(NEXSTAR) — Without a winner in Tuesday’s drawing, the Mega Millions jackpot has inched even closer to $1 billion. Ready to try your luck at the first major lottery jackpot of 2023 but aren’t sure how to play? We have you covered.
Mega Millions is one of the most popular lottery games in the U.S. Like Powerball, it’s played in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (unlike Powerball, Mega Millions isn’t played in Puerto Rico).
Mega Millions began in 1996 under the name “Big Game,” according to the lottery game’s website. At the time, just six states participated: Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Virginia.
By 2002, the game was renamed “Mega Millions” and grew to 10 participating states. Mega Millions is now played in all but five states.
Drawings are held at 11 p.m. ET on Tuesdays and Fridays, and tickets are $2 each. For an extra $1, you can add a Megaplier (more on that later).
When you purchase a Mega Millions ticket, you’ll select six numbers — five different numbers ranging from 1 to 70 for the white balls, and one number between 1 and 25 for the gold Mega Ball. If the idea of picking your own numbers is too stressful, you can opt for Easy Pick or Quick Pick, which will randomly generate the numbers for your ticket.
In most states, you can also select a Megaplier for an additional $1 per play. This allows you to increase non-jackpot prizes by 2, 3, 4 or 5 times.
In some states, you can play “Just the Jackpot.” This allows you to purchase two chances to win the Mega Millions jackpot for $3. You won’t be able to claim any other prize levels, though.
During the drawings, five white balls will be drawn first. Don’t worry about their order – just the numbers matter. Then, the gold Mega Ball will be drawn.
If your ticket matches any of the numbers, hang onto your ticket and sign it. If you were to lose your winning ticket and another person finds it, they can claim it – unless you’ve signed it.
There are nine ways to win a prize in Mega Millions, ranging from $2 to the jackpot. Where and how long you have to claim your prize varies by state.
If you’re lucky enough to win the jackpot, you can opt for a cash lump sum payment or an annuity of one immediate payment followed by 29 annual payments that grow by 5% each time.
You may want to think twice before collecting the cash option though. Winners of giant jackpots nearly always take the cash, and financial advisers say that might be a mistake.
While your odds of winning any Mega Millions prize is one in 24, your chances at the jackpot are one in 302.6 million.