Distribution of Lottery Winners based on 1,000 Simulations

With tonight’s Mega Millions jackpot estimated to be over $640 million there are long lines of people waiting to buy tickets.  Of course you always hear about the probability of winning which is easy enough to calculate:  Five numbers ranging from 1 through 56 are drawn (without replacement) then a sixth ball is pulled from a set of 1 through 46.  That means there are choose(56, 5) * 46 = 175,711,536 possible different combinations.  That is why people are constantly reminded of how unlikely they are to win.

But I want to see how likely it is that SOMEONE will win tonight.  So let’s break out R and ggplot!

As of this afternoon it was reported (sorry no source) that two tickets were sold for every American.  So let’s assume that each of these tickets is an independent Bernoulli trial with probability of success of 1/175,711,536.

Running 1,000 simulations we see the distribution of the number of winners in the histogram above.

So we shouldn’t be surprised if there are multiple winners tonight.

The R code:

winners <- rbinom(n=1000, size=600000000, prob=1/175000000)
qplot(winners, geom="histogram", binwidth=1, xlab="Number of Winners")

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Jared Lander is the Founder and CEO of Lander Analytics a New York data science firm, Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, Organizer of the New York Open Statistical Programming meetup and author of R for Everyone.

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