# The Perception of Probability Across the U.S.

BetMGM Sep 05, 2024, 1:07 AM

Understanding probability is critical for anyone who enjoys the excitement of gambling. After all, you want to be as informed as possible to increase your own odds of winning.

Thatโs why we wanted to see just how well Americans grasp the concept of probability. To explore this, we surveyed over 2,200 people from across the country, asking them to estimate the odds of various unlikely scenarios. From being dealt a Royal Flush to the chances of a shark attack, respondents filled in the blanks with their best guesses, “1 in ___.” This blog will delve into the insights we gathered, highlighting how perceptions of probability vary pretty widely and why it matters for all gaming enthusiasts.

## How Do Americans Perceive Probability?

To get an idea of how people perceive probability, we had a random sample estimate the likelihood of different (very unlikely) scenarios playing out. To do this, we asked people to tell us what they thought the odds of each scenario playing out were by filling in the prompt “1 in _____.”

We asked about the likelihood of events like getting into car accidents, being struck by lightning, winning the Mega Millions, and finding a four-leaf clover.

What we found is that Americans have some serious struggles when it comes to our perception of probability. Below is a breakdown of a few of the national results of the survey, showing just how skewed perceptions can be compared to actual probabilities:

• Getting into a car accident
• Actual Probability: 1 in 366
• Perceived Probability: 1 in 9,018
• Getting into a car accident is 2,634% more likely to happen than people think it is.
• Being struck by lightning
• Actual Probability: 1 in 15,300
• Perceived Probability: 1 in 11,888,604
• Being struck by lightning is 77,603% more likely to happen than people think it is.
• Dying in a plane crash
• Actual Probability: 1 in 11,000,000
• Perceived Probability: 1 in 8,040,632
• Dying in a plane crash is 27% less likely to happen than people think it is.
• Winning the Mega Millions
• Actual Probability: 1 in 302,000,000
• Perceived Probability: 1 in 408,138,016
• Winning the Mega Millions is 35% more likely to happen than people think it is.
• Finding a four-leaf clover
• Actual Probability: 1 in 10,000
• Perceived Probability: 1 in 296,369
• Finding a four-leaf clover is 2,864% more likely to happen than people think it is.

Across the board, Americans tend to overestimate the likelihood of most events, with one notable exception: dying in a plane crash. In this case, respondents actually underestimated the risk. This data reveals a tendency to think that rare events, whether positive or negative, are more likely to happen than they really are.

## How Does the Perception of Probability Shift Across the Country?

The perception of probability varies widely across the United States, with each state showing different levels of accuracy in estimating the likelihood of various events. Our survey asked participants about several scenarios, including plane crashes, shark attacks, winning the Mega Millions, finding a four-leaf clover, and more. Here’s a breakdown of the results, highlighting regional differences:

### Plane Crash

• Actual odds: 1 in 11,000,000
• Idaho – Most pessimistic state
• Idaho residents believe the chances of getting in a plane crash are higher than any other state.
• Perceived odds: 1 in 1,256,380
• Hawaii – Most optimistic state
• Hawaii residents believe the chances of getting in a plane crash are lower than any other state.
• Perceived odds: 1 in 24,917,961
• Missouri – Most realistic state
• Missouri residents most accurately estimated the chances of getting in a plane crash. Just 2.7% off from the actual probability.
• Perceived odds: 1 in 10,700,669

### Shark Attack Victim

• Actual odds: 1 in 3,750,000
• Alabama – Most pessimistic state
• Alabama residents believe the chances of being attacked by a shark are higher than any other state.
• Perceived odds: 1 in 722,534
• Oregon – Most optimistic state
• Oregon residents believe the chances of being attacked by a shark are lower than any other state.
• Perceived odds: 1 in 28,865,282
• Idaho – Most realistic state
• Idaho residents most accurately estimated the chances of being attacked by a shark. Despite being landlocked, theyโre closest with a 7% overestimation.
• Perceived odds: 1 in 4,024,891

### Mega Millions

• Actual odds: 1 in 302,000,000
• Idaho – Most pessimistic state
• Idaho residents believe the chances of winning the Mega Millions are lower than any other state.
• Perceived odds: 1 in 978,563,163
• Indiana – Most optimistic state
• Indiana residents believe the chances of winning the Mega Millions are higher than any other state.
• Perceived odds: 1 in 87,070,673
• Connecticut – Most realistic state
• Connecticut residents most accurately estimated the chances of winning the Mega Millions, thinking itโs only 1.2% less likely than the actual odds.
• Perceived odds: 1 in 305,836,783

### Four-Leaf Clover

• Actual odds: 1 in 10,000
• Delaware – Most pessimistic
• Delaware residents believe the chances of finding a four-leaf clover are worse than any other state.
• Perceived odds: 1 in 2,238,791. Juuuust a bit off. Sounds like Delawareans could use a visit from Lady Luck.
• Kentucky – Most optimistic
• Perceived odds: 1 in 1,917
• Kentucky residents believe the chances of finding a four-leaf clover are higher than any other state.
• Arkansas – Most realistic
• Perceived odds: 1 in 3,316
• Arkansas residents most accurately estimated the chances of finding a four-leaf clover. But even being the closest, they think it’s 66% more likely than reality.

Additional highlights include Utah, where residents significantly underestimated the odds of hitting a hole-in-one for an amateur golfer, guessing a wildly inaccurate 1 in 1,583,142 against the actual 1 in 12,500. Maybe a few more practice swings are in order, Utah!

And in Kansas, the perceived odds of being struck by lightning were staggeringly off. The average guess was 1 in 35,830,387, far from the actual 1 in 15,300. While your chances of being struck by lightning are bad, theyโre nowhere near that bad, Kansas.

## Closing Thoughts

Our survey highlights a common trend: Americans generally struggle with understanding probabilities. Whether it’s overestimating the likelihood of rare events like plane crashes or underestimating the chances of something as improbable as winning the lottery, there’s a clear gap between perception and reality.

This disconnect is particularly relevant in the world of gambling, where understanding odds is crucial. BetMGM, a leader in the online gaming industry, knows that probability plays a significant role in every bet placed. To illustrate this, letโs take a look at the odds of being DEALT a Royal Flush, as we have other scenarios.

• Actual probability: 1 in 649,740
• Utah – most pessimistic state
• Utah residents believe the chances of being dealt a Royal Flush are lower than any other state.
• Perceived odds: 1 in 4,022,132
• Ohio – most optimistic state
• Ohio residents believe the chances of being dealt a Royal Flush are higher than any other state.
• Perceived odds: 1 in 150,879
• New Mexico – most realistic state
• New Mexico residents most accurately estimated the chances of being dealt a Royal Flush.
• Perceived odds: 1 in 654,518. Just 0.7% off. Wow, thatโs close.

At BetMGM, we appreciate the thrill that comes with the uncertainty of chance. Whether you’re testing your luck at the poker table or trying your hand at sports betting, understanding the true probabilities can enhance your experience. After all, while we may not always be accurate in our estimates, the excitement of the game is what keeps us coming back. If youโre looking for some extra excitement, check out legal online table games and online slot games at BetMGM Casino.

## Methodology

To learn more about Americans’ views of probability, we surveyed over 2,200 people from 44 states and asked them what they think the likelihood of different unlikely scenarios playing out is. All respondents were asked to tell us what they thought the odds of each scenario playing out were by filling in the prompt “1 in ___.”

We compared the average response from every state to the actual estimated probabilities of each event happening.