Will Poker Players Line Up To Make Minus-EV Mega Millions And Powerball Plays?

Martin Derbyshire October 18, 2018 1315 Reads
Mega Millions

US poker players normally try to avoid minus EV plays like the lottery, but even the most mathematically savvy are sure to be lining up to buy tickets for the record $868 million Mega Millions jackpot up for grabs in Friday’s draw.

At 649,739 to 1, the odds of a hitting a Royal Flush on PokerStars NJ or WSOP.com Nevada are much better. However, the 1 in 302,575,350 odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot won’t stop most EV-conscious poker players from spending at least a buck to try their luck. After all, the second-largest jackpot in US multi-state lottery history is on the line.

Lottery blitz

And, if you think poker players are above trying to give themselves a slight edge by gambling big on a slew of tickets, remember that Instagram hero and high-stakes Hollywood cash game killer Dan Bilzerian spent $100,000 on tickets chasing an estimated $1 billion Powerball jackpot back in 2016.

Bilzerian also turned it into an Instagram giveaway, promising to give five people $1 million each if he won. He didn’t.

According to Poker Strategy’s Barry Carter, 11 poker-playing buddies in San Joaquin County, California hit five of six numbers on one of the $220 in tickets they collectively bought for the 2016 draw.

They missed out on the jackpot, but earned $779,264, and left a 12th buddy who chose not to get in the pool with a unique bad beat story.

That Powerball jackpot eventually rose to just under $1.6 billion, the biggest ever, before it was shared between three winning tickets in California, Florida, and Tennessee.

Of course, the odds of winning a Powerball jackpot are slightly better than Mega Millions, sitting at 1 in 292,201,338. According to CNBC, the odds of winning both are a staggering 1 in 88 quadrillion.

Record Mega Millions jackpot

Previously, the largest-ever Mega Millions jackpot was $656 million in March 2012. Winners from Illinois, Kansas, and Maryland split that pot.

The Mega Millions jackpot rose to a record $667 million in Tuesday night’s draw. However, with no winning tickets sold, it’s up to an estimated $868 million heading into Friday’s draw, making it the second-biggest jackpot in US lottery history.

Wednesday night’s Powerball draw featured an estimated $345 million jackpot, and nobody hit the jackpot. With an estimated $430 million up for grabs in the next drawing on Saturday, it looks like poker players will be joining the rest of the country in taking a shot at what has to be considered a life-changing consolation prize in that one as well.

Lead Director of the Mega Millions Consortium and Director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming Gordon Medenica expects massive ticket sales across the board until both are hit:

“Jackpot fever is definitely sweeping the country.”

Mega Millions tickets are available starting at $1 in 44 states, Washington D.C., and the US Virgin Islands. Powerball has traditionally been the larger of the two multi-state lotteries. Tickets start at $2. Powerball tickets are also available in Puerto Rico.

Poker Twitter jackpot dreamers

Talk of the massive jackpots has spread to Poker Twitter, with one Oklahoma poker room offering up a good idea:

Poker players themselves are already making a variety of plans for the cash. One California player has his priorities straight:

Another from Florida believes there’s more than one way to skin a cat:

However, these Ohio players sit on opposite sides of the fence, with one holding other, likely more Fedor Holtz-like, retirement plans:

Mega Millions is the former Big Game multi-state lottery. It became The Big Game Mega Millions in 1996 and Mega Millions in 2002.

The former Lotto*America Multi-State Lottery Association game became Powerball in 1992.

Winners of either jackpot have a choice. They can take a smaller lump sum right away or the full amount in a 30-year annuity.

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