Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

How to Win the Powerball Lottery

By rustv in Culture
Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 02:43:39 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Powerball is the poster child for the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL). It is currently played every Wednesday and Saturday in 30 states by millions of people who are dumb enough to think that they can actually win the jackpot. The truth of the matter is that somebody will win the jackpot... just not you. And it's not because the odds are against you. It's because you don't know how to successfully play the lottery.

Inside, I'll go over winning techniques from "how to pick winning numbers" to "how many tickets to buy" and "which rituals have the best payoff". I also go over a sure-fire way to win the jackpot.

Please gamble responsibly. If you decide to gamble irresponsibly, smoke while you do it so that you at least look cool.

We've all heard the saying, "The lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math." What this alludes to is the fact that lotteries are gambling games with an extremely large house advantage. The Powerball, which the MUSL calls "America's Game", is particularly alluring because the odds of winning the jackpot are much lower than other lotteries, and therefore, for the same ticket price, they offer a much larger jackpot. As with any lottery, the government runs it as a revenue source. They can do this because if they sell enough lottery tickets, they come out ahead. The reverse is true for you. If you purchase enough lottery tickets in each drawing, you will always come out behind. In other words, the lottery is a game that can only be won in the short run.

How to pick winning numbers
Unless you possess a time machine, there is no way to choose numbers that are more likely to win than anybody else. Each combination of numbers has a one in 120,526,770 chance to win, and the lottery machine doesn't care if the numbers are too close together, or if they're your family's birthday or whatever.

While no number is more likely to win, there are clearly ways to pick better numbers. You want to pick your numbers randomly. Why? If you choose your numbers randomly, you have a smaller chance of matching other people. Only 70 percent of the participants use "Quick Pick" to purchase their tickets, which means that the remaining 30 percent pick their numbers in some other way (such as off of fortune cookies). Because these people do not usually pick truly random numbers, these 30 percent are more likely to have identical tickets, and if they win, they would have to share the jackpot with each other. If you think you might win, you'll want the jackpot to yourself, so you'll want to pick your numbers randomly.

The best way to pick random numbers for the powerball is to use your own Beitel Criterion drawing machine, and balls identical to the ones used in the actual drawing. This ensures that your random numbers are random in the same way that the powerball is random. You may be able to pick one up by lurking outside ITC Studios in Des Moines, Iowa, and hoping that they decide to throw one out. However, for most of us, a Quick Pick ticket is random enough not to match other people, and it comes free with your purchase.

How many tickets to buy (odds analysis)
You could buy all of the tickets. This will ensure that you will win the jackpot prize. Your investment will be $120,526,770. Your winnings will be $20,888,592 plus whatever the jackpot is, minus the appropriate taxes.

Unfortunately, this plan has a few fatal flaws. First, most drawings do not have a high enough jackpot to make this worthwhile. Second, you would be violating the rules on drawing randomly. By purchasing all tickets, you're maximizing the chance of sharing the winning number because you've matched every other ticket holder. More people play when the jackpot is higher, so you're matching many more people. Winning big with the powerball depends on matching as few people as possible, while still matching the winning numbers.

So, how many tickets should you purchase? For the optimal return on investment, you should definitely purchase zero tickets. For every extra dollar you spend above this amount, you're going to lose over eighty-two cents, unless you win the jackpot. If you can get tickets for free, as presents or whatever, do it. This is the best deal in the universe, even if you end up sharing some of the winnings with the person who bought the ticket. If you have to purchase tickets yourself, buy one per drawing. This ticket has as much chance of winning as any other ticket. Plus, because the lottery is a game you can only win in the short term, this extends the short term for as long as possible.

Why play the lottery?
The lottery is entertainment. I would argue that it is good for people to play the lottery because it is the sort of entertainment that fosters creativity. What would you do with that much money? At any rate, if you spend the same money going to movies, you'll only see a movie once every three or four weeks, and that money is simply wasted. With the lottery, you get to constantly imagine what you'd do with the money, and you even have a chance of getting that money.

Because in the long run, the lottery is just a cheap form of government sanctioned entertainment, there are other things that you can do that anecdotally improve your return on investment.

There are many ways that rituals can be performed, but here, we will focus on rituals on lottery tickets themselves, because this is the physical manifestation of the lottery that each participant has access to.

The most obvious ritual to perform on a lottery ticket is to fill out the form on the back of the ticket. People do this because they are afraid of winning, and then not being able to write the information down, and somebody else might take their ticket. This is a very bad idea. You might as well rip your ticket in half, because if you write your name on it, you will not match a single number. Besides, what if you only won three dollars (the smallest prize)? Do you want the guy at the convenience store to think that you actually thought that was worth signing your name for?

Wands and potions seem to have little worth in a lottery. Even my traffic wand (that clears traffic jams for me) has seemingly no effect when applied to a lottery ticket. Potions are even worse. I've never had success with a potion, and if you use a potion, you risk blurring or even erasing your ticket!

You can increase the odds of winning by writing on the face of the ticket. If you're using a highlighter, you can write anywhere. Pen users can stick to the margins. Write motivational phrases like, "This is the one!", or "Now Jimmy won't break my legs!". Alternatively, you can simply write what you're going to purchase with the ticket, such as, "Yacht", "Mansion", or "Hit money for Jimmy." Experienced writers can write witching symbols such as pentagrams all over the ticket. Just be careful that you know what these symbols really mean. Whatever you do, never highlight or circle individual numbers on a ticket, unless you just like really expensive toilet paper.

Voodoo doesn't work on lottery tickets because the only owner of that ticket is you. However, you can have a little fun by making a voodoo doll of the person announcing the drawing on TV, and stabbing him during the drawing. Please recognize that the drawing takes place at 10:59 pm EST, and that your viewing of the drawing is probably delayed by some amount of time, so you're kind of stabbing blind.

Play responsibly
Now that you have more information about the lottery, you can go out and play responsibly. This basically means that you should not buy lottery tickets with your grocery money. Instead, use your mortgage money, because you can fall behind six months before they foreclose on you. I hope that this article has convinced more of you to play because this makes the jackpot go up faster, and my payoff will be greater when I win.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


How many lottery tickets do you buy for each drawing?
o 0 We don't have the lottery. 3%
o 0 I can do basic math. 77%
o 0 I don't have enough money. 10%
o 1 5%
o 2 0%
o 3-5 0%
o 6-10 0%
o 11-20 0%
o > 20 1%

Votes: 131
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Powerball
o Multi-Stat e Lottery Association
o (odds analysis)
o Also by rustv

Display: Sort:
How to Win the Powerball Lottery | 104 comments (89 topical, 15 editorial, 4 hidden)
I'll tell you how to win (2.30 / 10) (#4)
by conthefol on Fri Apr 23, 2004 at 04:54:12 PM EST

Note that this requires a Quantum Many Worlds, but if that's a wrong assumption, you'll probably only lose the price of one ticket. Big deal!

Step 1. Design a scheme for making a lottery number out of arbitrary data. You should work from a domain much bigger than the lottery number codomain space, and it should be a surjective mapping.

Step 2. Get a bunch of quantum generated random data. Let it perturb your behaviour in more ways than just the ticket number.

Step 3. Buy a lottery ticket.

Step 4. Futures that win: Celebrate and do whatever. Futures that lose: Never ever gamble at a disadvantage, ever again.

MW would assign a near-unity probability to there existing a future where you win, given the above steps. It would assign a very near-unity probability to there existing a future where you don't win.

However, in an all-universal-states-exist model, there is a universe where you win the lottery regardless of any action you take.

The other way to win at the lottery is to be the house.

kuro5hin is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E!!!

Hm. (none / 0) (#6)
by i on Fri Apr 23, 2004 at 06:31:34 PM EST

Suppose there are M futures that lose. Do you lose he price of one ticket, or the price of M tickets?

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Duh (none / 0) (#8)
by sllort on Fri Apr 23, 2004 at 06:59:57 PM EST

You lose the price of one ticket, and you think to yourself: "is this truly the only reality I can live in?"
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
But there are M futures that lose (none / 0) (#34)
by nkyad on Sat Apr 24, 2004 at 08:19:33 PM EST

Where M is at least the sum of all numbers that lose  and you could have bought instead of the one number that won. Actually M is much larger, because you must take into account all combined puchases of all other people that lost or won. Actually you must also take into account all people that could have bought tickets and failed to do so and all people that wouldn't buy tickets but did. On the top of that, all radiation affecting the machine at the moment of the drawing should probably be taken into account.

Fortunatelly, as no entity across the multiverse have yet devised a way to cross-charge you for it, you still spend just the proce of one ticket in exchange for a multitude of losing futures.

Don't believe in anything you can't see, smell, touch or at the very least infer from a good particle accelerator run

[ Parent ]
Alternatively (none / 0) (#70)
by Gully Foyle on Mon Apr 26, 2004 at 07:51:12 AM EST

Buy a random ticket. If you win, celebrate. If you lose, destroy the universe.

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

What's the sure-fire win? Did I miss it? (none / 2) (#7)
by sllort on Fri Apr 23, 2004 at 06:55:58 PM EST

Last I heard the sure fire way to win was to tell the police you lost the winning ticket in a parking lot.
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
Buy all tickets (none / 2) (#10)
by IriseLenoir on Fri Apr 23, 2004 at 07:31:22 PM EST

As said in the article, the only sure-fire way to win is to buy a ticket for every number. Of course, that is also a sure-fire way to lose money. The best way to maximize your investment then is to not buy any tickets. Great article, I'm voting +1 SP when time comes. But the quantum theory comment is very interesting too. Think I'll go buy a ticket a single time and then think about what I'm doing with the money in some alternate reality ;p
"liberty is the mother of order, not its daughter" - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
[ Parent ]
what (none / 0) (#99)
by horny smurf on Wed May 05, 2004 at 12:44:32 AM EST

the only sure-fire way to win is to buy a ticket for every number. Of course, that is also a sure-fire way to lose money.

How so? Let's say there's a 1/1,000,000 chance to win. Buying 1,000,000 tickets guarantees you win (there may be multiple winners, of course). Ignoring taxes, if the prize is > 1,000,000 you are guaranteed to win, and while not guaranteed to be profitible, it's not a "sure fire way to lose money."

Some states, however, do ban attempts to purchase every ticket combination.

[ Parent ]

I believe (none / 1) (#17)
by auraslip on Sat Apr 24, 2004 at 12:45:34 AM EST

The lottery company knows if a winning ticket was purchesed, and where from.
[ Parent ]
that's why (none / 0) (#38)
by Wah on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 01:32:05 AM EST

you need a 'man' on the inside.
'The Matrix' is a better interpretation of quantum mechanics than Copenhagen.
[ Parent ]
Guaranteed How To Win (2.42 / 7) (#9)
by jd on Fri Apr 23, 2004 at 07:22:25 PM EST

  • First, find a wormhole. This will involve spinning a mass at relativistic velocities in a circle, whilst imposing a large magnetic field between two plates. It may also involve green cheese, but this has yet to be proven.
  • Accelerate one end at near lightspeed, around the planet, until it reaches the point in space/time the lottery results are announced.
  • Because the information, and thus the collapse of quantum states, has passed back in time to you, you will only see one drawing via the wormhole.
  • Play these numbers.

Reading this advice constitutes an agreement to pay the author 50% of any winnings resulting from following it. Honest! :)

heh (none / 0) (#15)
by conthefol on Fri Apr 23, 2004 at 11:12:10 PM EST

The problem with general relativistic time travel is that everything loops back over again.

kuro5hin is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E!!!
[ Parent ]

I only play when... (none / 1) (#12)
by AzTex on Fri Apr 23, 2004 at 10:19:23 PM EST

I only play when the jackpot is above $120,526,770.
That makes it a good bet. Not.

solipsism: I'm always here. But you sometimes go away.
** AzTex **

i continue learning (1.00 / 10) (#14)
by SilentChris on Fri Apr 23, 2004 at 10:28:48 PM EST

i never meant to do those things to you

Blah. (2.77 / 9) (#18)
by Kasreyn on Sat Apr 24, 2004 at 12:51:53 AM EST

The powerball, which the MUSL calls "America's Game"

Fucking cockmasters. The name's taken. America's game is BASEBALL, asswads. Or at least it WAS, before a bunch of whiny overpaid pussies took the game over.

So, how many tickets should you purchase? For the optimal return on investment, you should definitely purchase zero tickets.

Heh. I like the mock-studious tone. Making me giggle like this tends to lead to +1's.

At any rate, if you spend the same money going to movies, you'll only see a movie once every three or four weeks, and that money is simply wasted.

Ah, some of us disagree and feel that movies have intrinsic value.

As to rituals, I have a suggestion on how to strike it rich with the lottery. First, wait until you're elderly and you move like a crippled slow loris. Now, go to the store and buy one ticket - no more! Now, find a counter top within 1-2 feet so you don't have to move, and carefully scratch off the ticket. Try to stay in the lines, or scratch it off as a star. Anything that will be slow. Next, since you lost, turn back to the cashier and order one more ticket, no more, and repeat the process. Repeat this process, losing on every ticket, until your wallet is empty or the geek behind you who just wants to buy a single pack of Magic cards goes berserk and beats you unconscious. Now, sue the geek for everything he owns. Congrats, you've struck it rich with the lottery, and you only had to sacrifice your ability to walk to do it!


P.S. +1, but only because I know that the sort of losers that waste all their money on the lottery don't read k5, so our government won't lose one of its most appropriate and proportional taxes.

"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Americas game? (none / 1) (#20)
by rustv on Sat Apr 24, 2004 at 01:08:32 AM EST

I thought "Wheel of Fortune" was "America's Game" because every dorky American (ala Pat Sajak) wants to be with some eye candy (Vanna White).

"Don't tase me, bro." --Andrew Meyer
[ Parent ]
Do some research. (none / 0) (#23)
by Kasreyn on Sat Apr 24, 2004 at 01:52:49 AM EST

America has an official everything except language and religion. It probably has an official snail and an official igneous stone.

Its official game is baseball. I shit you not.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Research (3.00 / 13) (#24)
by ZorbaTHut on Sat Apr 24, 2004 at 07:53:43 AM EST

I wasn't able to find an official snail, or a national official igneous stone. However, several states have official stones, and South Carolina's official stone is blue granite, which is, in fact, igneous.

Also, North Carolina's official stone is the emerald, and Florida's official stone is agatized coral.

Connecticut doesn't seem to have an official stone, but it does have Representative Jack Stone, who - correct me if I'm wrong - appears to be trying to eat my soul straight through my monitor.

I'm going to bed now, and hoping Jack Stone doesn't follow me to my dreams.

[ Parent ]

question (none / 0) (#98)
by horny smurf on Wed May 05, 2004 at 12:39:36 AM EST

What's the official sex position?

[ Parent ]
Baseball... (none / 1) (#84)
by SPYvSPY on Tue Apr 27, 2004 at 12:29:47 PM EST

...replaced by NASCAR. News at 11. Also, the NBA sucks since Jordan retired the first time. In golf news: there goes the neighborhood! And, the coolest sport that you never knew existed is beach football (as in soccer) which Americans suck very, very badly at.

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

you can't play if you don't win... (none / 2) (#21)
by kpaul on Sat Apr 24, 2004 at 01:40:01 AM EST

think about it.


today is friday.

2014 Halloween Costumes

Hm, nope. Still doesn't make sense. /nt (none / 0) (#62)
by gilrain on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 09:06:48 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Lotto... (3.00 / 5) (#22)
by Psycho Dave on Sat Apr 24, 2004 at 01:42:43 AM EST

I've bought one lotto ticket my whole life. On my 18th birthday, just cause I could.

However, I've bought tons for my uncle in Hawaii. He's obsessed with Lotto, Powerball, and all those things. At first I humored him. He always sent me money to buy the things so it wasn't like I was out anything. But it just got to be too much. After awhile, I just collected the money he sent and didn't buy the tickets. Then after two months, I bought him some microbrews, t-shirts, and beef jerky, which is more than he would have gotten just the bloody tickets.

If you're gonna gamble, at least do a blackjack table in Vegas. They give you free drinks there.

Encourage: Betraying a Family Trust /nt (none / 1) (#63)
by gilrain on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 09:07:52 PM EST

[ Parent ]
How to win (how 'bout that) (2.00 / 5) (#25)
by mcgrew on Sat Apr 24, 2004 at 08:49:10 AM EST

Simply don't buy a ticket.

I buy no lottery tickets, you buy five every week. You are spending $260.00 per year on lottery tickets.

Therefore, I win $260.00 each and every year.

You can't lose if you don't play, loser.

(I'm taking this que submission as a sign, and am buying a lottery ticket today. Not that big powerball shit, just the state lottery, a few million will do me for a whille...)

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

$260 vs $150m (none / 1) (#31)
by treat on Sat Apr 24, 2004 at 06:13:28 PM EST

Therefore, I win $260.00 each and every year.

Good example. $260/year makes no difference whatsoever to me. The 260 in 150 million chance of never having to work again is worth more to me than the 260.

[ Parent ]

260 (1.50 / 4) (#42)
by amoga on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 04:57:49 AM EST

$260/year makes no difference whatsoever to me.

There are places on this planet where $260 means food for a whole year. In those places $260 can make a difference -- the one between death and life.

Just a thought...

It's nice to be important; it's more important to be nice.
[ Parent ]
in those places (none / 1) (#51)
by Mizuno Ami on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 11:34:47 AM EST

A weekly trip to the grocery store to buy fruits, vegetables, grains, and meat also doesn't cost $60.

[ Parent ]
Sad thing about the lottery (2.92 / 13) (#26)
by GenerationY on Sat Apr 24, 2004 at 11:17:49 AM EST

the only time I'm even vaguely tempted (having a reasonable grip on the statistics of the situations) is when I'm either depressed or skint. You don't have to be Sigmund Freud to guess how it works. Its not a tax on stupidity, its a tax on hope.

Lottery is a form of social control (2.80 / 5) (#37)
by kaol on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 12:30:42 AM EST

Let's say you are short on money. You are worried of how you can pay all those unpaid bills. A situation many, if not most, people are in. You wish the situation wasn't so.

That's a whole lot of frustration going around. Lottery is a way to channel that potentially threatening anger to socially ineffective form. The maths are against you, but no matter how small a chance, just the perception of a possibility of a way out of the treadmill keeps people content.

That works even if you don't play. If you think of winning in a lottery as a form of beating the system, you can just think that you could take the chance at it if you only cared that much or could afford it and stop thinking for alternatives at that point.

If you'd take lottery away, people'd vent their frustration to something more useful. Or dangerous, if that's your perspective.

Being able to make people pay to keep themselves happy in exchange of nothing much, with a profit. That's either insane or ingenious.

[ Parent ]

Orwell pointed this out in 1984 (none / 2) (#41)
by Cloud Cuckoo on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 04:10:36 AM EST

We've all read it ;]

[ Parent ]
I can't read [nt] (none / 0) (#78)
by Jed Smith on Mon Apr 26, 2004 at 07:43:42 PM EST

K5 is dead. Steve Ballmer made the most insightful comment on a story. -- jw32767
[ Parent ]
Thats not a problem... (none / 0) (#88)
by Cloud Cuckoo on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 05:30:23 AM EST

They made a movie out of it!

[ Parent ]
hyup (none / 2) (#81)
by Skwirl on Tue Apr 27, 2004 at 12:14:47 AM EST

I believe this is also why we come up with the strange contradiction where some of the most impoverished people side with the financially conservative bourgeois megafucks and you find that it's really people with a little stability (read: middle class liberal guilt) who have to speak up for social programs for the poor. A lot of people who are on the verge of homelessness will identify with a multimillionaire long before they admit that little more than the grace of God is keeping them afloat.

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
[ Parent ]
LOL (none / 0) (#83)
by SPYvSPY on Tue Apr 27, 2004 at 12:26:29 PM EST

Condescending liberal "middle class", Exhibit A.

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

the "quiniela clandestina" (none / 3) (#29)
by vqp on Sat Apr 24, 2004 at 05:35:16 PM EST

Along with the line of my last comment:
In my country there is an official lottery called "quiniela" that works like this:

1 - People bets money (the amount is up to the gambler) on a number of 3 digits (000 - 999)
2 - If the number wins, the amount betted is multiplied by 60.

Along with the official quiniela is a mob-organized clandestine version that pays 70 times the bet and if the amount betted to certain 3-digit number is too high (more than the sum of the other numbers for example), the clandestine house "backs up" with the official quiniela (i.e. bets heavily on that number, just in case it wins).

It's a win-win-lose situation: clandestine house wins,gambler wins, state loses.

happiness = d(Reality - Expectations) / dt

loose-win-??? (none / 2) (#43)
by amoga on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 05:36:22 AM EST

It's a win-win-lose situation: clandestine house wins,gambler wins, state loses.

Not necessarily. One can imagine a situation where the illegal house can't really make up for the difference between what it pays to the winner, and what it gains from the state run lottery.

For example, there are $10 bets on all one thousand numbers except on one, where the bet is $10 million (an unlikely situation, I'll be the first to admit). If that special number wins the house will have to pay $70 millions back; but it can only make as much as $60.06 millions if it bets everything on the same number on the official lottery.

This is probably one of the reasons why the clandestine house chose to match only 70:1, even if --in theory-- the house still makes a lot for higher ratios (say 100:1 or more).

It's nice to be important; it's more important to be nice.
[ Parent ]
true (none / 0) (#48)
by vqp on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 10:34:49 AM EST

But of course, but the probability is low, so the house use to accumulate money just in case. People who run the "quiniela clandestina" are called "capitalistas del juego": gambling capitalists.
We can take into account the bribes to the police, lets say, 5 to 10%. So its a win-win-win-lose. The corrupt "comisario" also wins.

happiness = d(Reality - Expectations) / dt

[ Parent ]
So... (none / 3) (#36)
by awyeah on Sat Apr 24, 2004 at 09:34:13 PM EST

What would you do with a million dollars?

As for me, I'd invest half of it in mutual funds. Then, I'd give the rest to my friend, saheib, who works in securities.

PC Load Letter? The fuck does that mean?

securities (none / 1) (#69)
by kstop on Mon Apr 26, 2004 at 05:59:27 AM EST

So you'd give half of it to people who'd basically invest it for you and spend half the interest on fancy offices, and gamble the other half away? The whole idea of securities is that you're assuming other people's risk. Why not go to Vegas instead, where at the very least you'll get comped and may even get lucky?

[ Parent ]
Just a movie quote! (none / 1) (#79)
by awyeah on Mon Apr 26, 2004 at 11:20:22 PM EST

Dude, that was just a quote from the movie Office Space. [IMDb link] Funny movie...

[ Parent ]
Stapler (none / 1) (#71)
by bugmaster on Mon Apr 26, 2004 at 10:14:14 AM EST

Mumble mumble mumble window mumble mumble I believe mumble you have my stapler ? mumble mumble not paid yet mumble because they said to move and I mumble that's it. I'll set the building on fire.
[ Parent ]
Ugh. (3.00 / 4) (#40)
by Kwil on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 03:25:01 AM EST

I've got a grandmother who relentlessly plays the 6/49 lotto up here.

It used to be she asked me to go out and get the tickets for her while she stayed in and watched Wheel of Fortune or whatever the hell it was on the tube.

She'd always get pissed when I came back with the tickets.

"What the hell did you pick these numbers for? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6?? That'll never win!"

I'd always ask, "Why not? Do the balls know the order they're in?"

"But the odds of these numbers coming up.." she'd start.

"..are exactly the same as the odds of anything else," I'd finish.

Long story short.. I don't have to go buy her tickets anymore.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze

There's precedent... (none / 0) (#75)
by Erbo on Mon Apr 26, 2004 at 06:34:09 PM EST

In an ad for the California Lottery, Steve Wozniak said that he plays "1 2 3 4 5 6" because they have just as much chance of winning as any other combination.

The ad also claimed that he also used the Quick Pick feature, saying, "For some reason, I'm comfortable having a computer pick my numbers."
Electric Minds - virtual community since 1996. http://www.electricminds.org
[ Parent ]

Take it from Joshua... (none / 0) (#46)
by dxh on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 09:39:04 AM EST

The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

North Carolina (none / 1) (#47)
by lowmagnet on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 10:06:50 AM EST

I live in North Carolina, you insensitive clod!

Seriously, though. Gambling is "of the devil" and they don't have a lottery, participate in Powerball, or even allow bingo. I'm not certain about raffle tickets, but I think those are likewise verboten.

Actually, it is quite nice, since you don't see fucking billboards everywhere getting folks hopes up. Also, you remove a serious form of temptation to the poor to go flat fucking broke chasing a dream.

Um, see above NT comment... /nt (none / 0) (#65)
by gilrain on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 09:22:16 PM EST

[ Parent ]
I know (none / 0) (#66)
by damballah on Mon Apr 26, 2004 at 12:35:43 AM EST

some people who drive up to VA aevery other weekend to play the lottery. Pretty sad that NC is losing that money to the VA

" I apologize for this long comment. I didn't have the time to make it any shorter. " - Blaise Pascal

" zombie accounts promote an unhealthy interest in the occult among our younger readers. " - [ Parent ]

Same in Oklahoma (none / 0) (#74)
by TrickyRick on Mon Apr 26, 2004 at 05:08:14 PM EST

It is the same in Oklahoma. We have bingo and other gambling on indian land, but not our own lottery so far. They had an election for a lottery once or twice, but so far haven't passed one. Meanwhile, a lot of money is leaving Oklahoma to play the Texas Lottery.

[ Parent ]
lottery not as socially intensive as it used to be (none / 1) (#52)
by bloodnose on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 11:51:19 AM EST

used to be in the black ghettos when there was big street culture, before heroin slayed it (pardon if i have this info wrong), that there would be a numbers man and everyone would get church-sunday excited about giving out their numbers. still important (i like whoever said it is a tax on hope, not math) but more individualistic basis than group basis now.

regards to time-travel would be hella fun to qualitatively experiment measuring butterfly effects. would letting off a firecracker the day before the number is picked have an effect?

Let's stop people from buying candy, too! /nt (none / 0) (#64)
by gilrain on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 09:21:29 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Numbers-running (none / 0) (#68)
by Handyman on Mon Apr 26, 2004 at 04:35:50 AM EST

You have this info right; a notable example is that Malcom X discusses this in his Autobiography.

What I found interesting is that the winner of the numbers game was chosen by the last three digits of the daily US GDP, or some similar financial statistic. I suppose it's as random as anything else out there. =)

Never be afraid to be the first one on the dance floor.
[ Parent ]
NYSE Volume (none / 0) (#73)
by mckwant on Mon Apr 26, 2004 at 02:18:51 PM EST

IIRC, the Autobiography of Malcolm X stated that the numbers game was the last three digits of the volume of shares traded at the NYSE, which is, for all intents and purposes, random, and, more importantly, unalterable.

The payoff, again if memory serves, was 600-1, which is quite a nice rake for the runner.

[ Parent ]

Sounds right to me [n/t] (none / 0) (#80)
by Handyman on Tue Apr 27, 2004 at 12:06:47 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Paying for schools (2.25 / 4) (#57)
by smilinggoat on Sun Apr 25, 2004 at 02:45:53 PM EST

Some argue that the lottery is a good thing to support because it provides funding for schools, however there are a couple things to remember about this. It encourages the government to underfund schools from taxes and since it is mostly poorer demographics who play the lottery, the poor end up funding the schools. Shouldn't the idea of taxes be to help support the poor through taxing the rich?

Pure Data, where music looks less and less like itself.
Best taxes (none / 0) (#82)
by Viliam Bur on Tue Apr 27, 2004 at 05:38:55 AM EST

are voluntary taxes. Lottery is the best existing example.

[ Parent ]
No. (none / 1) (#89)
by Belgand on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 06:28:54 AM EST

That's not the idea behind taxes. The idea behind taxes is citizen contributing money to the government in order to finance government operations. Reasonably everyone puts in the same amount.

Even better everyone puts in a little bit more and I  keep my share.

[ Parent ]

the rich (none / 0) (#97)
by horny smurf on Wed May 05, 2004 at 12:34:54 AM EST

ah yes, the rich. Many of these rich people have one or 2 kids (too busy working 2 jobs or maybe they don't want to ruin the trophy wife's figure). And some of these rich send their kids to private schools.

Meanwhile the poor (ie, lottery playing mouth breathers) fuck like rabbits, cause, hey, more welfare money.

It's too bad the rich don't pay their "fair share".

[ Parent ]

advice on number-selection (3.00 / 7) (#67)
by paraf on Mon Apr 26, 2004 at 01:23:17 AM EST

Simple pseudorandom numbers are NOT your best bet.

Many players choose numbers based on calendar dates. (anniversaries, birthdays, etc)

To avoid collision with such players, it's best to pick numbers greater than 31.

"Psuedorandom" (none / 0) (#77)
by Jed Smith on Mon Apr 26, 2004 at 07:42:00 PM EST

Too bad the lottery is not chosen by computer. I was witness to a computer lottery system (1-1000, good odds anyway) that was guessed and won six times in a row by a Japanese student. There's good RNGs out there, but computers can't be trusted.
K5 is dead. Steve Ballmer made the most insightful comment on a story. -- jw32767
[ Parent ]
Just Like Global Thermonuclear Warfare (2.75 / 4) (#72)
by Canar on Mon Apr 26, 2004 at 01:30:31 PM EST

The only way to win is not to play.

Actually, it can make sense to play (none / 1) (#85)
by EricLivingston on Tue Apr 27, 2004 at 01:14:51 PM EST

While getting my MBA one of the concepts that I actually found pretty interesting was the utility curve theory of money.

The way it works, basically, is to look at the marginal utility of each additional dollar you have, rather than its fundamental economic value.

For instance, to a starving fellow in the street with no ready money at all, the marginal utility of a single dollar is incredibly high, as it can mean at least a bit of food that might literally wind up saving his life.

However, for me (luckily), my quality of life is so completely unchanged whether I have an additional dollar or not that its utility is extremely close to zero. I would likely never notice if a dollar happened to fall out of my wallet once a week for the rest of my life.

However, on the flip side, for me (unluckily, as I've not wealth of that magnitude), my quality of life would undergo pretty drastic changes were I to win the lottery.

So, while the utility lost to me from spending a dollar on a lottery ticket is extremely close to zero, the utility gained were I to win would be astoundingly large.

Therefore, it likely makes sense for me to subscribe to the lottery and have it auto-deduct and play a ticket for me on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The subscription/no-work-involved aspect is key, because if you add in the utility cost of actually physically going to buy a ticket you lose immediately. It must be as nearly zero-effort as possible in order to maintain the utility/quality-of-life positive balance.

Ideally, if I could literally forget it was even being played for me, aside from a $52 deduction per year out of my account, things would be nearly perfect. I'd never miss the $52 as far as my quality of life goes, and yet I'd always be poised for some pleasant surprise that would make my day/week/life.

So, the MBA thingy... (none / 0) (#86)
by k31 on Tue Apr 27, 2004 at 04:17:56 PM EST

teaches you that its better to play the lottery than feed the homeless?

Actually, it sounds like this form of thinking makes it almost impossible to think of the posibility of feeding the homeless at all.

Your dollar is you only Word, the wrath of it your only fear. He who has an EAR to hear....
[ Parent ]

Feeding the Homeless. (none / 1) (#87)
by Captain Frisk on Tue Apr 27, 2004 at 08:15:02 PM EST

Its true that a dollar to you, me, and most of the people who can afford a computer to use this site is relatively insignificant, especially when compared to the value it has to someone with no money. There are a few issues with giving your dollar away: 1. Where do you draw the line? You give $1, you still could give another without noticing. It isn't until you give away nearly all of your money that the utility value of the dollar is the same to you as it is to your new homeless friend. 2. Who gets your dollar? There are plenty of folk that that dollar would make a difference to. If you split it evenly, then its just as worthless to them as it is to you. 3. What is your benefit? When you play the lottery, you have a shot at never needing to go to your cubicle again (not to mention the entertainment value of the fantasy, as the article author points out). When you give to a homeless guy, you have gained nothing but the satisfaction of a good deed. To some people its valueable. To others... not so much.

[ Parent ]
Taxes == Money for the homeless (among others) (none / 0) (#93)
by tassach on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 09:40:19 PM EST

If 1/4 of my paycheck were not already being taken, with the bulk of it going to fund entitlement programs, I'd give to the homeless.  But since the government takes about 1/4 of the money I earn before I even get to see it, and over 1/4 of that gets spent on socal assistance programs, the government is giving over 2.5 hours' worth of my pay to the needy on my behalf every week.  Being a reasonably well paid computer geek, that's a substantial wad of cash -- more money than I have for discretionary spending.

Face it, in the USA there is really no reason for anyone to go hungry.  Food stamps are available to just about anyone who is homeless and unemployed.     Even if you have a job and someplace to live you can still qualify for government handouts courtesy of the tax payers.  And there are plenty of private charities and food banks as well.

So why don't the bums on the street get food stamps?  Because of the requirement that any able-bodied adult who is capable of working must register for work and say that they're willing accept it if a job becomes available.  And if you incapable of working due to physical or mental illness, you are eligible for a whole lot more gimmies than just free food.

The programs are there, paid for by hard-working people.  You just need to drag your sorry ass out of your cardboard box, sober up enough to stumble into the nearest social services office, and ask for assistance.  Yeah, you might have to stand in line all day but if you're homeless and unemployed big fucking deal -- it's not like you have anything better to do with your time, and sitting around in a heated building beats freezing your ass off outside in the middle of winter.  You also might have to agree to do some things you'd rather not do -- like looking for a job or attending training or councilling.  Want a handout?  Then you've gotta play by the rules.

If you are able to work but are unwilling to even agree to the theoretical commetment of working if a job was somehow magically handed to you on a silver platter, then tough shit, no handout for you.  And guess what -- if you are so fucking lazy that you are unwilling to lift a finger to help yourself, you don't deserve anyone's help.

The sad truth is that the people you see begging on the street don't want money for food -- they want money for booze, smokes, and/or drugs.  Instead of giving that homeless guy a buck, give him a couple of cans of food instead, or that old jacket you were going to give to goodwill, and watch his reaction.  Odds are you'll be underwhelmed by the gratitude you receive -- he doesn't want to buy a gardenburger and a box of organic granola, he wants to buy a 40 of Schlitz  and a pack of menthols.  If you think differently you're living in a bleeding-heart tree-hugging-hippie fantasyland.

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants" -- Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

True, accurate, but... (none / 0) (#94)
by myenigmaself on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 01:29:51 PM EST

Crack heads need food too. So yes, someone wants dollars to spend on drugs and shit. That doesn't mean a burger won't make them happy. A couple weeks ago I was walking down the street and some dude (deffinately coming down after being on something) asked for some change. I gave him my breakfast bar. He was dumbfounded. I'd never seen someone so happy to get something so seemingly insignificant to me. Best thing I could have done. Don't give up on those who have lost hope. Sometimes all they need is a push in the right direction. (in conclusion help them, don't just blindly give them money. obviously they're lacking the responsibility to take care of it)
"If debugging is the act of removing bugs from code, programming must be the act of putting them in."-Dykstra Sr.
[ Parent ]
Yeah but some of them are picky (none / 0) (#101)
by Anonymous Hiro on Wed May 12, 2004 at 10:39:21 AM EST

Whilst I was studying in the UK, a street girl asked for money for food, so I offered to buy her a sandwich. But no, she wanted a kebab instead. In the end a compromised was reached - a fried chicken meal. And she wasn't "so happy" like the crackhead you mention, far from it. I had other less than encouraging experiences with people asking for money.

Back in my country it's difficult for anyone with a semi working brain and body to starve, there's free food to be had (various charities), and you can easily beg or scrounge enough money to buy whatever typical office workers have for lunch everyday - my dinner was USD1 for instance, just need about 6 ppl or 3 generous folk to give you some coins and you're set for an all you can eat vegetarian meal, or a rice+ two veget+one meat meal, or a bowl of noodles. Heck just look for cans etc and send them to be recycled for money. Wouldn't mind public money going to that - down and out people can make money removing trash from streets.

There's no winter here, so there's no danger of freezing to death or hypothermia. A common architecture for blocks of shops/commercial buildings here has the upper floors overhanging a 5 foot wide path at the ground floor, so there's plenty of shelter from the rain, sun etc to be had. I've seen people sleeping/lying on these paths and some look pretty contented. Many are even fatter than I am (OK I'm skinny), and it's not alcohol potbelly sort of fat. It's the very well-fed sort of fat.

Heck the more industrious grab some zinc/metal sheets and make themselves huts on some unused land, and pretty soon a village forms and they all ask for low cost housing when the Gov or landowner tries to get the land back for some project or other...

I wouldn't want to be down and out in NYC or some other nonsocialist 1st world country - seems like it would be real harsh - winter could easily kill you. Wouldn't be too bad to be down and out in Netherlands or Denmark I guess. Wonder about San Diego or thereabouts - nonsocialist but I hear the weather is nice ;).

[ Parent ]

Cheap at the price (none / 0) (#95)
by GenerationY on Sat May 01, 2004 at 03:36:22 PM EST

If you radically cut back social spending further you'd end up blowing the same amount (if not more) on security guards/moats/electric fences and government death squads. You should try visiting a poor country without any welfare spending and see how many blocks you can walk on your own before you get robbed and killed.

Its you who lives in the fantasy land if you don't understand its first a bribe and only second a palliation of material suffering.

[ Parent ]

not the same (none / 0) (#96)
by horny smurf on Wed May 05, 2004 at 12:30:35 AM EST

ok, lets visit a poor country. It's a poor country. Welfare smellfare, there is very little opportunity for joe poverty to ascend to middle or upper class.

Ok, now lets visit the United States. For those willing to work, poverty is almost always a transitional state when just starting out or who have suffered financial setbacks. Census reports show that, while the percentage of people living in poverty doesn't change dramatically, very few people remain impoverished permanently.

[ Parent ]

Vaccuum (none / 0) (#103)
by limekiller on Mon May 31, 2004 at 12:46:06 AM EST

By your own logic you could just deduct that $52/yr and give it to someone for whom the value would be immense.

If you ask me that's a hell of a lot better use of your money than the lottery.  You don't live in a vaccuum.


[ Parent ]

Best Quote Ever (none / 1) (#90)
by sethadam1 on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 08:38:23 AM EST

"The lottery is a tax on people who can't do math"

tax on the dumb (none / 0) (#92)
by spiritraveller on Wed Apr 28, 2004 at 06:31:31 PM EST

The phrase I've always heard is that it's a tax on the dumb.

[ Parent ]
Play the winning numbers from the previous draw (none / 0) (#100)
by TuxNugget on Fri May 07, 2004 at 03:31:05 PM EST

1. No one would imagine that the same numbers will come up twice.  Therefore if you win you will not have to share the prize.

2. If you lose you can "discover" the ticket with neighbors in the local laundromat.  See the movie _Matchstick Men_ for details.

I play the Powerball (none / 0) (#102)
by Orion Blastar on Wed May 19, 2004 at 02:57:52 PM EST

I let the computer pick my numbers. A few times I got the $3USD winner by matching the powerball. I foolishly bought three more tickets with my winnings, and lost each one of them.

So far, Bingo at the local Church, has paid off better than Powerball.

I broke even at the Casino, robbed by the slot machines, but won a jackpot once and made back all my money for the day. When I play black jack, poker, craps, roulette, baccarat, etc I tend to lose a lot of money due to the minimum bets being too high. "Hey Orion, the minimum bet is $5, not 50 cents, get those quarters off the betting table!" ;)
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***

Probability (none / 0) (#104)
by synaptic on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 06:13:12 PM EST

In the PowerBall game, there are 53 white numbers, 26 even and 27 odd, from which to choose 5.

The probability of 2-4-6-8-10 appearing is actually lower than say 1-2-5-6-7.  Look closely at the number of odd and even numbers.

Forget for a minute that 5 numbers are drawn.  Consider drawing just one number.  At first, the odds of drawing an odd or even are nearly equal with a slight advantage towards odd since there is one extra odd number.  

  Odds/Probability of Drawing One Number
  Odd: 1 in 1.96 or 50.9%
  Even: 1 in 2.03 or 49.1%

Acknowledge that the ordering of the numbers is irrelevant to the paytable.  That is, the combination 1-2-3-4-5 is equal to 5-4-3-2-1.

We can then use the binomial coefficient (aka "n choose k") to determine ways of picking k unordered outcomes from n possibilities.  The formula is n!/(n-k)!k!.  We will abbreviate this as nck( n, k ).

Consider the number of ways to draw 5 unordered numbers from a set of 53.  nck(53,5) leaves us with 2,869,685 combinations.

We can determine the number of ways to draw 2 odd and 3 even numbers from 53 with nck(27,2) * nck(26,3).  This gives 912,600 combinations.  Divide by the total number of combinations to get the probability (31.8%) and divide this probability into 1 to get the odds (1 in ~3.14).

Combination   Odds       Probability    Ways
0odd/5even    1 in 43.63    2.29%     65,780
1odd/4even    1 in  7.11   14.07%    403,650
2odd/3even    1 in  3.14   31.80%    912,600
3odd/2even    1 in  3.02   33.13%    950,625
4odd/1even    1 in  6.29   15.90%    456,300
5odd/0even    1 in 35.55    2.81%     80,730
                          100.00%  2,869,685

So what does this all mean, you ask?  Aren't the chances of winning the white ball jackpot still low?  Of course they are!  

But if you're going to play anyway, you might as well pick from the pool of numbers that have a higher probability of occurring.  I have calculated the actual percentages of all drawings since October 9, 2002 when they added 4 numbers.

Combination   Expected   Actual    Difference
0odd/5even      2.29%     1.91%     -0.90%  
1odd/4even     14.07%    15.79%     -0.11%
2odd/3even     31.80%    31.58%     -1.55%
3odd/2even     33.13%    31.10%     -0.70%
4odd/1even     15.90%    16.75%     +2.68%
5odd/0even      2.81%     2.87%     +0.58%

Using information like this, you can gain a slight statistical advantage over pseudorandom combinations.  You may not realize this advantage for a million years, but the odds are that you will lose less money over the long term playing patterns more likely to appear.  

Maybe that'll give some food for thought to some of you pretentious dorks who, having nothing intelligent to say on the matter, fail to STFU.

How to Win the Powerball Lottery | 104 comments (89 topical, 15 editorial, 4 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!