Beating the odds: 2 Minnesotans become lottery millionaires

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Those digits were a boon for two Minnesotans this past week – a $1 million boon to be precise.

Jack McGlynn of Burnsville and Todd Solarz of Duluth both happened to match those first five numbers on their Powerball ticket for the June 7 drawing, and ended up scoring $1 million because of it.

McGlynn didn't notice he was a winner until four days later, and nearly lost the ticket at one point, he told the Minnesota Lottery. He put the ticket in his wallet after buying it, and then:

"I put my pants in the washing machine and saw my wallet at the last second and got it out of there," he said.

Solarz, meanwhile, told the lottery he checked the red Powerball number first – it was 15, which both men missed – and simply assumed he lost. But then he doublechecked the other numbers, and sent photos to friends and family for confirmation.

“I would have never imagined this happening,” he said.

Both McGlynn and Solarz claimed their prize Thursday morning at the lottery's Roseville headquarters. Solarz purchased his winning ticket at a Holiday on the 9300 block of West Skyline Parkway in Proctor. McGlynn got his winning at a Burnsville Cub Foods, located at 300 East Travelers Trail.

How Lucky Are They?

According to Cleveland.com, a $1 million winning ticket was also sold in Arizona and Maryland for that drawing.

So how lucky are these winners?

As Powerball lays out, the chance of winning the $1 million prize by matching the first five, non-Powerball numbers is about 1 in 5,153,632.65.

Minnesota has an estimated population of 5.4 million. So imagine a completely random drawing, where one person in the state will be selected the winner. Those are about the odds McGlynn, Solarz and the other $1 million winners faced.

How about a step up – what are the chances two people would would claim that prize on one ticket?

Well, let's imagine you had to pick a number between 1 and 3, and a random drawing of one number resulted in a winner. You'd have a 1-in-3 chance of winning, easy. If you add a second person, and want to know the chances they both pick the same number, and that number is selected as a winner, you lay out the combinations (seen in the table at left). Person 1's selection is on the left, Person 2 is on the right:

Combos

  • 1-1
  • 1-2
  • 1-3
  • 2-1
  • 2-2
  • 2-3
  • 3-1
  • 3-2
  • 3-3

Only three of those (the ones with matched numbers) could result in two winners. And then that number has to be the one drawn. So there's a 1-in-9 chance – 1/3 multiplied by 1/3 – of that happening.

Apply that to the lottery's $1 million odds (the statistical chances two people select the exact same first five numbers, but not the Powerball, and then that combination gets drawn) : 1/5,153,632.65, multiplied by 2, and we get a 0.000000388075778 chance.

So in other words: a really, really, really tiny chance.

Jackpot Odds

Your odds of winning the jackpot grand prize (currently $40 million) are 1 in 175,223,510.00, Powerball says.

A statistician tried to capture those odds for Huffington Post, by using dollar bills. Imagine getting 175 million dollar bills, one of which was a special winner. They'll be laid out for you, so you have an even chance of picking all of them, he wrote, none are buried at the bottom of a pile. Laying those bills out, end-to-end, would essentially stretch around the lower United States.

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Twice.

NBC put together a list of things more likely to happen to you than winning the Powerball jackpot. Included on the list: Becoming an NBA player (1 in 6,864,000), dying from a bee, hornet or wasp sting (1 in 79,842), and getting struck by a fatal lightning bolt (1 in 134,906).

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