The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

While my chances of winning are zero, I still have my dollar

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 00:09:50 +0000

Hello there,

On your page I noticed that you are linking to an article about the chances at winning the lottery. I just wanted to ask for some feedback about what you thought of an article that I recently wrote.

You can see it right here:

If you were interested it would be great if you wanted to add my article as a resource on the page I mentioned. If you prefer you may also republish the article.

Thank you,


I suppose John was operating under the theory that “it doesn't hurt to ask.”

The post in question isn't so much about the chances at winning the lottery (although I stand a better chance of being Tom Cruise than of winning the Mega Millions Jackpot) as it's best not to play at all.

There's nothing in my post (or the article I linked to) about how to improve your chances at winning.


The advice given in the link (which I read so you don't have to) simply boils down to “buy more tickets with less commonly picked numbers” with some dodgy math thrown in, like this bit from the page:

Ethan Wolff-Mann puts it this way: In a basic lottery with just one prize, $1 tickets, and 100 people playing, any jackpot over $100 will mean that a ticket will be worth more than the $1 it costs. If you bought all the tickets for $100, you would win the jackpot and take home more than what you paid. So theoretically, at a certain size, a lottery ticket can actually be worth more than what you pay for it.

Yes, but …

In this case, yes, the expected value is greater than $1. So if the jackpot is $200, then the expected value is $2. But that's not the case for most lotteries. I'm looking at the latest Florida Lottery payouts, and man, the expected value just isn't there. The chance of getting 3 out of 6 numbers (easiest to win) is 1 in 71 (1.4% chance) and for that, you spent $1 to win $5, or an expected value of 7¢.

Yeah, lotteries are a tax on the innumerate.

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