If you’re reading this, chances are very good that you didn’t win the $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot a few weeks back. And who can blame you? After all, the odds of any American winning the Powerball jackpot are approximately 1 in 292 million – unless of course you live in Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, or Utah, where your odds were 0%, as those states don’t offer the Powerball at all. In any case, your chances of winning the Powerball in a state offering the enormous, multi-state lottery were barely better than the 0% chance residents of non-participating states were afforded. The likelihood of succeeding on a 1-in-292,000,000 proposition, is, of course, infinitesimally small.
However, winning the Powerball is not the hardest thing in the world to do. There are many other impressive feats which are much more difficult to accomplish than correctly picking five numbers between 1 and 69 and a Powerball between 1 and 26. Some of the following achievements require no talent at all, consisting entirely of extreme luck, while others can be accomplished a little more easily if you have some know-how and skill.
If we’re being realistic, the chances of you ever coming close to pulling off any of these statistical improbabilities are much less likely than you getting struck by lightning (1 in 700,000) or getting eaten by a shark (1 in 3,748,067). But hey, the lottery is a perfect example of a low-risk-extremely-high-reward proposition. What’s life without a little bit of far-fetched dreaming? In that spirit, here are 10 feats that are even harder to pull off than winning the next Powerball jackpot. Good luck!
10. Getting “Snake Eyes” on 5 Consecutive Craps Rolls
Odds: 1 in 400 million
Nearly everyone has heard something described as a “crapshoot,” and the phrase implies that whatever is being discussed is far from being a certainty. Of course, this common saying comes from the game of craps, which you can find at pretty much every casino in America.
As you might expect, a literal crapshoot (that is, the 2 dice used in craps being rolled) is not exactly easy to predict. Craps affords a player some of the best odds he can get in a casino when played optimally, but one way to definitely NOT play optimally is to bet on “Snake Eyes” – both dice coming up 1. The odds of hitting Snake Eyes on a given roll of the dice pays 30/1 at the craps table.
If for some reason two is your lucky number, though, and luck is really on your side, you could bet on Snake Eyes to come up five straight times. The chances of that happening? 1 in 400 million. Your potential winnings if you bet $5 to start and place your winnings back on Snake Eyes each time? $121,500,000. Not the Powerball’s $1.4 billion, but not too shabby.
9. Getting Consecutive Royal Flushes in Texas Hold ‘Em
Odds: 1 in 957 million
Texas Hold ‘Em is currently the most popular poker variation in the world, and it’s extremely likely you know somebody who loves to play poker. I’m one of those people; I’ve spent countless hours of my life playing Texas Hold ‘Em – in casinos, online, in friends’ garages…you name it. And in all those hours I’ve spent playing the game, I’ve seen fewer than 10 Royal Flushes. Ever.
So, needless to say, the chance of anyone at a given poker table getting a Royal Flush is infinitely small. As the best hand in poker, a Royal Flush is also a guaranteed victory, so if you’re lucky enough to ever get one, you’d better play it well.
As unlikely as ever getting a Royal Flush in your poker career may be, the odds of any hand turning into a Royal Flush are still better than winning the Powerball. However, the odds of getting back-to-back Royal Flushes make winning the lotto jackpot look like a piece of cake. If you get a Royal Flush in two consecutive hands, you’d better be excited – you just witnessed a 1 in 957 million occurrence.
8. Flipping a Coin & Getting Heads 30 Consecutive Times
Odds: 1 in 1.7 billion
An oft-quoted stat the media liked to quote during the recent Powerball hype was that the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are roughly equivalent to tossing a quarter 28 times and getting heads all 28 of them.
Of course, I wanted to do the exact math to see how accurate that information was (spoiler alert: really accurate). While your odds of getting 28 heads in a row are actually slightly worse than winning the Powerball, if you follow up those 28 coin tosses with just 2 more heads, the odds skyrocket to about 1 in 1.7 billion.
And let’s be honest – if you’re gambling on coin tosses, and heads has been correct for 28 in a row, are you really going to stop betting on heads? Go for two more. Just my advice.
7. Making 5 Straight Baskets from Half-Court
Odds: 1 in 10 billion
The first three items on this list take a whole hell of a lot more luck than skill. However, with this entry, the odds can be adjusted slightly in your favor by having some semblance of basketball talent.
Many professional and college basketball teams offer fans an opportunity to make a shot from half-court during halftime of a game, with the lucky winners earning prizes such as VIP vacations and free college tuition. On average, about 1 in 100 fans is able to sink a half-court basket. For whatever reason, the odds of making a half-court shot have been shockingly good at Chesapeake Energy Arena – the home of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder – so you might want to go to Oklahoma City to try and accomplish this feat.
Given the standard fan’s success rate with half-court shots, though, we can deduce that Joe Everyman’s chances of sinking 5 consecutive buckets from wayyyyyy downtown sit around one in 10 billion. However, I daresay Steph Curry might do just a little bit better.
6. Catching 4 Straight Foul Balls At An MLB Game
Odds: 1 in 1 trillion
Here’s another statistical improbability that you can get at least slightly better odds by having some skill.
In general, your odds of catching a foul ball at a Major League Baseball game on a given day are approximately 1 in 1,000. Obviously, the odds of catching one souvenir from the game are a whole lot better than winning the Powerball, even if your chances of doing so are still comfortably below one percent. Of course, you can improve your odds ever so slightly by choosing seats where foul balls are more likely to be hit…but your chances are still pretty bad.
In 2013, though, a Cleveland Indians fan named Greg Van Niel did something much, much more impressive than winning the Powerball – he caught FOUR foul balls during the same game, a 6-4 Indians victory over the Kansas City Royals. The odds of Greg getting four balls? Oh, just one in ONE TRILLION.
5. Winning 40 Consecutive Hands of Blackjack
Odds: 1 in 47.2 quadrillion
If you’ve ever played Blackjack – and chances are you have, since it’s the most popular casino game in the world – then you know how difficult winning even five hands in a row can be. After all, you are against the house in Blackjack, and casinos aren’t built because players beat the house.
While Blackjack is hardly a winning bet most of the time, it is a casino game in which skill and practice can help you adjust the odds to be more in your favor. Through card counting and finding the rules that are most beneficial to players, expert Blackjack strategists can make a killing playing the game.
However, even when the odds are tilted more in the player’s favor, it’s inconceivable how anyone can pull off what a professional gambler named Don Johnson did at Atlantic City’s Tropicana Casino in 2011. Johnson used a wide range of strategies and custom rules to maximize his chances…and promptly won an astounding FORTY hands in a row. After all was said and done, Johnson won $5.8 million in just 12 hours. The odds of pulling off his 40-in-a-row feat? 47.2 quadrillion to 1. And you thought winning the Powerball was hard.
4. Filling Out a Perfect March Madness Bracket: 1 in 9.2 quintillion
Odds: 1 in 9.2 quintillion
As a die-hard sports fan, I fill out a March Madness bracket every single year. Hundreds of millions of Americans do the same. I like to think I know a ton about sports, but alas, I rarely beat my friends in March Madness pools, and I’ve never come even remotely close to a perfect bracket. Like most people, I consider my first round a success if I correctly pick 20 of the 32 games.
A few years ago, Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Warren Buffett offered $1 billion to anyone who could fill out a perfect March Madness bracket. Needless to say, nobody ended up scoring a cool billion dollars, or even came close. It was a pretty safe wager for Mr. Buffett, since the odds of coming up with a perfect March Madness bracket are an astronomical 9.2 quintillion to 1 – a number so large you really can’t even fathom it.
You might feel more hopeful about trying to fill out a perfect March Madness bracket (especially if you have sports knowledge) than randomly picking arbitrary Powerball numbers, but make no mistake – your odds are better in the Powerball.
3. Getting 2 Consecutive “Albatrosses” on a Golf Course
Odds: 1 in 36 quintillion
Also referred to as a “Double Eagle,” an “Albatross” in golf lingo refers to getting a score 3 strokes under par on a given hole. Seeing that in a typical round of golf two of the 18 holes are par-3s (thereby making an albatross impossible on them), there are only 16 holes in which a golfer can accomplish the feat. This means that in order to get an albatross, a golfer must either take 2 strokes on a par-5, or get an elusive hole-in-one on a par-4. Furthermore, traditional golf courses feature only two par-5 holes. So, in order for a golfer to get 2 consecutive albatrosses, he would need to get a hole-in-one on a par-4 followed by a 2-stroke par-5, or vice-versa.
In case you don’t understand the difficulty of pulling this off, let me make it simple – it’s damn-near impossible. In fact, in major men’s golf history (and mind you, these are the best professionals in the world) there have only been 18 albatrosses total since 1935, much less two in a row.
If you’re still not grasping how insanely unlikely doing this is, maybe telling you that the odds of pulling it off are 1 in 36 quintillion will get the point across. Those odds are barely better than winning the Powerball, twice.
2. Shuffling a Deck of Cards into Perfect Order
Odds: 1 in 1 duovigintillion, or 1 in 10^69)
Yeah, your odds of winning the Powerball are much, much, MUCH, better than picking up a random deck of cards that have been shuffled and shuffling them back into the order the deck came in – that is, ascending from 2 to Ace, in the order of spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs. How absurd of a number is 1 duovigintillion? Well, that number is apparently pretty close to the estimated number of atoms in the Milky Way Galaxy. And you thought a lot of people bought Powerball tickets.
So, if you can ever pull off the perfect shuffle, you should do more than just use the skill as a cool party trick. You should probably run for president, start your own religion, and above all else, realize that you just did something more difficult than winning the Powerball eight times. You did something a lot less profitable, too. But hey, you’re a god of shuffling!
Odds: Impossible to calculate, best guesses are about 1 in 10^2,685,000
Yup. The most statistically unlikely feat of all of these is that you are alive and reading this article. The unbelievable, nigh-infinite number of things that had to turn out the way they did for you to exist is estimated to be somewhere close to 10^2,685,000 to 1. If you’re not math-savvy, that number would be 10 followed by 2,685,000 zeroes.
You could try to calculate how many Powerball jackpots you’re more likely to win than simply being alive, but good luck – every calculator I tried couldn’t even come close.
So, at the end of the day, it’s incredibly unlikely that any of you reading this will win the Powerball. But it’s also astronomically more unlikely that you are here, living, breathing, and yes, reading. And that’s pretty freakin’ cool if you ask me. Here’s to beating the odds and existing!