A common claim about how unlikely it is to win a multi-million dollar lottery jackpot is that one is more likely to be struck by lightning than to win the lottery. Is this claim true? Assume our player is playing the Powerball lottery in the United States of America and purchases one ticket.

Related: Are the chances of dying on the way to get lottery tickets larger than the chance of winning?

  • 9
    Struck by lightning where? As has been reported, a warden in a large national park is far more likely to be struck by lightning than many other people
    – Jamiec
    Oct 1 '15 at 12:46
  • @Jamiec The "common knowledge" that I have always heard has never cited a location.
    – Daniel
    Oct 1 '15 at 12:47
  • @dan then it might be "unclear what the claim is". Oct 1 '15 at 12:56
  • 17
    Obligatory XKCD
    – gerrit
    Oct 1 '15 at 14:32
  • 2
    I had a roommate whose brother was struck by lightning. I think I heard of a few other people not far and wide, too. I don't know that I've ever been closely connected with anyone who has won the lottery, however, but then, I'm against the lottery, and so are most of the people I know, I think. Oct 2 '15 at 18:44


As an "Average" person, you are vastly more likely to be hit by lightning over the course of a year (somewhere in the range 1 in 280,000 through 1 in 960,000) than you are to win the jackpot on the powerball lottery in a year (roughly 1 in 2.8 million if you play twice a week for 52 weeks).


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration produce a lightning safety pamphlet which states (Emphasis theirs)

The Odds Of An Individual Being A Lightning Casualty In A Year In The U.S. Is About 280,000-To-One -- If You’re An Average Person, In An Average Location, With Average Outside Activities, And Average Lightning Safety Behavior. That’s About 3,000-To-One Over Your Lifetime

However the National Weather service (Oddly enough, a part of the NOAA) lists this same (or similar) probability as:

Odds of being struck in a given year (estimated total deaths + injuries) 1/960,000

Protip: Mexicans should stay indoors during lightning storms!

Powerball Lottery

Wikipedia lists the current probability of a jackpot win on the powerball lottery with the current game listed as odds of


If we extend this out to a year's play (in order to bring into line with the NOAA's annual probability) at 2 plays per week for 52 weeks we get a figure of 1:2,809,628

  • 10
    Even if, over the course of 70 years, you played the powerball lottery twice a week for a total of 7280 tickets costing $14,560 you'd still only have a 1 in 40,137 chance of winning the jackpot. Still less likely than dying from a lightening strike.
    – Murphy
    Oct 1 '15 at 13:34
  • @Murphy Getting hit by lightning does NOT equal dying. Google struck by lightning twice.. Also struck by lightning THEN winning the lottery Oct 23 '18 at 17:34
  • I wouldn't necessarily call this vastly more likely. Based on these numbers, it seems like you're somewhere between 2 and 10 times more likely to be struck by lightening.
    – Daniel
    Dec 8 '19 at 5:40

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