Trying to win Mega Millions? These are the numbers that come up most

• A machine at a convenience store in Chicago dispenses Mega Millions tickets for a \$900 million drawing in 2018. The jackpot reached \$1.537 billion before one winning ticket was sold in South Carolina. Associated Press

Updated 1/22/2021 6:53 AM

With a jackpot nearing \$1 billion, sales of Mega Millions lottery tickets are soaring ahead of the next scheduled drawing Friday.

When 70 sequentially numbered white balls are dropped into one air-churned kettle and 25 numbered gold balls are dropped into an identical kettle at 9:45 p.m., an estimated \$970 million will be on the line for anyone holding a ticket with numbers matching the five white balls and one gold ball drawn. --

Since Halloween 2017, when the current numerical format was set, there have been 337 Mega Millions lottery drawings.

In that time, the gold No. 22 ball has been pulled the most, 21 times, according to information found on the Mega Millions website.

Among the five white balls pulled during each drawing, No. 10 and No. 34 have appeared 34 times, the most among the 70 balls. They are followed by the 14, 43, 48 and 62 balls, which have been pulled 32 times during those 337 drawings.

Does this mean those numbers are luckier, or more likely to be drawn again in the future?

"No. It's just random," said Barbara Gonzalez, chair of the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences at Northern Illinois University. "First of all, assuming there's no cheating, 337 data points is too little to prove anything, and there's certainly nothing weird at all in the numbers you're seeing."

As for being lucky, no combination of the six white balls that have appeared the most in those 337 drawings has ever been pulled, let alone with the gold No. 22 ball.

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"The most important thing about understanding the idea of lucky numbers is that most people are very bad at understanding randomness," Gonzalez said. "People equate randomness with evenness, and it's not."

Gonzalez said you would expect to see clusters of the same numbers appearing frequently during random drawings, but that doesn't signal anything important. In fact, she notes, the balls that have been drawn the least amount of times are just as likely to appear in Friday's drawing as the ones that have appeared the most during the previous 337 pulls.

And just in case anyone wants to know, the least chosen gold ball is No. 8, which has been pulled only seven times. And the least common white balls to be pulled are 21, 36, 5, 51 and 45, which have been drawn fewer than 17 times each.

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