How to Win Big in the Lottery


The lottery’s biggest draw is the jackpot, and its sky-high sums earn a lot of free publicity on newscasts and online. But the game also lures people with an ugly underbelly: the notion that, however improbable, they’ll somehow get rich. “Lotteries are a form of gambling, and they’re selling hope to people who should really be focused on saving and investing for the future,” says financial writer Jason Zweig at NerdWallet.

The first lotteries, offering tickets with prizes in the form of cash or goods, appear in the Low Countries in the 15th century, according to town records from Ghent, Bruges, and Utrecht. The word lottery probably came from Middle Dutch Loterie, a combination of Old English lot “fate” and the French verb loter, which means to “select by lot.”

It’s hard to win in the lottery if you don’t buy any tickets, but the odds do vary wildly. In addition to the price of a ticket and the prize, the number of available numbers and the minimum bet can make or break your chances.

If you’re a serious player, try to focus on numbers that fall within the range of 104 to 176—about 70% of jackpots have fallen in this numerical sweet spot. And steer clear of patterns like consecutive numbers, which have lower winning probabilities. You can even test out this strategy with scratch off tickets. Just hang around a store that sells them for a bit, and see if you can spot any repetitions in the “random” numbers.

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