So what’s the better bet: Powerball, Mega Millions or Super Lotto Plus? We ask the experts

The odds of winning the $540-million Mega Millions jackpot on Friday are roughly 1 in 259 million.

Powerball players stand an even worse chance of winning Saturday’s $288-million jackpot, where odds are stacked against them at 1 in 293 million.

Then there’s California’s own state lottery, Super Lotto Plus. The odds of having the winning ticket in that game stand at 1 in 42 million. The jackpot is $15 million for Saturday’s drawing.

But if a person has a buck or two to spare, which game offers the best chance to win?

“I’m not sure I would recommend playing at all,” quipped USC mathematics professor Kenneth Alexander.

That’s because when the chances are as long as these, there’s little a player can do to help themselves win.

One $2 ticket for Powerball offers players a 0.0000000034% (eight zeroes) chance of winning. A $1 Mega Millions ticket gives a player an infinitesimally better 0.0000000039% (still eight zeroes) chance at a win. For the Super Lotto Plus, a ticket provides a 0.000000024% (seven zeroes) chance of winning.

In Alexander’s words, ““To have a better than even chance at winning Super Lotto, you’d have to buy 300 tickets a week since the time of Jesus.”

For a player to have a better than even chance at winning Powerball or Mega Millions, a player would have to buy 300 tickets a week for the last 13,500 years and 12,000 years, respectively, Alexander said. That’s about the time of the last Ice Age, he added.

A better choice for a person looking to spend their hard-earned money on a lottery ticket is to invest it, he said.

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“If they’re going to play, the best way to look at it is for entertainment,” he said. “You’re buying the right to think that you could win. If you are doing it in that sense, you can decide what attracts you more – the bigger prize or the better odds?”

Sales figures show that in California, players tend to prefer vying for the bigger jackpots.

In the 2015-16 fiscal year, Powerball sales reached $707 million. Mega Millions sales were $355 million and Super Lotto sales were $274 million.

Here’s how each game breaks down:

Powerball is played in 44 states, the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories. The minimum jackpot for the twice-weekly drawing is $40 million with at least $10 million added on each time no one matches all the numbers.

Mega Millions is played in 44 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The minimum jackpot for the game, played twice a week, is $15 million. It increases by at least $5 million when the prize rolls over.

Super Lotto Plus is the old-school lottery game among the three and is exclusive to California. The twice weekly drawings offer a minimum $7 million jackpot and increase by $1 million when it rolls over.

According to lottery spokesman Alex Traverso, Super Lotto Plus is won the most often and has a loyal following, but the (relatively) small jackpot has cut into its sales over the years, especially in the shadow of the nine-figure prizes the other two games can generate.

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It took eight missed jackpots for the Super Lotto to climb to $15 million for Saturday’s drawing. By comparison, the longer odds of Mega Millions have seen that jackpot now roll over 35 consecutive times, leading to Friday’s half-billion-dollar prize.

But neither of those games can grow as fast as Powerball. When the jackpot was missed 19 consecutive times over the winter, the jackpot ballooned to an unprecedented $1.6 billion. Had it been missed just one more time, the jackpot would have been at least $2.4 billion, Traverso said.

Perhaps numbed to headlines of jackpots in the $200-million or $300-million range that Powerball produces multiple times a year, lottery games typically only pull in new waves of players for the biggest prizes.

“At this point it’s over $500 million, that’s almost like the new mark that gets people going out to buy tickets,” Traverso said.

The next Powerball drawing is on Saturday.

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UPDATES:

7:34 a.m. July 8: This story was updated with information on Powerball.

This post was originally posted at 2:38 p.m. July 7.