How to Win the Lottery


The lottery is a game where people buy numbered tickets, and if their numbers match those drawn by a machine, they win a prize. It’s often referred to as a gambling game, but that doesn’t mean that winning one is necessarily a good thing.

In the nineteen-sixties, as Cohen explains, growing awareness of all the money to be made in the gaming business collided with a crisis in state funding. With the baby boom and Vietnam War behind them, states were struggling to balance their budgets without raising taxes or cutting services—a combination that was utterly unpopular with voters.

So, in order to keep their public services running and avoid a political disaster, legislators turned to the lottery. It was, they claimed, a “budgetary miracle, the chance for states to make revenue appear seemingly out of thin air.”

People were also buying lottery tickets in large numbers because they believed that the entertainment value (or whatever other non-monetary benefit they expected to get from playing) would outweigh the disutility of a monetary loss. And, as the odds of winning grew lower and lower—six out of fifty, now three out of thirty-five—people kept buying them.

But, if you want to win the lottery, forget about luck or gut feeling. It’s all about mathematical strategy. Learn how combinatorial math and probability theory work together to predict the likelihood of a certain template, and you can pick the best possible combinations. Then, when the next drawing comes up, your winnings will be a lot higher than your losses.

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