on Wednesday, and over the next two days, increased that total by almost 30 percent. Personally, I was hoping the jackpot would continue to grow, because I was curious how the individual states’ lottery commissions would tackle the requirement of displaying a billion-dollar jackpot on all of those billboards that say, “$___ million.” But I’m kind of an anarchist that way.

I don’t understand the psychology that drives people to buy tickets only when the jackpot is astronomically large. The lines don’t usually start forming until the billboards hit “$300 million” or more. The odds are no better with a larger jackpot; if someone is willing to spend $1 on a ticket, what makes them hold out? Each time someone wins, the Mega Millions jackpot starts over at $12 million — is that really not enough?

This week, I’ve heard people saying things like, “When I heard it passed half a billion, I just had to buy a ticket!” I could only think, Wow, you are one shrewd investor! The 12,000,000-to-1 ROI is just not enough for you, is it? You want at least 500,000,000-to-1 before you even blink — way to stand your ground!

I can’t figure it. And yes, I bought a ticket, too, but not because of the jackpot size. I buy them at random times, regardless of the jackpot. I have no rules for the number games; I’m a lottery anarchist, remember?

If anything, the huge jackpots should deter me from buying. Honestly, I wouldn’t know what to do with anything more than a million bucks. It would be nice to win enough to become a full-time philanthropist, but I don’t know if I’d be able to do that in peace once the word got out that I’d won such a huge amount. I’d have to go into hiding, and I hate anonymity — it goes against every attention-mongering fiber of my being.

Maybe I wouldn’t tell anyone that I’d just become obscenely rich, and philanthropize in secret. To get my attention fix, I’d use some of the money to buy millions of copies of my book. Then I’d pay someone to publicly burn them, driving public curiosity. Orders would pour in, and I’d become obscenely rich!

Oh. Oh, wait. Yeah … never mind.

Guess I’ll just stick with the lower-jackpot games. We never win on those, anyway, so I think I’m safe.

About Dan Bain

Dan is an award-winning humorist, features writer, emcee and entertainer from Raleigh, NC. His collection of humor essays, A Nay for Effort, has earned him fans from one end of his couch to the other. Why not join them and buy one? (You won't have to sit on his couch.) Dan will donate 10 percent of the book's proceeds to education. You can check it out at; thanks!
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6 Responses to Beg a million

  1. Ohmigod! YOU POSTED!

    I don’t want to be that rich. I’d be happy with five million. And I would never want anyone to know I had won, and I think they require you to come forward publicly once, because the postal service refuses to deliver that giant check they write. I didn’t buy a ticket because I’m one of those no-fun people who thinks the lottery preys on the poor, and I’ve been pretty broke lately and therefore resented the manipulation. But you raise a point I’ve wondered about, too: the more people who buy tickets, the greater the odds are of winning. Why buy in when it’s even less possible than usual?

  2. oldereyes says:

    Wow. I could have written this post, almost word for word. My mother used to say, “I’d be a good rich person” and I say the same thing. I think I would. I’m old enough that I don’t have many wants and I’d like to help family and friends. On the subject of ROI, I’m a statistician (among other things) and have often wanted to figure out (if I could) the expected winnings as a function of the total jackpot, given the number of people who win. It’s all moot anyway, since I never remember to buy tickets.

  3. i have never bought a lottery ticket in my life….i think after taking probability math in college, i realized how unlikely it would be to win….so i just buy a latte. 🙂

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