Quick Draw Facts

As I mentioned in Winning the Lottery Part 1: Luck of the Draw, I have tried a ‘wheeling’ system that creates combinations of numbers from groups of twelve individual choices. There are more complex methods and if one wanted to, one could play all the numbers in a draw at least once each, but at some point there are diminishing returns. Chances of winning jackpots would only increase in such infinitesimal amount as to remain the province of pure luck.

There are a host of sites that promises to provide winning “strategies” that rely on the supposed patterns or trends that appear in random number selection. For example, Smart Luck Inc.  offers charts, number selection software and Gail Howard’s Lottery Master Guide among many helpful hints.

I wish these folks all the best but I’m not endorsing their products or buying. While it may be a fact that lottery draws tend not to be all even numbers or all odd this, in and of itself, reveals nothing about which six numbers are going to come up next. There is supposedly a strategy for guessing when “cold numbers” will come to life or when “hot numbers” will ride on for weeks.

Good luck to all that.

If one is intent on chasing the lottery dragon then getting serious about knowing how the games work isn’t misplaced but it’s unlikely to offer much greater success. As I said before, machines spit out identical balls with no relationship between any ball that went before or since. And although one might guess correctly on a number or two, that doesn’t constitute a winning combination of five or six numbers.

The real difference is whether you choose to waste one dollar at a time, such as on Lottario or Ontario 49, three dollars on a Lotto 6/49 or five dollars on Lotto Max. Your odds are always astronomical but each one offers different prize structures based on the volume of tickets they sell.

I decided to use a wheel against Lottario recently. In this case I choose twelve numbers and create six combinations. In Lottario the computer kindly adds a second combination so the number of tickets you’re playing pile up quickly for not much money.

As explained before, you break your selections into groups of three and tag them A,B,C and D. You then create combinations by matching A+B, A+C, A+D etc. This gave me a sheet of six tickets but I also created a second and third sheet that allowed me to play 30 of the 45 numbers possible. The computer duly spit out eighteen more combinations as well for a whopping $18.

My result nonetheless was a dismal $4 and a free play. Sure I had most of the numbers in play, but they didn’t combine into anything useful. Looking at the odds of winning anything reveals why picking numbers is always a fool’s errand.

Lottario’s web site tells you how to play and provides a handy odds chart, (scroll down to “Prizes — Prize Payout Chart, Main Draw”). I managed to get three numbers on one ticket and no numbers on another but the bonus number. I beat odds of 24:1 and 8:1 respectively so I suppose I should be grateful but if the three numbers plus the bonus were on one ticket I would have beaten odds of 290:1!

My payoff for that feat would have been a stunning…$5.

To make my $18 a successful investment I would have had to accidentally organize my choices into at least a four of six plus bonus to win $30. Odds 7,145:1. (I don’t know who sets out to guess the bonus number but OLG uselessly provides the frequency of numbers in that category ).

Forget the jackpot. Do you appreciate the improbability of 4,072,530:1? Yeah, neither do I. It’s perhaps why there was only one jackpot winner in July.

Ontario 49 is equally cheap to play, offers a simpler prize structure with a bigger jackpot, but demands much longer odds. One dollar provides one play and like its big brother 6/49, the odds for the jackpot are 13.9 million:1. It’s drawn on Wednesdays and Saturdays but the top prize is always $2 million so it doesn’t build like a pari-mutuel game and the static prizes below that fall off the table quickly. Match five out of six plus the bonus, (essentially match 6/7), and your reward is a stingy $50,000. I picked two sets of numbers off the top of my head recently and won… a free ticket. Hey, that beat odds of 8.3:1!

People like to say “somebody has to win” but so far in July Ontario 49 has gone off seven times and no-one has won the first or second prize!

Lotto6/49  is an interprovincial money machine that sucks $3 per ticket out of unwary players. Beginning in 1982 it has been perhaps the biggest source of lottery fever for spendthrift governments and their deluded citizens. $1 tickets were boosted to $2 in 2004 and again to $3 in 2013 with some monkeying around with the prize structure and pool shares. A guaranteed $1 million prize was added but requires the lucky player to exactly match a ten digit number.

Despite odds of nearly 14 million:1 and 2.3 million:1 on the second prize, but reflecting the tens of millions of tickets sold twice a week, jackpots are distributed more often than with the $1 lotteries (six winning tickets have been sold in July). Second prizes can diminish quickly when even three or four other players split the pool but I wouldn’t turn one down. Until August 31 2016, bonus guaranteed prizes have been added and if you like wasting money but detest the interaction with fellow humans, you can now buy tickets online: PlayOLG.ca. (I’m not associated in any way with OLG but just trying to be helpful!).

Lotto Max (also available online), is presently going through one of its ‘hot-air-balloon’ phases where the jackpot and supplementary prizes are threatening to wipe out poverty in out time. $5 tickets with the worst odds possible (28.6 million to one against picking seven numbers), means I rarely go out of my way to buy one. At least you’re also provided two computer-selected combinations per ticket but even with that feature jackpot winners are rare.

New as of October 18th, 2016 is a ridiculous lottery called Daily GrandFor $3 the player chooses or is assigned by quick pick, five “Main Numbers” of 49 and a “Grand Number” from one of seven. Matching all six, at odds of 13,348,188:1 provides a one-time payout of $7 million or $1,000 a day for life, (or a share thereof if more than one pick the winning combo)! Guessing the five Main Numbers but missing the Grand Number pays $25,000 a year for life, (odds 2,224,698:1). Doing some research on the game I discovered that the provincial lottery corporations, (OLG, Western and BC), hand off the annuity to a third party. For liability purposes they say a winner would absolve the lottery corp. of paying out and the third party is at fault if it fails to pay. Also the third party and the winner would be responsible for taxes. ( See Daily Grand Game Conditions). I have an outstanding inquiry with OLG regarding the tax question as lotteries are otherwise tax-free in Canada. As of November 7 they were asking for more time to answer my questions.

Finally, I will mention the three computerised, instant draw games. Megadice Lotto, NHL Lotto,  and Wheel of Fortune Lotto offer two chances to win for $2. The player asks the retailer to initiate the game and the computer screen at the lottery retail location goes through a randomised cartoon representation of the game. Megadice roll, NHL players shoot pucks and Wheel of Fortune turns to a possible prize amount…or not.

Every night there is a supplementary draw for jackpot prizes of $100,000. The player has to match up to six dice ( odds 3,262,623:1), or five NHL jerseys of a particular team (odds 4,275,180:1) or six words (odds same as Megadice).

Ontario also has a Daily Keno game featuring multiple betting and prize algorithms and 2,3 and 4 digit pick games that are complicated and pay little.