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Mega Millions jackpot hits $540 million — here's what to know

The jackpot for the Mega Millions lottery has reached a whopping $540 million. Here's everything you need to know about tonight's drawing.
/ Source: TODAY

Life is full of expenses — it's unavoidable. With bills, student loans and credit-card debt, it's no wonder America is lottery-crazed. And while the Mega Millions jackpot — currently at $540 million — hasn't yet reached Powerball-level hysteria, it's a lot of money on the line.

The drawing for the jackpot will happen tonight at 11 p.m. Eastern time, but tickets can be purchased up until 10:45 p.m. It costs $1 per play, and some states offer a "megaplier" that enhance winnings of non-jackpot prizes for an additional $1.

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The only states where tickets cannot be purchased are Nevada, Utah, Mississippi and Alabama.

But don't get too excited yet. Your chances of winning on a $1 ticket are 1 in 258.9 million.

If a single winner of the jackpot chooses the lump sum of the $540 million jackpot, it will still be worth $236.7 million. The winner can also choose to have the jackpot paid out over the course of 26 years.

If you're on the fence about playing, now might be a good time. A recent analysis by CNBC reveals that a bigger jackpot doesn't necessarily mean it's a better time play. Because larger prizes tend to generate more ticket sales, there's a higher probability that there will be multiple winners, splitting the winnings.

The $540 million prize is the seventh largest lottery jackpot of all time, and the third largest in Mega Millions' history.

The second largest Mega Millions jackpot was $648 million, with winners in California and Georgia in 2013, while the largest was a whopping $656 million, split among winners in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland in 2012.

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If no one matches all five numbers tonight, the jackpot will continue to grow until the next drawing on July 12.

The real question: Are you feeling lucky?