# Lottery question

Is there really a good and bad way to play the lottery? Does playing one way give you better odds than another? Is a quick pick just a random as say picking birthdays and auto tags?

Good way to play the lotto: Don’t play

Bad way to play the lotto: Play

As long as there’s one lottery thread on the board, I may as well ask my lingering lottery-related question.

Anybody know how involved with the workings of the lottery procedure a person has to be to be inelegeble to play? I’m thinking the guy who puts the numbered ping-pong balls in the machine? His wife? Howabout the eye-candy lady who plucks the balls out of the machine?

There’s no way of increasing your chances of winning on a given ticket, but you can increase the expected amount you’ll win, provided that you do win in the first place. In other words:

Playing an obvious pattern of numbers, such as 1,2,3,4,5,6, or 3,6,9,12,15,18, for examples, is a bad idea. If you do play like that, chances are that you’ll be splitting the jackpot with many people, if you’re lucky enough to win the jackpot in the first place.

The best strategy is to pick numbers following no particular pattern, numbers that are unlikely to be picked by other people. This won’t increase your chances of winning, but it will increase your winnings if you do win.

Any set of numbers is as good as any other set in a fair lottery. Since most lotteries split the jackpot amongst all winners, your best set of numbers is one which nobody else picks. And in general, a quick pick is less likely to be duplicated than any kind of patterned selection. (Assuming the quick pick selection method is actually random-if you’re not sure of their algorithm, you might want to roll some dice … just make sure you have a linear result distribution with whatever method you choose.)

Also, bear in mind that, despite the naysayer above, a cumulative lottery (like most big Lotto games) can approach a fair bet when the jackpot gets large. You’re not only betting against everyone else who buys a ticket this week, but all the people who lost since the last winning ticket was pulled-and they’ve lost already, the poor fools. Still, I wouldn’t bet the retirement savings on a long-shot like that.

1. play numbers based on dates. You’ll only have numbers up to 31. Most lottoes [sp?] have you pick numbers up to at least 44. You’ll limit your chances by eliminating [sup]1[/sup]/[sub]4[/sub] of the possible numbers. Also, you have a slight chance of duplicating someone else.

2. playing patterns. There are many people that play 1 2 3 4 5 6 every time, rightly realizing that it’s just as likely as 3 5 13 21 34 41. So when it does win, it’ll be split many ways.

Good way:

1. Don’t play. You’ll be up \$1-2 bucks a week.

How do you figure? Any set of numbers is as likely as any other set, and each drawing is independent. No matter what method you use, the odds of winning are the same for each ticket.

I just meant that if you only pick numbers between 1 and 31, you’re limiting your possible combos, specifically the ones that include any numbers between 32 and 44.

The math is lengthy to prove here, but 29.5% (13/44) of all possible combos have at least one of the numbers 32 through 44 inclusive. (in a 44/6 lotto like Virginia’s)

But ultimately, your lottery pick is going to include only six (or so, depending on the lottery) numbers. That’s what really limits the chances of winning; it’s irrelevant whether those six numbers are all 31 and under, or all 32 and above, or whatever. The difficulty in winning the lottery is that you have to pick exactly the six winning numbers.

What I think you’re trying to say is the following. To win the lottery, you have to match (say) six numbers out of (say) 44 numbers. Obviously, if you’re allowed to pick all 44 numbers, you’re guaranteed to match the winning six that are ultimately picked. If you’re allowed to pick 43 numbers, you’re still virtually guaranteed of matching the six winners. The fewer numbers you’re allowed to pick, the harder it’s gonna be to win.

What I think you’re saying is that if, for example, you’re allowed to pick 31 numbers, your chance of matching the six winners is about 70.5%, since 29.5% of the possible winning number picks will include at least one of the remaing 13 numbers that you didn’t pick.

All of this is irrelevant, however; the lottery requires you to pick exactly the six winners, you don’t get any additional numbers to cover more bases. What interval these six are contained in is irrelevant, whether they’re all less than 15, all greater than 35, all prime, or whatever; the six you pick has exactly the same chances as any other six, because now your range of “covered numbers” has been restricted to six out of 44, regardless of what the numbers actually are.
So, to sum up what I’m trying to say:

You don’t limit your chances by eliminating 1/4 of the possible numbers here; you chances are limited by the fact that you’re required to eliminate 38/44 of the possible numbers, picking only six. The only reason not to play this strategy is the possibility of duplicating someone else.

I think the math is impossible to prove here.

You said in an earlier post that people who always play 1-2-3-4-5-6 are “rightly realizing” that this combination has as good a chance as any to win. The same is true if you exclude the numbers 32 through 44 from every ticket you buy. Every number has the same chance of winning.

It doesn’t matter a bit whether you exclude 30% of the possible combinations when you pick. Here’s one way of thinking about it: Suppose you send your spouse to buy a ticket with the instructions to choose only numbers 31 or lower. You don’t look at the ticket until the winning number is drawn. If the winning number has a number greater than 31, you know you’ve lost (let’s exclude the smaller wins for matching a few of the numbers). Using your 30% number, this will be the result 30% of the time. However, if you look at the winning numbers, and the numbers are all below 31, there’s a greater chance that you have the winning number than if you had picked from the entire 1 through 44 range. Still using your 30% number, you’re [sup]10[/sup]/[sub]7[/sub] more likely to win in this case. The overall result: No difference from the case where you choose from the entire range.

[sub]And I see now on preview that Cabbage has already answered, but I’ve typed this, so I’m a gonna post it![/sub]

Cecil Adams on How can I pick the winning number in the lottery?

Any number combination is as likely to win as another. You cannot hope to maximize your chances of winning, there is no (legal) way to do so.

You can, however, take measures to minimize your chances of splitting the pot, which is the same as maximizing your winnings.

As others have noted, many people pick at least some of their numbers based on dates. This restricts some of their numbers to 1-12 and 1-31. Therefore, you should do the opposite, and pick all your numbers 32 or greater.

Yes. Yes. Yes! Increase your odds! Simple methods!

If you play one quick-pick-ticket in a huge lottery like Powerball, you only have half the chance of someone who plays two tickets…and he only has half a chance of someone who plays four tickets…etc.

This is the type of advice that I’ve seen other people give out (in guides they sell)…and I’ve seen people give it out as friendly advice.

I still cannot believe that back in the late 80’s or early 90’s some guy from my neighborhood took his \$15,000 life savings and dropped it on the PA state lottery Super Seven game that was at the time a record 90million+.

I’m sure he must have realized the next day, “my god…what have I done?!” :smack:

In a lottery choosing 6 balls out of 44:
The number of combinations including balls numbered 1 to 31 only is 31C6 = 736,281.
The total number of combinations is 44C6 = 7,059,052.
Thus only about 10.4% of possible combinations include no number greater than 31.
That said, if you choose 6 numbers between 1 and 31 your odds of winning are the same as with any other combination, namely 7,059,051 to 1 against. If, like the UK lottery, this is a weekly draw, you would expect to win the jackpot on average once every 135,751 years.

Of course you may be betting in another ‘rollover’ week, in which case your odds of winning that week are zero.

Here in the UK, the Lottery pays out 50% of entry money as prizes.
50%! :eek:

So Amp’s answer is quite correct - don’t play.

Note that the companies who run Lotteries do make money.