Playing with the House’s Money

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I’ve recently enjoyed a phenomenon reserved for the lucky few who do not see their gambling dollars disappear in the first rush: having the house pay for my gambling.

As I mentioned in “The Never-ending Story” (September 23, 2016), we have gone cashless and decided to digitally manage our expenditures. However, after a recent trip I had “left over” money in my wallet and like the responsible adult I am I threw it at lottery tickets. I kept it to a relatively modest $40 for eight different instant tickets.

Needless to say they mostly returned nothing but I did manage a “profit” on a returning ticket called ‘Fruit Explosion‘. I spent a total of $9 on three of these and won $12, bought one ‘Bejewelled‘ for $3 and got that back and, typically, lost completely on two $10 ‘100X Multiplier’ and a new $5 ticket simply called ’21’. (More details on the new instant games are available on the “Instant Ticket Facts” page, above).

Ordinarily it would be pretty clear that spending $40 for a return of $15 is called “losing” but we lottery players are a wildly optimistic (if not delusional) bunch and this called for only one follow-up strategy: buy more tickets.

Seeing that ‘Fruit Explosion’ might be on a streak I focused there and picked up four more. A Bejewelled replacement came up empty as did a $5 ticket known simply as ‘7‘. (OK it wasn’t all house money). The result was $20 in winnings which, you guessed it, went back in. Between October 11th and the 19th I bought/cashed in thirty-four winners/losers for more winners/losers until, inevitably, the streak came to an end. In the long run the house always wins.

I tried different stores etc. but I know full well the stock of tickets available across the country consists of millions of dud tickets and only a scarce few winners. I did notice after one purchase that the serial numbers were nearly sequential, so I realised a $6 winner I had just scratched would be an orphan. With so few winners, any given batch at any given retailer will feature lots of duds before a winner comes up and though the prizes are randomly distributed, geographically as well as through the print run, it’s not likely they will appear in a row.

The last transaction was to give up a $3 winner for a 6/49 ticket. As I expect to remain a charter member of the “99%” after tonight’s draw, I figured I could post this little essay today.

At any point along this journey I could have called it quits and put $15 or $20 in my pocket but this was designated gambling money. It was an experiment to see how far it would go and it went barely a week. Now I will embark on a second experiment: over the next thirty day period, (October 20th to November 20th) I will not buy any lottery tickets. I will ignore the apps, TV ads, in-store displays and hoard any cash that might come my way. I will continue to follow and report on lottery goings-ons but not participate. I suspect a week is about all I can stand before the “itch” begins, but like any addict, that will pass.

Of course I’ll check my 6/49 ticket tomorrow though!!

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