Mega Millions is back in the big-jackpot game, thanks to some recent changes.
The annuity jackpot for Friday’s drawing is up to $230 million -- the biggest amount in 20 months -- while the cash is up to $125 million.
Tuesday’s drawing also produced the game’s first-ever $5 million winner, on the heels of a $3 million winner on Friday – larger amounts than any secondary prize in Powerball.
No one matched all the numbers drawn Tuesday night -- 27, 44, 59, 74 and 75, with a Mega Ball of 3 -- but five tickets matched the first five.
A Texas ticket won $5 million for also having the $1 Megaplier prize-multiplier option. Since the Megaplier came up 5, the usual $1 million prize was multiplied by 5. New York had two $1 million winners, and Florida and Illinois had one apiece.
Friday night, a North Carolina ticket won $3 million.
The maximum secondary prize in Powerball is an automatic $2 million for matching the first five while having the Power Play prize-boosting option.
The Mega Millions jackpot could grow quickly for several reasons. The odds of winning were made much tougher in late October -- 1 chance in 259 million with a single ticket -- so it's much more likely to roll over. Powerball's jackpot is much smaller -- $60 milllion for tonight's drawing -- at twice the prize, $2 per ticket, so Mega Millions has a big edge at the moment.
Also, the first five numbers now go as high as 75 in Mega Millions, which means that people playing popular low numbers, like dates, months or children's ages, are less likely to hit all their numbers than in the past.
And, of course, the bigger a jackpot gets, the faster it grows.
Since early last year, Powerball has had a decided advantage, with a higher starting jackpot ($40 million vs. $12 million for Mega Millions then, $15 million now), minimum boosts of $10 million for each rollover (now $5 million for Mega Million), and each ticket raising twice as much cash.
As a result, since March 2012, when Mega Millions had a record jackpot of $656 million, Powerball has dominated, producing six jackpots worth more than $300 million, two of them worth more than $580 million.
We may soon find if the competition is going to get even crazier.
Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.