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April 3rd, 2012
03:45 PM ET

Only in America: Mega Million lightning strike

On Monday's edition of "Piers Morgan Tonight," the host used his "Only in America" segment to talk about the crazy odds of buying a losing lottery ticket and being struck by lightning.

"I know what you were all thinking last Friday, there's more chance of being hit by lightning than winning the Mega Millions lottery," Piers Morgan explained.

While that is true there is also a one in a million chance of being struck by a lightning bolt and 656 million to one chance of winning the lottery last week. The odds must be "ridiculously high" for someone to not only buy a losing lottery ticket but then being struck by lightning. Though the odds were high one man could not escape them.

Bill Isles purchased three tickets and proceeded to tell a friend "I have got a better chance of being struck by lightning." Isles was right. He went home to pray he'd win the cash when all of the sudden a lightning bolt flashed and Isles was thrown to the ground.

"I have some things with my memory that are going to bother me for a while," Isles said. "But I wasn't burned. I had a little bit of an irregular heartbeat."

Undeterred Isles dusted himself off and he went in and bought 10 more lottery tickets. In the words of Morgan, "Bill, I wish you all the luck in the world."

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soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. tushar

    the odds would be ridiculously high for not only to win the lottery but also to be hit by lightening....not how its stated by our mathematically challenged author of this article

    April 3, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      Thank you, that bothered me too.

      April 3, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • redcard

      its my understanding that the odds of one have nothing to do with the other.

      its like fliping a coin, 50/50 chance every time you flip it. ods don't change no matter how many times you play it.

      April 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • Null Hypothesis

        See Bayes' theorem of conditional probability. You are correct that the probability of a coin showing a particular face is 50-50 for each toss. The probability of that face showing a given number of consecutive tosses is a different question. The proper question for the lottery / lightning scenario is, 'given the probability of purchasing a losing ticket, what is the conditional probability of also being struck by lightning?'. The answer is in the range of very low – a decimal of a percent multiplied by a decimal of a percent equals a much smaller decimal of a percent.

        April 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
      • Null Hypothesis

        ...and, because the two events are independent, being struck by lightning does not improve one's probability of then purchasing a winning lottery ticket...

        April 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • brooke williams

      Thats what happens when u pray too hard for things. God doesn't like gluttony.

      April 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Enrique Manning

    Odds described above are wrong. For mega millions odds stay consistent regardless of how many people are playing. The odds for getting the grand prize are about 1 in 175 million. 175 million is about all the possible combinations of numbers you could have, and to win you need to get one of those. Another way to think about it is if you were really rich and wanted to win the mega millions every time guaranteed you would need to buy 175 million tickets to get every combination of numbers.

    April 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • StatLady

      Just for clarification, buying 175 million tix would only guarantee you a winner if you systematically filled out the tix manually, ensuring that every single possible combination was covered. Buying 175M quick-pix would yield a random group of many combinations, some multiple times and others not at all. Just in case any of y'all out there were thinking this would be a great thing to try...

      April 3, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • mpouxesas

      True..yes, but, what are the odds of the following to happen? Here's the story, a man played two different states' big winners lottery. I can't remember the names of the states, but this is a true story, and for the purposes of the story, I'd use CT, and RI. So, the jackpots on both states were high (not as high as the megamillions, but high for a state lottery). He put the RI winning numbers on the CT ticket, and the CT winning numbers on the RI ticket!!! Now, what are the odds of that happening? Any statisticians out there?

      April 4, 2012 at 8:20 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      I believe it would take somewhere around one hundred and ten years to fill out 175,000,000 lottery tickets with all possible combinations.

      April 4, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kevin

      175 million doesn't even come close to buying all the possible winning combinations... 10,068,347,520, is roughly the number if you were choosing 6 numbers out of 49, however, there are 56 in the mega millions drawing so it would be even higher... The problem you get into is that the numbers have to be in the correct order to win the jackpot!!!! Just my two cents worth... i.e. see wiki "Lottery Mathematics"

      April 4, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • Robert

        Kevin. I'm afraid your information is patently incorrect. The actual odds of winning the MegaMillions game are exactly 1: 175,711,536 -NOT- the 1 in 10 BILLION (+) odds you referenced. That would make it virtually impossible for anyone to ever win. The U.S. total population is currently estimated to be approx 312.8 million people (that men, women and children), so you can see (I hope) how ridiculous your stats are. I'm not sure where you're getting your information from, but I would suggest it might be a good idea to do a little bit more research before throwing out numbers like that. Also, please note MegaMillions does NOT require that the numbers drawn match in exact order. If you visit the Megamillions website, you'll see that ALL the past winning numbers are listed in numerical sequence (lowest to highest)...NOT in the order drawn. PLEASE be careful about posting incorrect information that just adds to all the misinformation and confusion some players already experience. Have a GREAT day! 🙂

        April 5, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  3. Sarcasmo

    The front page link on CNN says "lightening." That's scary enough.

    April 3, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jacks

      oh dear god that is great

      April 3, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fugue

      Did all of the editors quit when they won the megamillions?

      Ahhh... Journalism, 2.0. Not exactly the fourth estate, is it?

      April 3, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • ddp

        Seriously! And I'm a copy editor who can't find a job.

        April 4, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • BobbyGB


      April 3, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Grammer Troll

      D'oh! You beat me to it!

      April 4, 2012 at 1:17 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • JUNE


      April 4, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jay Jones

    in this case, buying all the combinations would have actually LOST you money, because you would have had to split it with 2 other winning tickets

    April 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • bob greasy

      that's what you think jay. you ass.

      April 3, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • really?

        does the lottery commission realize how much they're losing then???

        April 3, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
      • Isabela

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        June 27, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Louis

      Except that you also win a lot of other prizes besides the jackpot.

      April 3, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anthony

      Not necessarily. If you put in 176 million dollars of your own, you would have increased the final pot another 100 million or so, recouped some of your money on the thousands of combinations you would have that match 5 numbers, and ultimately wind up breaking even or so in this scenario. If you were the only winner (like the drawing before, even with the lower jackpot), you would nearly double your money. A lot of work to manually enter 176 million unique combinations for a shot in the dark you're the only winner. Not to mention the ability to have $176 million to risk in the first place....

      April 4, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Me

    "crazy odds of buying a losing lottery ticket"

    I think your odds are pretty good to buy a LOSING lottery ticket, it's a little more difficult to buy a WINNING one.

    April 3, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Auth

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      June 27, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. What A Joke

    Everyone has failed to realize that this was a CALIFORNIA lottery, and the winners should be in CALIFORNIA.
    Our tax payers dollares help to fund the lotto that these proceeds supposedly go to our schools; in CALIFFORNIA, statistics show otherwise. How in the **** did other states win our money!?!? Shouldn't we be questioning this. Or is everyone just concerned with the fact they didn't win. You didn't win because IT'S RIGGED! Obviously

    April 3, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • EMcK

      Ummm – it's not a California lottery, it's a lottery that California participates in. The profits from ticket sales in each state go to the state in which the tickets were sold, the portion of the ticket price that is designated as part of the prize goes to the winner of that prize.

      The Mega Millions is played in almost every state, not just California. Did you think sales of tickets in Maryland should benefit California?

      April 3, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tia

      Another product of California's fine public school system, no doubt.

      April 4, 2012 at 3:57 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • webappguru

      Seriously... Mega Millions is a Multi-State lottery played in 42 states. How self absorbed are you to think that this game is only played in California....

      April 4, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Reponse

    What is MEGA Millions?
    MEGA Millions is a draw game available through 44 lotteries nationwide and known for its big jackpots.
    Are the prize payouts the same in California as they are in other MEGA Millions states?

    The jackpot prize for MEGA Millions is the same for all the states. However, in California all other prizes are pari-mutuel, meaning payouts are based on sales and the number of winners.
    Where does the money from MEGA Millions go?
 94 cents of every dollar spent by our players goes back to the community in the form of contributions to public schools and colleges, player prizes and retail compensation.
    What happens to a MEGA Millions jackpot prize if it is not claimed?

    If a jackpot prize is not claimed within the required time limit, each of the participating states in the MEGA Millions game will get back all the money they contributed to that jackpot. Each state in the game uses unclaimed prizes for different purposes. In California unclaimed MEGA Millions jackpot prize funds are distributed to public education.

    April 3, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. ptsdLOADING...

    Never tell me the odds...- han solo (I totally agree-not something a winner needs to know)

    April 3, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Curious Me??

    Since 3 people won,
    Aren't the chances better at winning the lottery then being hit by lighting..?

    April 3, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • HMM

      well if google how many ppl were hit by lighting the day they bought the tickets you will have your answer.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris R

      Nope, the odds of winning are 1 in 175 million no matter how many people won.

      April 4, 2012 at 12:07 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. JB

    I miss Larry King.

    April 3, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. p-body

    He better win soon

    April 3, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. malcolm

    How many people where struck by lightning last Friday...? At least 3 won the lottery...makes ya think

    April 4, 2012 at 12:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. mikeinCA

    Remember, you can dramatically increase your odds of winning the Mega Millions lottery by buying more tickets (with different combinations, of course). And you can dramatically increase your odds of being struck by lightning by standing on a hill holding a metal pole during a thunderstorm. Both endeavors are not recommended.

    April 4, 2012 at 3:42 am | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 4, 2012 at 5:38 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Phil Sigismondi

    Why use the incorrect English 'all of a sudden' when correct English is 'suddenly'? Why use three words to describe a one word concept? Bad poster.

    April 4, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse | Reply
  16. bones1918

    the way i see it.. you have a 50/50 chance of being struck by lightning or winning the lottery. Either you do or you don't.

    Or, put another way, every morning when i pick a clean t-shirt off the laundry pile i have a 50 percent chance of pulling it on the right way, but there's a 95% chance it'l be backwards. know what i mean?

    April 4, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Greg

    this is like the third time I've seen a story about this. THE MAN DIDN'T WIN!!!! Where is the story? Now if he won and got hit buy lightening, that would be a story. CNN is the worse. MSNBC and FOX may be partisan but CNN is by far the worse.

    April 4, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Thunder

    Maybe the lightning strike was God's way of saying that He's not helping Isles with his gambling...

    April 4, 2012 at 9:46 am | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Christopher

    I bought a ticket and stood on top of a mountain with my ticket in one hand and a metal pole in the other. Still here and still broke...

    April 4, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Christopher

      Yes it was in the middle of a thunderstorm..I.m such a bad comic..

      April 4, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse | Reply
      • mikeinCA

        Christopher–Enjoyed your post. I hope you threw out your ticket and came in from the rain.

        April 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Tim

    mikeinCA – Buying more tickets Does Not increase one's odds of winning, it gives the buyer more chances to win, but the odds, 175 mil to 1 holds constant for each ticket or number purchased.

    April 4, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Thomas

      Yes for each ticket the odds are 175 mil to 1 but if you buy 2 tickets your odds are now 175 mil to 2 which is 87.5 mil to 1, 3 tickets and odds go to 175 mil to 3, or 58.3 mil to 1. Thats the way statistics work.

      All of that is assuming you buy different number combinations on each ticket..

      April 4, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse | Reply
      • bones1918

        Thomas.. no tim is right. the odds for each individual ticket is the same. the odds dont shrink to 58.3 to 1. Lets say the lottery were 1 ball with 4 numbers, 1-4. your odds are 1 in 4. if you buy two tickets, your odds are 1 in 4 AND 1 in 4, not 50/50.

        April 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
      • mikeinCA

        Thomas–Thanks for responding to Tim. He and bones1918 need to review the section on combined odds. The odds of a given combo of numbers doesn't change. But your personal odds of winning increase with each additional DIFFERENT ticket you hold for a given drawing.

        April 4, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
      • Thomas

        Lets look at your example bones1918. The drawing is one ball with 1,2,3, or 4 as the only possible numbers. If I hold 1 ticket my odds are 1 in 4. If I hold two tickets, say one ticket with 1 as my choice and another ticket with 2 as my choice, then MY odds, notice I said MY not each ticket, are 2 in 4 or 50%. To verify this lets look at every possible outcome of the drawing and see how many I win and how many I lose. 1st possible outcome is the draw is a 1 and I win. 2nd possible outcome is 2 and I win. 3rd possible outcome is 3 and I lose and the 4th possible outcome is 4 and I lose. So of the 4 possible outcomes I won 2 time and lost 2 times or said another way I won 50% of the time.

        If you and tim were correct then the lottery would only ever be won, on average, once every 1,682,000 YEARS because according to both of you no matter how many different tickets are sold the odds of anyone at all winning stay at 175 mil to 1.

        April 5, 2012 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
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  22. noway

    I did not win the jackpot. That does not make me a loser cause i can claim my losses back while filing taxes. duh!

    April 4, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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    But every month or two there is a lotter winner. I don't see somebody getting hit by lightnening every month.

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