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Winning the Lottery: Luck of the Draw

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Only Luck can Beat the Odds in a Lottery Draw

Many lottery players would like to believe there is a system to beat the odds in the 6/49 or Lotto Max lottery. Numerous websites claim enough of the right analysis can winkle out “hot” numbers or identifiable trends from the weekly draw. Even OLG provides historical information in its left hand menu.

Unfortunately, as statisticians like to say, this is all ‘noise’. No relationship exists between any two numbers in one draw nor any number from last week, last month, or in any month to come. In the quantum mechanics of lottery numbers: a number will come up…or it won’t. That’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it!

Draw-lotteries like Poker Lotto or Megadice Lotto use a computer program, but the rest use a mechanical drum containing a specific number of balls. Lotto Max, 6/49 and Ontario 49 use forty-nine balls while Lottario picks from forty-five. The balls are carefully weighed, formed and balanced to produce no identifiable bias. During the draw, the balls tumble and careen like electrons until one is spit out and its number is recorded. The machine does not care if the number is odd or even, high or low, or corresponds to the square root of your mother-in-law’s birthday. The machine does not have any regard for whether that particular ball has been used in the last draw or has bounced around its innards for months. It’s random and mindless. Full Stop.

And yet…We are human and we seek patterns in everyday occurrences and objects. The Universe would speak to us if only we understood the language.

Several times over the years I’ve graphed the previous draws of various lotteries in an attempt to discover a pattern. When you put the six winning numbers on line after line it seems that some numbers ‘group’ together; or relate somehow. Numbers pair off or mysteriously come up in sequences of three. Gaps open up in some ‘decades’ for weeks at a time, (e.g. there are no or few 30’s or 20’s). Does this tell us anything?

No.

Like a stock market chart that may experience a drop or rise in the next instant, the lottery number just appears independently of anything else. Unlike the stock market, no amount of information gathered can even suggest to the player what to buy or when.

The alternative is to buy everything. As previously discussed you could purchase every possible 6/49 ticket for a mere $41.9 million. (Ontario 49 costs only $13.9 million but top prize is always $2 million so not a good bet!).

There is a method for playing twelve numbers at a time that involves all 49 numbers. Often referred to as “wheeling” it involves arranging your twelve choices into groups of three labelled A,B,C and D. You then create sets of six numbers by pairing A+B, A+C and A+D. Then B+C and B+D and finally C+D. Now you buy six tickets with your twelve numbers as efficiently jumbled together as they can be. ($18 for 6/49 or $6 for Ontario 49).

It would further seem that if one picked twelve numbers four times one could use forty-eight of the forty-nine numbers in question, (or, to be even safer, use a fifth ‘wheel’ to get all the numbers and a few extras besides!). For as little as $72 it appears we have all the numbers and can’t miss!

Well, yes you can. Since you are randomly arranging your choices within your wheel (even if you do them in sequence), or across all the wheels, there is no guarantee you will come up with a combination of the six you need for a jackpot. Your odds are still extraordinarily long that you will accidentally put four or five numbers together. Likely, you will see the six winning numbers tumble through your selections without ever grouping together in any useful combination. Mind you, you can get lucky. Which is what you need to be even if you spend only $3.

Now before spending $72, (and some folks do that anyway!), one could take a practice run at it and simply do it on paper. Problem is, what if that one worked (and you don’t get the jackpot) and the next one didn’t, (and you don’t get the jackpot)?

 

 

 

 

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Playing the Lottery in Ontario

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Ontario Lottery Corporation Hopes you Lose.

I will never win the lottery and I don’t know anyone who has.

Along with half the adult population of Ontario I still buy tickets. Like the smoker who ‘quits’ every time they butt out the last cigarette I’ve tried to quit. I go a few days before the nagging sensation takes over and back I go.

We all know the odds are stacked against us but average humans don’t internalise big numbers. Saying the odds against picking six winning numbers out of forty-nine are 13,983,816:1 is no more impressive than saying the Ontario government is over $299 billion in debt.

To guarantee a 6/49 jackpot we can buy 13,983,816 tickets at a cost $41,951,448…or just one. Since millions of people are playing, it’s possible someone will just trip over the magic number.

Casual ticket buyers seem to share a few common thoughts: I’m not going to miss $3 so why not throw it in the pot? After all somebody has to win and you can’t win if you don’t play right?

These are true in a factual sense although unhelpful to the individual player. I recently looked over LottoMax, 6/49, Ontario 49 and Lottario and noticed no-one had won the first or second prizes. Inevitably though jackpots are awarded.

With this in mind we ignore the common refrain that lotteries are a “tax on the stupid”. Smarter people than me throw in a few bucks every week without effecting their fiscal profile. An Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (hereinafter referred to ‘lovingly’ as OLG), and Statistics Canada study of the demographics of lottery players discovered that people with higher education and incomes spend more money than lower income Canadians. It’s not a surprise that those who can do so will buy a lottery ticket over a box of Kraft Dinner but clearly it doesn’t involve a higher level of rationalisation.

In Ontario OLG is so concerned for our mental state that they have prepared a full-colour brochure entitled “Know the Facts”. Fact One is apparently this: “Lotteries are entertainment, not a way to make money”.

I’ve played the lotteries for some forty years so, yeah, this seems pretty obvious. Mind you it only applies to those of us who forego the odd Kraft Dinner for that 14 million to one shot. OLG of course makes a lot of money, some $6.6 billion per year, and shares those profits with the people of Ontario by providing the government with $2 billion. I’m sure our wildly indebted government appreciates the largesse.

I’ll keep buying tickets, and I’ll post observations and other data on lotteries in the coming weeks. We have all chosen to infect ourselves with the lottery bug so we should keep things light-hearted.

Favorite lottery joke: Wife: “Pack your things I’ve won the lottery!” Husband: “Great! Should I pack for the mountains or the beach?” Wife: “I don’t care just get out!”

 

 

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