I don’t normally play the lottery. In fact, I see very little reason to play it except for pure entertainment and giggles. The reason why I say that is because the odds are so stacked against you that you’re effectively throwing money away (or supporting public education, depending on how you want to look at it) if you pay any more than $1 (if you’re playing Mega Millions or Super Lotto Plus), or $2 (if you’re playing the Powerball).
Over the past week or so, in California, there was a Powerball winner who bought a ticket at the Chino Hills 7-Eleven and won the jackpot prize. Ever since then, I’ve been reading the news about it and I came across quite a number of internet forums that apparently talk about lottery strategies like LotteryPost.com, LottoForums.com, and a slew of other hobby forums, some of which are car enthusiasts forums, videogame forums, gun owner forums, and what have you who all, inevitably, bring up the topic of the lottery whenever the jackpot prize reaches a pinnacle unforeseen for months (or years, for some folks). These forums actually talk about strategies to playing the lottery and each and every one of them insist that their system is better than the other for X, Y, Z reasons. Now, I get that a lot of these are strictly other people’s opinions and some of them are actually trying to sell you their E-Book that details how to “really” increase your odds but when it gets to that point, the point when people start selling “tips,” that’s when I call bullshit.
Let’s think about this folks. The lottery is a totally randomized system. It’s basically a supercomputer that can process really complex algorithms that spits out a set of randomized numbers. And people are trying to find meaning or “patterns” in this system? Folks. You’re grasping at straws here. It’s like trying to put meaning into complete chaos but here’s the thing. The mind works in funny ways. If you strongly believe that there is a pattern that you can crack or that there’s some special way of picking numbers that will “increase your odds,” your brain will produce chemicals that will make you feel that way. And it becomes a recurring vicious cycle. The more you believe, the more chemicals get produced and pumped into your brain giving you the sensation of “Oh my god, I think this set of numbers will win me the jackpot prize this week!” Even if, let’s just say, that two of the numbers from any randomized quick pick is always going to be set to pick out a single digit number, as some in LotteryPost.com have conjectured, you’re still grasping at straws at trying to build or find a strategy to increase your odds. It’s like a “So what?” moment, you know what I mean?
To be better understand this, let’s just say that the first two numbers will always be the numbers 1 and 2, but the remaining 3 balls plus the Powerball (or Mega ball, or Super Lotto Ball) are randomized. That’s still 67 balls left for the other 3 balls plus 26 possible balls for the Powerball number worth of possible combinations. That’s still a huge number. So, according to the California lottery website, the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot prize is 1:292 million. Now, I’ll be honest with you. I’m no statistician and I’m not even going to try to give you a mathematical proof but even if you did eliminate 2 of those balls from the mix, the odds at the most, will drop maybe a few millions. So instead of 1:292 million, it might drop to something like 1:250 million. That’s still a lot of possible combinations. Basically, once you hit the tens of millions, it doesn’t really matter if they did fix two of those numbers to be single digit numbers, if you chose to do a quick pick.
Wait, you say. I read a news story on the internet or my local newspaper that said that there was a super smart professor who has a PhD in statistics and mathematical theory who won millions of millions of dollars every few years from his or her super cool algorithm that increased the odds of winning. Surely, if he/she could it, anyone can do it! Sure, back in the day when the lottery system was simpler. Sure, if you have that much free time on your hands and don’t have to wake up everyday worrying if you have enough money to pay the rent, buy food, buy gas, and whatever other basic life necessities. I believe it. Any system is crackable, given enough time and energy spent. But the question is, do you have the money to do that? Cracking the lottery system is a rich man’s game. Just like playing the stock market. It’s also a rich man’s game. If you have that kind of free time and have nothing to worry about, so far as your future retirement needs are concerned, by all means, go for it! Try to crack it. Try to beat the odds. But for the rest of society? You’re better off just playing the lottery for the fun of it. If you play for the fun of it, you don’t worry about whether you’re burning hundreds of dollars a week that could easily be put into a savings account or Certificate of Deposit (CD) or federal bond to be grown slowly over time.
Bottom line, if you play the lottery, there’s really no point in developing a strategy, and especially, a really complex one, lest you’re some kind of summa cum laude graduate of statistics and mathematical theory at a top notch, Ivy league university. Instead, if you have to have a strategy, pick a simple one. Like one that many economists have advocated in other social arenas. Granted, I can’t remember the name of the principle, but the idea is that you invest a fixed amount of money dedicated to something and hope that the law of averages will bring you a return that’s far greater than what you had originally invested initially because of market fluctuations, inflation, and hence the ensuing change in consumer behavior. And pick a dollar amount that you’re okay with throwing away (or, again, donating to public education, depending on how you want to look at it), that won’t affect you adversely in the long-term.
For me personally? It’s $25. But for you, it may be $5 or less. That $25 that I spend on lottery, if at all, would have gone to having dinner and some drinks with a friend. That’s the way I see it. And that’s exactly how I would play it, if I did play the lottery consistently.