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Statistician Cracks Code For Lottery Tickets

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the knowing-where-to-scratch dept.

Math 374

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Lottery Post has an interesting story about Mohan Srivastava, an MIT educated statistician who became intrigued by a particular type of scratch-off lottery ticket called an extended-play game — sometimes referred to as a baited hook — that has a tic-tac-toe grid of visible numbers that looks like a miniature spreadsheet. Srivastava discovered a defect in the game: The visible numbers turned out to reveal essential information about the digits hidden under the latex coating. Nothing needed to be scratched off — the ticket could be cracked if you figured out the secret code. Srivastava's fundamental insight was that the apparent randomness of the scratch ticket was just a facade, a mathematical lie because the software that generates the tickets has to precisely control the number of winners while still appearing random. 'It wasn't that hard,' says Srivastava. 'I do the same kind of math all day long.'"

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Small typo (4, Funny)

benedictaddis (1472927) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086278)

"Lottery Post has an interesting story about Mohan Srivastava, a *millionaire* MIT educated statistician" Fixed that for you

Re:Small typo (4, Interesting)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086472)

Some people are not motivated primarily by greed. I'm guessing many people who go to MIT and become statisticians fall into that category, I mean, if they have that mindset and level of intelligence they could easily have gone to a business school and gone on to make millions. I'm not saying scientists, engineers and mathematicians are saints, they can be as petty as anyone, but if they wanted to be millionaires, they would have chosen different careers.

Re:Small typo (5, Informative)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086790)

He comments on the issue in TFA:

"I remember thinking, I'm gonna be rich! I'm gonna plunder the lottery!" he says. However, these grandiose dreams soon gave way to more practical concerns. "Once I worked out how much money I could make if this was my full-time job, I got a lot less excited," Srivastava says. "I'd have to travel from store to store and spend 45 seconds cracking each card. I estimated that I could expect to make about $600 a day. That's not bad. But to be honest, I make more as a consultant, and I find consulting to be a lot more interesting than scratch lottery tickets."

Seems like a decent, down-to-earth guy; he's pretty well off already (six figure salary, if he's making more than $600/day), so I'm sure it's a prospect that was easier for him to forego than most, but it looks like he's got a good balance between the comfort of money and enjoyment of his work.

Re:Small typo (2)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086846)

From TFA:

His next thought was utterly predictable: "I remember thinking, I'm gonna be rich! I'm gonna plunder the lottery!" he says. However, these grandiose dreams soon gave way to more practical concerns. "Once I worked out how much money I could make if this was my full-time job, I got a lot less excited," Srivastava says. "I'd have to travel from store to store and spend 45 seconds cracking each card. I estimated that I could expect to make about $600 a day. That's not bad. But to be honest, I make more as a consultant, and I find consulting to be a lot more interesting than scratch lottery tickets."

So, for him, the lottery was not profitable and interesting enough.

Re:Small typo (4, Funny)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086486)

How do you tell the difference between an MIT mathematician and a smart MIT mathematician? One talks to the media, the other is a millionaire.

Re:Small typo (2)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086690)

The MIT entry exam consists of giving away all you possessions before being admitted. Hence, the statistically low number of affluent MIT educated statisticians. (Un)fortunally, I failed that exam.

Re:Small typo (2)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086794)

I didn't know MIT was located in Vatican City ...

If you'd Read TFA ... (4, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086822)

How do you tell the difference between an MIT mathematician and a smart MIT mathematician? One talks to the media, the other is a millionaire.

If you'd read the fine article, you'd have seen that he calculated how much he'd earn by using his system and how long it would take - and found that it was far lower than his consulting pay rate. So if he spent time doing it rather than his day job he'd be taking a pay cut.

Sounds to me like a GOOD mathematician - one who applies math to ALL the aspects of the problem and comes to the right conclusion.

Re:Small typo (-1, Troll)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086488)

Statistics isn't really even that hard. Most mathematicians do the math because they enjoy it. If anything he has a arrogant side to him because he is wealthy.

Re:Small typo (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086744)

Statistics isn't hard? Let me guess, you base that on a couple of college courses? As an engineer, I've frequently run into statistical problems that neither I nor my coworkers have even the foggiest notion of how to approach. Things can get really ugly when you start dealing with the real world.

You're certainly right about one thing though - most mathematicians do the math because they enjoy it. Those aforementioned problems that were beyond me? I typically recruit some mathematicians and physicists I know from college, and they solve them for free.

Re:Small typo (3, Informative)

danlip (737336) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086524)

from TFA:

"Once I worked out how much money I could make if this was my full-time job, I got a lot less excited," Srivastava says. "I'd have to travel from store to store and spend 45 seconds cracking each card. I estimated that I could expect to make about $600 a day. That's not bad. But to be honest, I make more as a consultant, and I find consulting to be a lot more interesting than scratch lottery tickets."

Re:Small typo (0)

lul_wat (1623489) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086770)

How about I do the leg work, and he takes a cut? I'd be happy with 50/50. Seeing as I've been unemployed since July. Nice to know he makes more than $600 a day.

Re:Small typo (2)

yuriyg (926419) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086680)

This information looks more useful to the convenience store owners and clerks than to MIT educated statisticians. Even knowing the system, it's very hard to just stand there and pick out the tickets that you like, the store clerk would usually just rip off the first ticket from the roll. On the other hand, the clerks themselves have a lot of time to study these. I can image a pretty profitable scheme where the clerk would sell you certain tickets for extra 50% or so...

breaking news (5, Funny)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086290)

This just in, MIT-educated statistician Mohan Srivastava has retired suddenly at a young age and is not taking questions.

Re:breaking news (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086420)

This just in: MIT-educated statistician Mohan Srivastava was sued for DMCA violations for demonstrating a trivial security flaw in lottery tickets.

Horatio Caine says (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086298)

Now that's *sunglasses* the ticket.

YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Re:Horatio Caine says (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086478)

Where is the "Stab that guy in the face over the Internet" device when you need it?

Re:Horatio Caine says (1)

lul_wat (1623489) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086780)

Looks like all his internet trolling caused him to get hacked *sunglasses* to death.

YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

you just need to crack the UPC code on the back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086304)

my wife used to play these and i would take them to the store to redeem the winners. the people behind the counter never looked at the results scatched off. they just scanned the UPC code on the back into the lottery machine and it told them if it was a winner or not

Re:you just need to crack the UPC code on the back (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086414)

That does a lookup to a db in most cases. The UPC only gives them a number to check the DB for, not any information about status of the ticket. All of this seems worthless unless you can return tickets you have not scratched off or if they will sell them out of order, both are things most lottery ticket sellers will not do.

Re:you just need to crack the UPC code on the back (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086628)

TFA says otherwise.

Re:you just need to crack the UPC code on the back (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086676)

This is slashdot, we don't RTFA. You don't even have the excuse of being new here.

I was only familiar with the PA system, which seems to do a lookup of some sort because if the phone line or other connection the lottery terminal uses is not connected it cannot validate winning tickets.

Re:you just need to crack the UPC code on the back (1)

jshackney (99735) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086860)

Every now and then there's an article almost worth reading. I made it through nearly 70% of this article before I gagged on its excessive text and gave up.

Re:you just need to crack the UPC code on the back (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086746)

because the code is matched with the known winning ticket UPC codes, not because the UPC encoded the win or loss.

Dumb Fuck

Re:you just need to crack the UPC code on the back (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086806)

The bar code on the back of the ticket (the one you can see) is just for selling the ticket/inventory type things. There is another barcode that has the scratch off coating on it that is scanned to determine if it is a winner.

You know the old saying (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086310)

Lotteries are a tax on people who are bad at math. And people who are very good at math.

Re:You know the old saying (1)

BluBrick (1924) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086546)

No, the people who are very good at math are the tax collectors.

Re:You know the old saying (0)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086580)

Take any data set in any area of statistics. Try to find the algorithm or function which most closely approximates that data set. See the stock market for example. A completely random set of data with billions of points generated every day but, if you manage to find a proper subset, then you are able to generate Fibonacci type sequences to approximate some of it. The latest and greatest approximators are the the ones who make promotions.

So take any apparently data set. Take the apparently random data set generated by lottery hoppers--those big vats of flying balls which pick the winning numbers.

Now envision that the microchips inside of each and every lottery machine in each and every grocery and convenience store and filling station is nothing more than an algorithm trying to approximate the data set.

With enough statistical points, and considering that the randomly generated numbers are, from what I have been told, actually generated at some other system which sends them to the point of sale system...

If you have a hundred thousand slightly different algorithms then the people buying lottery tickets are not trying to win the lottery--they are mechanical Turks whose job it is to locate the algorithm which most reliably approximates the lottery ball hopper.

Why would anyone want to approximate the lottery ball hopper? Well, I imagine that the lottery ball hopper has those turning wheels and the airflow is precisely controlled because the lottery ball hopper is probably an experiment to approximate some profit generating system on the stock market.

So, basically, the lottery isn't really a tax on people who are bad at math. The lottery is a way for people to pay to be servants who are helping the lottery system owners to continue to exploit the system of financial investment (stock and bond market, banking industry, etc.) But don't the people who own the lottery also own the stock market? Maybe, maybe not. The people who own the lottery may be a subset of semi-ridiculously rich people who are still trying to get ahead of and compete with some other subset of semi-ridiculously wealthy people. Wealth doesn't satisfy anyone because there is always somebody with more.

Even easier code somewhat well known (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086314)

I used to work in a convenience store, and one of the employees told me of a a trick that I didn't believe until I saw it in action: simply find a winning ticket (~1 of 3) and taking every third in sequence (they all had serial numbers; adjust occasionally for non-winning tickets). No, it wasn't perfect, but I watched more than once as he quite legally turned a profit with scratch tickets: one of those "no f-ing way" moments, but in draw out over 5-10 minutes.

When was the last time you picked.... (2)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086328)

When was the last time you were allowed to look through and then pick the scratch off tickets you wanted from a spindle of tickets behind the counter.

While the game is flawed, there is no real way to get only the winners.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086352)

While the game is flawed, there is no real way to get only the winners.

Unless you work with a store employee. Oh, it would NEVER happen....

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086484)

Yeah, no way a guy named Mohan Srivastava would know anyone who works in a 7-eleven.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086502)

Exactly, given the right cellphone app to decode them, a gas station attendant could clean up.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086700)

They don't even need that. All they have to do is scan the card on those bar code scanners and it will tell you which ones are winners. I haven't seen them in a while (probably because someone figured it out...)

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (1)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086756)

Nice idea but it doesn't work. The scan also cancels the ticket for sell. In my state each ticket is scanned prior to sell, along with each roll of tickets being "activated" by scanning the wrapper barcode. So once you set in the store scanning tickets, you have to cash the winning tickets at that store (it is no good anywhere except that store and the state lottery offices once it has been scanned) and the store will have a crapton of losing tickets which have to be paid for and can not be sold. Good luck convincing your manger and his manager that it wasn't you on the video scanning those rolls of tickets.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086802)

There's more to it then that. Underneath the scratch off is usually a 4 digit 'pin' (it's actually the last 4 digits of a partially random SN) for the ticket it self. Scanning in the ticket will only give you everything up to that 4 digit number which then has to be scratched off to tell. As far as I can tell these 4 numbers are completely random.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086362)

You obviously don't live in Ontario, Canada. There are (allegedly) lots of lottery retailers here willing to let you look through their tickets for a split of the winnings.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (1)

Obyron (615547) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086738)

I'm in Ontario. My corner store has all of the scratch tickets loose in a sort of tray behind glass. You ask for one, and the slide out the tray and set it on the counter to let you pick which ticket you want. I wasn't aware that this conferred any sort of advantage, since your odds are the same no matter what... (unless you have the sort of tickets mentioned in TFA)

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086434)

I think one rules in Ontario is that you get to pick the ticket and not the counter guy.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (1)

HelioWalton (1821492) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086640)

Yeah, I don't think I've ever seen any store in Ottawa NOT let you pick your scratch ticket.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086476)

    I was kind of wondering the same thing. Maybe, just maybe, if you were personal friends with someone in the store, they'd let you look through the tickets for the winners. There's very likely a law of some sort about that too. Most likely, you and the employee who assisted with, would end up in jail for conspiracy to defraud the state and/or lottery commission. I'm fairly sure they have to give you the next ticket, not let you pick through the stack until you find one you "like".

    I'd say the best you could hope for is to ask to see the next ticket. After working through the numbers, you could then decide if you want it or not. As excited as I've seen clerks get about some guy who won $50 a few weeks before, I'd have to say that your chances are still shit. Most likely, he'll tell you to buy something or get the fuck out of his store.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086492)

No no, you examine the whole roll, write down which ones you want and have the person behind the counter by them for you as they come up. You pay him 10% of the take and you probably more than doubled his income.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086872)

Meh, I'd rather have the yodel. Mmmm...obscure.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086512)

When was the last time you were allowed to look through and then pick the scratch off tickets you wanted from a spindle of tickets behind the counter.

While the game is flawed, there is no real way to get only the winners.

they're usually in order so you just have to buy the first one/ask the guy the number, and buy X amount until you get the winning number

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (4, Informative)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086532)

RTFA

"Lots of people buy lottery tickets in bulk to give away as prizes for contests," he says. He asked several Toronto retailers if they would object to him buying tickets and then exchanging the unused, unscratched tickets. "Everybody said that would be totally fine. Nobody was even a tiny bit suspicious," he says. "Why not? Because they all assumed the games are unbreakable. So what I would try to do is buy up lots of tickets, run them through my scanning machine, and then try to return the unscratched losers.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086540)

RTFA and you'll find out how you can look at lots of tickets and take your pick of which to buy.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (1)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086678)

I always see people rifling through a set of cards, trying to "feel out" a winner. Of course, these people aren't statisticians and aren't actually doing anything better than random picks.

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (4, Insightful)

Mistlefoot (636417) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086768)

So:

Step 1) Be a retailer, or get a job for a retailer, selling lottery tickets. This would get past your "there is no real way to get only the winners"
Step 2) Take all the scratched tickets that people throw away onsite, and scan them for hints as to how to pick winners.
Step 3) Buy a bunch of probable winners to see how accurate you are, and if you are accurate, profit.

Now a few things come to mind.
Many people like to buy the "new" tickets as they seem to "win" more often. This would be normal if took a few weeks for retailers to get a handle on how to pick the winners. You win more often when "chance" is in play, and less often when the probably winners have been weeded out.

It would also explain how retailers cash a high percentage of winners, in Canada at least, were this has been in the news for the past few years.
Here is one such article, and note, this has led to changes in Canada. Seemingly not good enough.
http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/story.html?id=4be28910-9cec-4785-b471-f37849a29008&k=17633

Re:When was the last time you picked.... (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086842)

You can buy tickets in bulk and then return the ones you don't use - most stores will take them back. They do this because often employers will buy bunches to give as gifts to employees and then return them.

If I remember right, they even mention this in the Wired article.

Old News (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086340)

This was in Wired Magazine earlier last month.

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/01/ff_lottery/all/1

Seems to be the same as the Wired Article (5, Informative)

joeflies (529536) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086344)

The same article appeared in Feb 2011 issue of Wired [wired.com] even though Lottery Post doesn't seem to go out of its way to attribute the author and cite the issue properly.

Re:Seems to be the same as the Wired Article (2)

colsandurz45 (1314477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086562)

You're right. I read the this article in wired earlier this week! Even all the images are the same and they didn't remove this line from TFA: "In one of his most recent trials, conducted at the request of Wired," This is real copyright infringement.

Re:Seems to be the same as the Wired Article (2, Funny)

Riktov (632) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086774)

Copying others' work without attribution, in a forum dedicated to the idea of reaping riches without working for it? I would have never imagined!

Ehhhh, Cool? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086356)

This is nothing special... This information is told to many people that cash in lottery tickets in order to verify that they are legitimate. Obviously it is a well established fact that the codes are not random, they are in fact a mathematical formula that ensures that the state who issues the ticket will ultimately make money. Plus this information is still not helpful to figure out how to "beat" the lottery. Yes, you could discover if it is a winner or not without scratching but you can't pick and choose lottery tickets. I wish I had published these discoveries when I turned 18 and figured this stuff out for myself. Good work for going to MIT though.

Re:Ehhhh, Cool? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086440)

You can pick and choose lotter tickets all you like, if you are working at a place that sells them. Just exam each new ticket as it comes up and buy any winning one that is available. You could even pay off an employee to do this with you.

Wired Story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086382)

FYI, I think this is a Wired story by Jonah Lehrer:

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/01/ff_lottery/all/1 [wired.com]

If so, please modify the post to direct traffic where it ought to go.

Cheers!

You don't have to be non-random for fixed winners (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086386)

They must be dumbing the explanation down. You don't have to be non-random to control the number of winners. You can use a deterministic process to generate all the tickets in a series, and then a true random process to control the order in which the tickets are printed. If they're not doing that, they're really screwing up. Even a fairly dinky computer should be able to store patterns for all the tickets in a Big F'n Array, and use real random numbers to shuffle the Array. Then hit "print".

Re:You don't have to be non-random for fixed winne (1)

TheAlgebraist (1900322) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086514)

I think the issue is that there is in a lot of these tickets there is visible data and hidden data and you win if they match up somehow. Apparently for a lot of these tickets, the process used to generate the tickets is biased in that certain visible data was highly correlated with a ticket being a winner. This is not surprising, as generating random sequences of anything is hard, and I would imagine it is even harder when you want a random sequence of pairs (visible data and hidden data) that meet certain conditions with a given probability distribution so that the correlation of (any type of visible data pattern) to (any type of hidden data pattern) is tiny. The surprising bit in the specific case in the article is that the visible data pattern giving the high correlation, the presence of singletons, was relatively easy to spot.

Re:You don't have to be non-random for fixed winne (1)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086652)

Even still. In the tic-tac-toe game, it seems like you should be able to generate a set N of truly random tickets, and then randomly select exactly M of them to be winners by choosing the hidden numbers after you've picked which tickets should win and which should lose? The only quirk would be having to validate each loser to verify that you don't accidentally make a winner, but that should be sufficiently rare to not through a wrench into the plan.

Re:You don't have to be non-random for fixed winne (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086520)

The problem is that he reverse engineered their deterministic process for generating winners and losers and then was able to pick out the winning cards based on the partial information they revealed. The order in which they are printed doesn't really matter. Given any random subset of the cards he could pick the winners out of them at a much higher % than he should have been able to if they were actually random.

Sounds to me like they should figure the game out in such a way that a real random number generator will generate winners and losers at the desired rates on average and then just rely on the law of averages / large numbers to give them their desired take.

Re:You don't have to be non-random for fixed winne (4, Informative)

jschultz410 (583092) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086576)

The problem is that he reverse engineered their deterministic process for generating winners and losers and then was able to pick out the winning cards based on the partial information they revealed. The order in which they are printed doesn't really matter. Given any random subset of the cards he could pick the winners out of them at a much higher % than he should have been able to if they were actually random.

Sounds to me like they should figure the game out in such a way that a real random number generator will generate winners and losers at the desired rates on average and then just rely on the law of averages / large numbers to give them their desired take.

Forgot to login, sorry for the dup ... :(

Re:You don't have to be non-random for fixed winne (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086600)

You can use a deterministic process to generate all the tickets in a series

If you started at the time of the big bang, such a process wouldn't have finished yet.

Even a fairly dinky computer should be able to store patterns for all the tickets in a Big F'n Array

Ha ha.

Re:You don't have to be non-random for fixed winne (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086664)

They are scratch off tickets, not drawing tickets. So each round of each game (the different games are just different gimmicks, for marketing) has a fixed number of tickets and a fixed number of winning tickets, and both those numbers are 'small'.

Re:You don't have to be non-random for fixed winne (1)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086734)

I think you hit on the problem he found; if it was truly randomized (ie. just order), there'd be far more winners than they actually have. This means the set of cards that are likely to win are underrepresented. If there is a pattern they have in common, then you simply need to look for it. This guy figured out that winning tickets are likely to have a high frequency of singleton numbers and chose those.

Re:You don't have to be non-random for fixed winne (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086766)

The problem isn't the order of the tickets, its that the tickets have visible info on them that gives away the hidden info. Of course, you're still right that you don't need to be non-random to control the number of winners. Just use a true random process to generate the tickets, and a separate process to analyze the tickets created and hold back any winning tickets once you pass a certain quota (and re-introduce them to the stream at a random point if you fall too far below quota).

Knock Knock.. (1)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086408)

Who's there?
Lottery Commission.

DOH!

lawsuit in... (2)

Odinlake (1057938) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086426)

lawsuit coming in, 5, 4, 3 ....

Coolest part of the article (5, Interesting)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086428)

After calculating that his average winnings would come out to $600 a day:

"People often assume that I must be some extremely moral person because I didn't take advantage of the lottery," he says. "I can assure you that that's not the case. I'd simply done the math and concluded that beating the game wasn't worth my time."

Moral of the story for those who play the lotto: Even if you figure out how to break the game, it still isn't worth playing.

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086460)

If we estimate 220 working days a year this means he makes more than 132,000 a year. Seems like either he makes quite a bit or he needs to think bigger. Get 10 people all doing this and have him take 50% of the profits.

Re:Coolest part of the article (2)

rm999 (775449) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086564)

I'd guess he would rather expend his energy contributing to society rather than cheating a lottery. It's the difference between creating money and creating wealth. The people who concentrate on the latter tend to be more successful in the long run.

Re:Coolest part of the article (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086626)

Wow, you are naive. The name Bernie Madoff mean anything to you? And don't act like that finally caught up to him, he protected everyone else and will probably be released in 10 years when he is sick and old. Maybe High Frequency trading rings a bell? Perhaps you have heard of the tricks Microsoft used to gain and keep a desktop monopoly?

Re:Coolest part of the article (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086684)

Sure, but those are big crooks. Ripping off the lotto to the tune of $150k a year makes you a small crook, and small crooks do big time.

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086726)

Which is why I suggested having lots of people doing it for you. Then you might be able to make enough for the proper campaign contributions. Maybe not though.

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086776)

You can steal lot more with a pen than with a gun, and even more if you can order folks with pens to do your stealing for you.

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086742)

That and they'd probably arrest him at some point.

lotto and big slot wins are tax-free within Canada (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086784)

lotto and big slot wins are tax-free within Canada

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086816)

If we estimate 220 working days a year this means he makes more than 132,000 a year. Seems like either he makes quite a bit or he needs to think bigger. Get 10 people all doing this and have him take 50% of the profits.

That would require revealing his methods to more people, which would be sure to make them useless eventually, as "those 10 people" are not going to be able to keep quiet about the exploit.

Assuming it's even easy to find 10 people who are good enough with memory and mathematics to execute the exploit.

I would say reliably using the flaw to find winning tickets requires a level of intelligence slightly higher than the average person.

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086870)

Not when you can just give them smartphones with the software to do the job installed on them. You can even setup the application to stop working if you do not get paid.

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086542)

I thought that was pretty cool too. But he said it took 45 seconds or so to figure out if a ticket was a winner, and that was the big issue. But that was back in '03. Today, you could easily program a smartphone to recognize the pattern on the ticker and figure out for you if the ticket is a winner in a second or two, easily increasing the rate you could do this.

It would still be hard work and I'd imagine it would be very boring and tedious to do every day, but you could do it faster today.

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

Skidborg (1585365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086702)

The big thing would be that you would still have to wait around the store for the winning tickets to come up so you could buy them.

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086710)

Couldn't you just buy them in bulk and return them like the article says? Then you can use a machine to scan and select winners and losers. Then just return the losers and cash in your winners.

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

tyme (6621) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086570)

um, that's between $150,000 and $215,000 a year, depending on if we are talking about only working days or not. While that's not CEO-money, it's nothing to sneeze at (it puts you in the top 20% of households in the U.S.A.). I'd say that would be worth my time, and the time of just about everyone that I know, assuming that you could pull it off in no more than 40 hours per week.

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086724)

that's PRE-tax. If I recall correctly, aren't gambling earnings heavily taxes on both State and Federal level?

So let's use your high number of $215K. Let's assume 30% for both State/Federal. You are now at $150.5

Secondly it's assuming you got it 100% correct 100% of the time. Also assumes they have those tickets and never runs out. Also assumes he finds a certain amount of winners pre-roll. All assumes the places let him inspect the tickets for 45 seconds each before purchasing. Lots of conditions there. If any of those aren't meet your rate of return goes down. Say this only works out for you 70% of the time, you are now at: 105.35K

Business expenses? You need transportation. Your now at $90.35K

Third, after awhile, don't you think the clerks would be suspect? "This guy comes in every day at 2 pm, stands around for 7 minutes staring at the counter then manages to buy 3 winning lottery tickets in a row. Every day, like clock work".

Fourth, he said he made more than that on consulting.

Fifth, your entire job is based on one ticket. What if it's discontinued? Not a lot of job security there.

Re:Coolest part of the article (2)

glwtta (532858) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086814)

it puts you in the top 20% of households in the U.S.A.

Wouldn't that put you in the top 3% or so? Only need $90k for top 20%.

Re:Coolest part of the article (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086614)

Do you know any stores that will allow you to inspect their scratch-off lotto tickets to pick out the specific ones on the roll you'd like to buy? How would you pull this off?

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

Melibeus (94008) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086866)

How would I pull this off?
Buy a lot of them then sell the duds to some dimwit at 50% off.

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

kabloom (755503) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086716)

It wasn't, for him, on that game, but the article goes on to speculate that it's extremely profitable for some people.

Re:Coolest part of the article (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086796)

I'll bet his tune would be a bit different if he were unemployed.

However... if "$600 a day" is chump change to him, then he must be a really good statistician.

I wonder by what definition he doesn't consider himself already rich?

Old story... (1)

froggymana (1896008) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086430)

I read this a week or so ago in Wired Magazine. /. really needs to get better about getting articles out when they happen...

Re:Old story... (4, Funny)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086482)

A week is not old for slashdot, I can see you are new here so we can let it slide this once. In the future you should probably also not read the articles.

There's an App for that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086452)

Android App in 3 2 1.

Here's the article from Wired magazine (good read) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086538)

Here's the link to an article about this in Wired. A very interesting read.

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/01/ff_lottery/all/1

- Joenonymous Howard

Original story was from Wired (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086598)

TFA on Lottery Post was plagiarised from Wired.

Original story: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/01/ff_lottery/all/1 [wired.com]

Re:Original story was from Wired (1)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086788)

plagiarized? Usually when you plagiarize something you don't mention the source. See that mention of "Wired" at the bottom below the pictures/above the comments?

Why major in math? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35086638)

Because I am calling you from my boat, BITCH!

He figured out the pattern from 2 tickets (4, Interesting)

mbenzi (410594) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086718)

I read the Wired article; the amazing thing is he did this with sample size of two.

Erm. Why don't they hide both sets of numbers? (1)

milage (881680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086762)

Surely they just need to hide both sets of numbers so that they can't be seen before you buy? Then in order to play you have to scratch off both sets of numbers?

Re:Erm. Why don't they hide both sets of numbers? (1)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086818)

Because it's a complex game. It's sort of like playing 10 bingo cards at the same time. You need a way to mark what spots on each card have been drawn. To do that, you scratch off the spaces to mark them. If you have to scratch off the entire game board, then you have no way to mark the spaces on your cards (since lottery tickets are designed so that you don't need anything but your scratching device to play).

Big North American industries (FTFA): (1)

AaronParsons (1172445) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086778)

FTFA:

The North American lottery system is a $70 billion-a-year business, an industry bigger than movie tickets, music, and porn combined.

Wow... that IS big!

numb3rs plot (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 3 years ago | (#35086836)

Numb3rs was a tv series that focused on the FBI solving crimes with the help of a mathematician. One of the episodes centered around a plot very similar to this.

A person who worked with the state lottery commission tried to and succeeded in cracking the code for one of the scratch off tickets. However, they never cashed in the small winners. The end goal was to find and cash in a ticket worth 10 million. It seemed like one of the more farfetched ideas until i read about this

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