How to Win the Lottery (Seriously)

You are 42 times more likely to die in a road accident within the next week than to win the lottery with a single ticket.

Generally speaking, lotteries are very poor bets.

Let’s consider the UK national lottery.  You have to select 6 numbers from 59.  There are in fact 45 million different ways in which you can choose 6 numbers from 59 and this means that your chance of winning the jackpot with a single ticket is about 1 in 45 million.  Furthermore only 50% of the total takings are paid out in prizes (the rest goes to good causes, taxation and administration).  This means that if you played this lottery a very large number of times you would expect to win back 50% of your stake money.

Just to put the chances of winning the lottery into perspective consider the following statistics.  The chances of you dying in the next 12 months from these causes is as follows:

In a road accident as a car occupant 1 in 19,000
In a fall 1 in 21,000
In a road accident as a pedestrian 1 in 47,000
By smoke, fire or flames 1 in 82,000
Drowning in a bath-tub 1 in 807,000
Lightning strike 1 in 5,500,000

(Source US National Safety Council statistics)

Or to put it another way, you are 42 times more likely to die in a road accident within the next week than to win the lottery with a single ticket.

So have we agreed then that lotteries are very poor bets and should be avoided?  Are they are always a poor choice?

Well, maybe not.

Let me introduce you to Stefan Mandel.  He has won 13 lotteries.  Is he incredibly lucky?

No.  He is a Romanian born mathematician who has worked out a way to win lotteries and make a lot of money in the process.  What he does is simple in theory but requires enormous organization and resources.  He waits until there is a multiple roll-over.  In this case, the normal 50% rule does not apply and the payout can well exceed the value of ticket sales.  He and his syndicate of backers then arrange to buy every single combination of numbers thus ensuring that they will hold a winning ticket.  They are guaranteed to win but they still run the risk that they may share the jackpot with other winners.

In 1992 Mandel and his syndicate won the Virginia State Lottery using this method.  There were 7 million possible combinations and each ticket cost $1.  They won the jackpot of $28m and thousands of smaller prizes.  Here is a video clip describing what he did.  A similar method was used to win the Irish State Lottery.

So that is how to win the lottery.  Wait until there is a multiple roll-over so that the odds favor the punter.  Then simply buy every possible combination and you are sure to win.

Good luck!

This post was previously published on Destination Innovation and is republished here with permission from the author.


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