You have no chance

Pax Arcana

I am best known for using my mathematical genius to decode ancient riddles and to program my own spy satellites, but occasionally I like to use my laser-sharp numbers acumen for the greater good. Here’s a little freebie:

Your chances of winning the MegaBucks is, statistically speaking, almost exactly the same whether you buy a ticket or not. The actual trip to the gas station or liquor store merely costs you needless gas and ticket money.

Some people disagree, and say things like “you can’t win if you don’t play.” But if this CNN story is to be believed (and trust me, it is) you often can’t win even if you do play.

Take the story of business professor Scott Hoover, who last summer bought a $5 scratch ticket that boasted a top prize of $75,000. He later learned that the top prize had been awarded before he ever bought the ticket — thus reducing his odds of taking home the big money to zero.

Here’s where it gets really good — this is common practice in the multibillion dollar lottery industry:

Virginia isn’t the only state to sell tickets that have no top prizes available. USA Today estimates that about half of the 42 states that have lotteries were, as of early July, continuing to sell tickets after the top prizes are claimed. Lottery officials from some states say the practice is fair because lesser prizes are still available, and they say tickets and lottery Web sites make that clear.

If you think that even one of the thousands of sad-sacks waiting in convenience store lines for their one chance at untold riches is aware that many of the tickets on sale offer a 0% chance of winning the top prize, send $5 to the Pax Arcana Ultra SuperBUX PRIZE Sweepstakes Giveaway Blowout for your chance to win a great big slap in the face.

Zero’ chance lottery tickets stun some players [CNN]



Filed under science

8 responses to “You have no chance

  1. Nice post. I’m not a big-time gambler, but I think most people would agree that there should be some kind of regulation for this…. Games which 80% of all top prizes are accounted for, the game should be retired with the remaining prize money returned to the state pool.

    The cost incurred by such a change would have to be figured in on the lottery commission’s bottom line – but it needs to happen. When you consider that the lowest income people are buying the majority of the tickets in lotteries, it comes down to the state cheating those who are already in the most need.

    As I said, good post – a real wake up call….

  2. That’s terrible! I had no idea. I quit buying lottery tickets long time ago, but sometimes I can’t help to dream about what I would do if I won the top prize:)

  3. cmbasnett

    Never bought a lottery ticket and never will. You actually have a better chance of getting hit by lightening than winning. I feel sorry for the folks who buy a ‘King’ size pack of smokes and about 7 lottery tickets a day.

  4. One of my best friends is one of the most sensible people I know, and he buys lottery tickets regularly. It’s his one vice, and he knows it’s dumb, but he says the thrill of it, even if it’s an empty thrill, is worth it. He considers it a happiness cost. It’s really interesting psychology on his part.

  5. Crystal Air has a great spin on this story:

    Gambling Addicts Flock To Buy No-Chance Lottery Tickets

  6. I really have never thought about it, but they really do still offer tons of the same type of scratch-offs after the top prizes are won. So basically, you are just playing for a chance to win your money back, because if you win anything at all it’ll usually be a break even amount or the TICKET prize.

    Great post!!

  7. Here in Honduras the lottery plays on wednesdays and saturday evenings and after that all bets are off so nothing of the like happens here, its a one time deal, if you win you winf if not….keep playing.

    personally ive never bought lottery, its absurd, but people like it and make huge lines at convenience stores and neighborhood markets to buy the stuff….oh well its their money

  8. Pingback: Solving hopelessness with hopelessness «

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