Unexpectedly Intriguing!
March 6, 2007

With too few people playing the lotteries in California on account of too many people winning smaller jackpots too often, and so much of the state's finances dependent upon its take from the lottery, we thought we'd do our part and help spark lottery fever in the Golden State!

As we've previously observed, people really don't get excited about the lottery until the grand prize reaches a considerable value - and we've observed that the magic number for a lottery jackpot seems to be tied to three things: the cost of a ticket, the odds of winning the jackpot and the percentage of the winnings that the winner(s) will have to pay in taxes.

Now, we realize that these factors go far beyond California, so we thought we'd modify the previous generation of our lottery tool to go one step further. Because we really find that it's a hassle to look up the odds of winning the grand prize in the lottery from umpteen different state and lottery web sites, we thought we'd just look at the games themselves and calculate the odds "live"! All you need to do is to enter the numbers that matter for your preferred lottery game, and we'll work out all the rest: the odds of winning, and most importantly, the magic jackpot value for which it's worthwhile to buy a ticket (and where the math says that "lottery fever" really begins.)

Lottery Game Data
Input Data Values
How many possible numbers are there to choose from in the main set?
How many numbers from this set does the player get to pick?
If the lottery has a Powerball or Mega Millions' "MegaBall" option, enter the indicated data below.
How many possible numbers are there to choose from for the Power or Mega Ball?
How many numbers from this set does the player get to pick?
Lottery Cost Data
Cost of a Lottery Ticket
Income Tax Rates
Federal Income Tax Rate (%)
State Income Tax Rate (%)
Local Income Tax Rate (%)

The Odds of Winning the Lottery and the Magic Jackpot
Calculated Results Values
The Odds of Winning the Jackpot (1 in ...)
The Magic Jackpot (The Number That Makes Playing the Lottery Worth the Cost of a Ticket)

And there you have it! The default data for our tool above is for California's Super Lotto Plus game, but you can easily adapt it for whatever typical lottery you might find throughout the U.S. (and many places throughout the world.) As a special note, California does not levy its state income tax against lottery winnings. This is not true of most (but not all) states!

Now all you have to do is wait until the grand prize in your lottery of interest gets above the Magic Jackpot Number. Otherwise, it just isn't mathematically becoming to get overly excited about the lottery....

Our tool above can help you find the odds of winning a typical lottery, including the kind with a Power or Mega ball. In the case where the lottery you're running numbers for doesn't have a Powerball or MegaBall option, just enter 0 and 0 for this set of numbers.

In the math behind the tool, we assume that the sequence in which the numbers are drawn is not a factor in determining the winner. This increases the odds of winning considerably over a lottery in which the order the numbers are drawn matters.

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Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

ironman at politicalcalculations.com

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