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1:175,711,536

Lotteries are a losing game. A tax on hope. A tax on people who can’t do math. But I broke down and bought some tickets for the $500M drawing tomorrow. After all, how often can you even enter a contest to win a half a billion?

Also, it’s kinda funny perusing the news. They’re offering strategies and best things to do as though there’s anything to do other than pick a few numbers. As though there is a strategy that will result in anything but throwing money away. My strategy: 1) had the computer generate random numbers. 2) get lucky.

44 Responses to “1:175,711,536”

  1. Jimmie Says:

    Lol the wife, who has never bought one before got one lastnight.

  2. LissaKay Says:

    We consider the occasional lottery ticket (when the jackpot is big enough) to be a small donation to the state school system … with a teensy chance at a huge payback.

  3. JMaverick Says:

    3: Profit!

  4. ExurbanKevin Says:

    The stop and rob clerk wouldn’t let me buy a ticket for just π.

    I figure that’s a lock, as that number is SURE to have the winning combination of numbers in it somewhere…

  5. ExurbanKevin Says:

    Interesting. The CSS here doesn’t support the symbol for “pi”, which stepped on the joke a bit.

    Oh well.

  6. Aubrey Turner Says:

    Here’s a thought: If the odds are indeed 175M to one, then a consortium of people with enough money, time, and sufficient organization could purchase all the winning combinations and still profit.

    I seem to recall this being done in the past when a lottery jackpot reached a sufficiently large amount.

    Found it… http://www.nytimes.com/1992/02/25/us/group-invests-5-million-to-hedge-bets-in-lottery.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

    It happened in 1992. They didn’t manage to buy all the combinations, but it appears they still won.

    As the Australian syndicate learned, the biggest problem is physically buying that many lottery tickets. In their case they only needed to buy 7 million, but only managed to get 5 million tickets.

    Ultimately this would be impractical, but it’s interesting to think about.

  7. aubrey Says:

    You can’t win if you don’t play!

  8. mike w. Says:

    I too bought a ticket.

  9. SayUncle Says:

    True. But I wonder how many groups have that same idea. If it’s more than 2, oops. If you wind up splitting it (duplicate numbers are allowed) oops.

  10. ExurbanKevin Says:

    I call it a “dream tax”, and the good thing is, unlike most taxes, it’s 100% voluntary.

    For now.

  11. Weer'd Beard Says:

    Somebody asked if I was buying one. I said “Hey, but I can lose for free!”

    And I sure will!

  12. Standard Mischief Says:

    You can “wheel” your tickets. Example, if you need to pick 6 numbers, instead pick 7 random ones and then buy all the possible combinations of 6 out of 7 numbers.

    While this won’t improve your odds for the big jackpot, if you win you have a more likely chance to also pick up one or more “5 of 6” 2nd place prizes.

    The other mojo is doing some high level analysis on the numbers that have come up in the past, (with the assumption that random numbers drawn are not really random) but this could easily backfire if they decide to swap out the ping pong balls with new ones at the last minute. Either that or they use a blackbox random number generator.

    The problem still is that you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning during a shark attack while visiting the Mojave Desert than winning the big prize.

  13. Standard Mischief Says:

    LissaKay Says:>We consider the occasional lottery ticket … to be a small donation to the state school system…

    The problem with this is that budget money is fungible. With the lotto funding part of the school budget, they can defund an equal amount that use to come from the general fund and spend it elsewhere.

  14. Mike Says:

    Nothing wrong with buying just one ticket…

    Here’s a pretty good article supporting my proposition:
    http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2012/03/20/why-im-playing-the-lottery/

    Anyways, if you don’t buy a ticket, your odds of winning are zero. If you buy just one, it’s not zero. If you spend your entire paycheck, your odds are not appreciably better than buying just one.

  15. Robert Says:

    Plus, if you could manage to buy one each number combination (“I’d like to buy 10,000 marbles please!”), you can write off the cost of all of the tickets that did not win against the amount that you did. Plus you would also win 7 million (200,000 X 35, I think) for all of the tickets that you matched 5 numbers but not the mega number, and a bit more for the smaller prizes. You’d still come out ahead after taxes.

  16. Robert Says:

    Of course, you’d also have to hope that no-obe else picked the winning number. Then you’d be screwed.

  17. jay Says:

    my strategy is to hope that i find the winning lottery ticket on the sidewalk.

    the odds don’t differ significantly from the odds of buying the winning ticket, and it is cheaper.

  18. Shane Says:

    I would guess the best thing to do is to pick number combinations that, historically, are rarely picked (i.e. I would guess number combinations that “seem” improbable like 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 or 1, 2, 3, 11, 22, 33). They are just as likely to win as any other set of numbers, but it decreases the odds of you having to share the jackpot in the very unlikely event that you do win. You’d just need to do a little research to find which number combinations, psychologically, people tend to avoid picking.

  19. Sebastian Says:

    When I was a teenager, back when the lottery used to (or maybe they still do, I don’t remember) use a bunch of balls blowing in a container, I had a theory that some balls would come up more than others because of slight variations in weight and shape. So I kept statistics for a several months.

    Turns out, it is pretty much random 🙂

  20. kahr40 Says:

    Bought one Tuesday and I’ll by one today. We’re all entitled to a bit of fantasy and who knows.

  21. Kevin Baker Says:

    I understand math, but that doesn’t keep me from periodically investing in the Redneck Retirement Plan when the payoff is sufficient. After all, someone eventually wins. A buck or two once or twice a week won’t break me, and if I never win, it won’t keep me from picking out a really good shopping cart for all my worldly possessions when retirement does finally loom.

  22. DirtCrashr Says:

    How often can you vote for the First Black President? How often does the Asteroid miss? The game is rigged, financially speaking, and the Schools don’t see a dime.

  23. PawPaw Says:

    Lightning has got to strike somewhere and with a little luck, it’ll strike you. It’s a game of chance, an unbelievably bad bet, but someone somewhere is going to win it.

  24. Ted N Says:

    My strategy is to hope that one of my neighbors win, and that I’m the first one they tell. I don’t know if I can cremate somebody in a fireplace, but if that happens, we’re gonna find out!

    h/t to Daneil Tosh

  25. Countertop Says:

    I had a chance to vote for the first black president. I passed.

    I decided to give in and spend $5 for a few chances to win 1/2 a billion. I figure, someone has to win. Better me than whoever it is. If I don’t win, well I’ll still buy my morning cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts.

  26. Bubblehead Les Says:

    I used to work for the Ohio Lottery. Here’s the Big Secret: Take the Cash Option. The Feds forced all the States who have Lotterys to take the Base Amount of all the big payoff games and invest it in U.S. Savings Bonds. So, if you take the Payment Plan, all you have done is purchased X of Millions of Dollars in Savings Bonds. If you take the Cash, it’s Cash minus Taxes.

    In other words, you aren’t hoping that a Gooberment that’s 15 TRILLION Dollars in Debt will be willing to Honor your Winnings 5-10-15-20 years from now.

    And if you can’t beat the Interest on 30 year Savings Bonds on a per annum basis, you shouldn’t be playing.

  27. Stormy Dragon Says:

    Lotteries are a losing game.

    Not necessarily. If the marginal utility you get from the enjoyment of fantasies about being a millionaire is more than the marginal utility you get from having a few more dollars, then it’s economically rational to buy the tickets.

  28. Spade Says:

    Wife and I often buy a ticket when it gets up high. So we bought three.

    Sure, odds are we won’t win. But if we did, well, life completely changes. So why not? 3 bucks out of the spare change ammo can isn’t much of a loss.

  29. mikee Says:

    I doubt you chose the numbers I have, so you don’t have MY ticket, and therefore can’t possibly have the winning ticket, because I do.

    At least until the drawing.

  30. mikee Says:

    P.S. It is $1 worth of numbers based on family birthdays. If I win, cakedays this year will be significant.

  31. Jerry Says:

    +1 at Spade. “Spare change ammo can”. Beats the piss out of old mayo jars.

  32. Standard Mischief Says:

    >Of course, youd also have to hope that no-obe else picked the winning number. Then youd be screwed.

    The roughly one-in-three-million combination of 22, 28, 32, 33, and 39 had been selected by so many hopeful lotto players because it had been the “lucky numbers” given to them in their fortune cookies.

  33. Duane Says:

    Back in the early 90’s when California’s original lottery got up over 100 million on the the papers ran the numbers. I think it was 56 million to 1 odds at the time. The conclusion was if you spent $50 every week on the lottery, you would win, on average once every 9000 years or so.

  34. Rick Says:

    Well, good luck to all y’all. I’m stickin’ with the Powerball.

    Frankly, the thought of me with half a billion dollars (before taxes) scares the crap outta me.

    Ten, fifteen million is plenty.

  35. Ruth Says:

    I have to admit to buying $5 in tickets yesterday. I’ll occasionally spend a random $1 if the line isn’t to long, but for that much I’ll drop a couple extra dollars. Do I really expect to with the big prize? Not really, it be cool, but the odds are beyond insane. However the odds to win the 2nd or 3rd place prizes are quite a bit better, and you know what? That signifigantly lower sum of money would still pay off all my pending bills and money owed and leave me with some left over to play around with.

  36. Seerak Says:

    A strategy I saw in the news somewhere: choose all your numbers 32 and above. The odds of winning are the same, but you’ll have less risk of sharing the jackpot because of all the people using birthdays as number sources.

  37. Old NFO Says:

    Better strategy, INVEST the @$^& money…

  38. anon Says:

    A dollar worth of _genuine_ hope seems like a bargain these days.

  39. Ellen Says:

    I buy a few tickets if the jackpot gets high. If I lose, I’m the same person with a few bucks less. I could have spent that money at Starbucks, I suppose.

    On the other hand, if I win, I can retire to Hawaii. And Australia, and Iceland, and all sorts of places. And have nice houses at each place, plus house elves to keep them neat and ready, and the money to fly back and forth among them in First Class.

    It’s worth it.

  40. comedian Says:

    Jackpot upped to $640MM annuity, $462MM lump-sum.

  41. Thomas F Says:

    I wonder if Gramps should bother to buy a ticket since he seems to have had an extra helping of luck this week…

    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/03/man-attacked-by-mountain-lion-saved-by-bear/

  42. Jeffersonian Says:

    The lottery is a tax. As such it is the only fair tax. You choose to buy tickets, you are not coerced or compelled. The Gov’t was once funded by lottery. It probably could be again.

  43. Bob Owens Says:

    Many folks tend to view those who play lotteries seriously as ignorant… and I don’t disagree.

    But when ti gets to absurd amounts (over $300M) I get a ticket, and then fantasize about what I would do with the winnings for a day or two. For a dollar, it’s a great investment in your entertainment budget.

  44. mikee Says:

    Seerak, that hurts!