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Patterns in Lottery Numbers

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the you're-still-advised-against-playing dept.

Math 563

markmcb writes "Most everyone is familiar with the concept of the lottery, i.e., random numbers are selected and people guess what they will be for a cash prize. But how random are the numbers? Matt Vea has conducted a pattern analysis of the MegaMillions lottery, which recently offered a sum of $370M (USD) to the winner. Matt shows that the lottery isn't as random as it may seem and that there are 'better' choices than others to be made when selecting numbers. From the article, 'A single dollar in MegaMillions purchases a 1 in 175,711,536 chance of landing the jackpot ... a player stands a mildly better chance of winning a partial prize through the selection of weighted numbers.'" Includes some excellent charts of his analysis.

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Conclusions... (1)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200687)

Not much in the way of conclusions...

"Interesting as these trends may be, they will not assist in making the odds of winning the MegaMillions lottery any better if the system is truly fair and random. However, in the event there is some peculiar factor skewing the ball selection such that any of these trends continue, a player stands a mildly better chance of winning a partial prize through the selection of weighted numbers."

Re:Conclusions... (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200879)

Of course you can't conclude much from this analysis. In any random distribution you're going to see random statistical fluctuations causing some clustering. Some numbers will get picked more than you'd predict by chance, just by chance. And necessarily some numbers will be picked less often than you'd predict by chance. The upside of this is that you can predict the extent of this clustering and compare that to the actual data to see if it's rigged.

And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (5, Funny)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200693)

Most lotteries (as opposed to raffles) have less than half the money spent by lottery ticket buyers going into the payout pool.

You're already losing by buying the ticket.

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (5, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200743)

You're already losing by buying the ticket.
From an arithmetical perspective, yes. From a more subjective standpoint, no.

Instead of using absolute dollar figures for your analysis, you should use lifestyle impact.

e.g. One dollar a week == no lifestyle impact; $370MM payout == off the charts lifestyle impact.

This is why people will continue to play the lottery, even if mathematically it's a poor choice.

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (3, Insightful)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200819)

No, not just statistical, but from life.

I have participated in both lotteries (and have won up to $1000 in them, and made more than I ever spent).

I have also participated in raffles - and won similar payouts.

As to the lifestyle impact, it is a provable truism that most maximum payout winners do not actually improve their lives.

It's like when I got an inheritance - the best thing you can do with that is max out your retirement funds and pay off debt, and then put much of the rest in paying down your mortgage. Most people blow it, though.

The difference between being rich and poor is usually how much you save and what you buy. Lottery tickets can be a fun diversion, cheaper than getting drunk, but they are not a wise use of cash.

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201203)

As to the lifestyle impact, it is a provable truism that most maximum payout winners do not actually improve their lives.
He didn't say off the charts happiness, he said off the charts lifestyle impact. You have to admit that spending 1 dollar a week has less of an impact (good or bad) on someone's lifestyle than getting $370 million at once does (again, good or bad).

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

pluther (647209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201247)

e.g. One dollar a week == no lifestyle impact; $370MM payout == off the charts lifestyle impact.

As to the lifestyle impact, it is a provable truism that most maximum payout winners do not actually improve their lives.

I believe that what you say is true.

But, I would further suggest that anybody who gets a $370 Million payout and has anything less than an off the charts lifestyle impact is a complete moron with no imagination.

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (5, Insightful)

king-manic (409855) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200839)

Instead of using absolute dollar figures for your analysis, you should use lifestyle impact.

e.g. One dollar a week == no lifestyle impact; $370MM payout == off the charts lifestyle impact.
Also, for 1 dollar a week you are buying a mild emotional high when checking the numbers and a mild emotional low when you find out that math pwned you again.

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201063)

Except those of us who do understand math don't have the matching low because we already had a pretty darn good idea we woldn't win. But we have fun with it, so I wouldn't say we lost a dollar.

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21200751)

Alternately, I'm making a contribution to a cause I support, with the added benefit of a chance at becoming fabulously wealthy.

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201111)

Alternately, I'm making a contribution to a cause I support, ...

What cause is that? Higher taxes? Slower economic growth? Greater government corruption?

We ARE talking about the government lotteries here.

If it's a private lottery by a charity you support your position makes perfect sense. But in those cases the payoff is typically a (sometimes large) token contributed by another donor, rather than money in amounts that would make you "fabulously wealthy".

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

cromar (1103585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200755)

You're already losing by buying the ticket.

No, not really. Your state is getting paid revenue (supposedly for education around here - not always). Also, you are getting a chance to win the Jackpot...

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

Yath (6378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200889)

If you believe the state needs more of your money, it would be at least twice as efficient to just send them a check. Buying lottery tickets is less efficient because your money will be supporting the lottery apparatus - and because about 50% of it will be going to winner payouts.

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200897)

How much is actually going to the causes?(hell, in PA the cause is "older Pennsylvanians", that outta teach the youth vote :P) I wish I could find the study, but in some cases less than 25% actually gets to where it's going. Most of the rest of the money is for payouts and, at least in PA, for massive amounts of advertising and massive salaries for those involved in organizing the lottery. You are probably better off just donating half the money you would have spent on the lottery to the charity of your choice.

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

cromar (1103585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201169)

According to their website [molottery.com] :

Approximately 27.1 cents of every dollar spent on the Missouri Lottery benefits Missouri's education programs; 63 cents goes back to players as prizes, 3.8 cents is used for administrative costs and 6.1 cents goes to retailers in the form of commissions, incentives and bonuses. In all, more than 96 cents of every dollar stays in Missouri!

I remember there was some sort of scandal 5 or 6 years ago, but I can't find any info on it at the moment...

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (3, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201025)

You're already losing by buying the ticket.

No, not really. Your state is getting paid revenue (supposedly for education around here - not always).


Which is just the excuse they used to get it through.

But money is the ultimate fungible commodity. (That's its whole purpose, after all.) Any amount that the lottery puts into the schools the state government can neglect to put in when they set the next budget. So the effect is that the lottery money goes to the pet projects of the legislature (in a roundabout-on-paper fashion).

Also, you are getting a chance to win the Jackpot...

Yep.

For the smaller ones the payoff is small enough to not matter. Further, the odds are short enough and the players play often enough that the payoff quickly approaches the expectation - usually $0.50 for every $1.00 played. (They take your money and give half of it back in chunks.)

For the big jackpots the odds are typically in the ballpark of being hit by lightning 10 times. And while the payoff typically has a "half the pot" number, it's paid out over a long enough period that you're just getting the INTEREST on the payoff, while the state keeps the principal, making the effective value much lower. (In some cases you have the option to select getting a much lower payout right away, which proves the point...) And then the federal government takes a cut. So the expectation is 'WAY less than $.50 out for every $1.00 in.

Lotteries are a voluntary tax on innumeracy (mathematical illiteracy).

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200881)

less than half the money spent by lottery ticket buyers going into the payout pool. You're already losing by buying the ticket.
No, no, no. You clearly haven't understood how it works. See, the prize pool isn't divided up equally among all the players. Most will in fact get none, but a few will get quite a lot (it depends in some way on what numbers come up compared with the numbers the players chose). People play because they want to be in that happy few.

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

travdaddy (527149) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200921)

You're already losing by buying the ticket.

This is pedantic BUT sometimes (rarely) the lottery's jackpot will grow big enough that you aren't already losing, and you actually have good odds.

Example: the chances of winning could be 1 in 107 million but the jackpot has unexpectedly grown to 150 million. Hypothetically, you could buy all 107 million tickets and still win money.

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

Loether (769074) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201011)

The problem with that "sure fire" method to win is multi winners. Often On the big jackpots they end up split. So even if I had 107 million dollars to buy all the combos I'm still making a wager that I'm the only winner.

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201051)

I wonder if anyone has actually done that

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

bertybassett (242946) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201103)

I recall a few years ago in Virginia (I think)....there was an Australian syndicate doing just that. They bought loads of tickets through hundreds of 'agents' and actually won a fair chunk of change. Same thing happens in Europe too, although I think some countries changed the rules to limit how many tickets a single syndicate could buy....spoilsports!

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201243)

This is pedantic BUT sometimes (rarely) the lottery's jackpot will grow big enough that you aren't already losing, and you actually have good odds.

But in calculating the odds you have to include more than the payout ratio:
  - Payout is over time, lowering the effective value of the money.
  - Even if exempt from state taxes, payouts are subject to federal tax.

You need a dollar value expectation FAR more than 1:1 for the actual expectation to exceed 1:1. But this pretty much never happens. The stampede betting starts when a holdover jackpot makes the dollar value expectation exceed 1:1 and the massive betting dilutes the holdover pot, pushing the odds back toward their normal values.

Re:And yet, one truth escapes the analysis (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201123)

You're already losing by buying the ticket.
The multi-state Powerball odds of winning the jackpot is 1 in 146,107,962. I used to figure that their one time payout number was something like half the prize total, so if you wanted a $1 per $1 expected return, you should only buy the tickets when the jackpot is over $290 million. But that is assuming a single winner.
Now, most likely, when you start to get that big of a jackpot, a lot more people will play, so you end up usually having on average about 2 winners. So this would say that in order to get a $1 per $1 return, you should not play unless the jackpot is over $580 million.

"math" is the wrong tag (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21200715)

We need a "badatmath" tag.

Re:"math" is the wrong tag (1)

edittard (805475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200995)

There isn't enough for it to be bad.

No significance tests. No confidence intervals. Lame.

Re:"math" is the wrong tag (1)

NekSnappa (803141) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201167)

I'd prefer a "Fscking Duh!" tag myself

Your best bet. (5, Funny)

RandoX (828285) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200727)

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42.

Re:Your best bet. (1)

ZiakII (829432) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200857)

Personally I like the numbers.....

1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32

Re:Your best bet. (1)

ZiakII (829432) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201145)

or you could take another approach,

2,3,5,7,11,13

or.....

3,1,41,59,2,65

Re:Your best bet. (1)

cwest (66027) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200867)

this week's prize of 370m will be shared by 370m winners.

Re:Your best bet. (4, Funny)

Basehart (633304) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200871)

I picked 42, 42, 42, 42, 42, 42 just be on the safe side.

Re:Your best bet. (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201033)

I picked 42, 42, 42, 42, 42, 42 just be on the safe side.

At that point, you would have the answer to the entire Universe and winning the lottery would be trivial at best.

Re:Your best bet. (2, Funny)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200905)

No way, man, I don't want my gramma to break her ankle and watch her house burn down.

Re:Your best bet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21200951)

Ya but being stranded on an Island with Sawyer.... :)

Re:Your best bet. (5, Funny)

Dusty00 (1106595) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200981)

They won't let me play my lucky number: 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

Re:Your best bet. (1)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201229)

Nah, I always play my luggage number: 1...2...3..4

Conclusion: (2, Informative)

wesborgmandvm (893569) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200729)

Interesting as these trends may be, they will not assist in making the odds of winning the MegaMillions lottery any better if the system is truly fair and random. However, in the event there is some peculiar factor skewing the ball selection such that any of these trends continue, a player stands a mildly better chance of winning a partial prize through the selection of weighted numbers.

So It's Pretty Darn Random Then? (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200767)

How does the outcome of thousands of already drawn balls assure that same frequency will continue to occur?

These differences aren't that compelling. To me I would say, "Congratulations, you have found some deviation from equal frequency for all balls. But this would happen in any instance of drawing these balls."

I'm concerned that this has been an exercise in deviation in pseudo random systems. The same could be done with a computer simulation and similar results would be found.

I hate to say it but this study points out to me that the lottery is actually pretty much as close to random as it could get. In fact, the summary of the paper states that if there were some event to skew this, then you could achieve a small bonus:

However, in the event there is some peculiar factor skewing the ball selection such that any of these trends continue, a player stands a mildly better chance of winning a partial prize through the selection of weighted numbers.
However this peculiar factor can not only be identified but if it exists, it is highly unlikely it is anything even remotely observable.

Lottery vs. poker (3, Interesting)

darjen (879890) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200771)

A single dollar in MegaMillions purchases a 1 in 175,711,536 chance of landing the jackpot ... a player stands a mildly better chance of winning a partial prize through the selection of weighted numbers.
As an amateur poker player, I'd say I have a better chance of winning the world series of poker. There is absolutely no reason for the lottery to be the only form of legal gambling, while poker remains illegal. Other than the states want to maintain their monopoly on gambling. God forbid I should spend $30 on a tournament buy-in, while someone down the street buys 30 legal lottery tickets. Especially since I have a pretty good shot at making more than my $30 back.

Re:Lottery vs. poker (2, Informative)

wile_e_wonka (934864) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200965)

I think the reason is pretty obvious. The state keeps half the money people spend on lottery tickets (more than half according to another comment above--I don't actually know the exact percentage), whereas the private poker house doesn't give anything to the state. So yeah, you're right it's the states' desire to keep their stanglehold on gambling. Note that in Nevada, where gambling is legal, the stanglehold is just as strong. You didn't think the casinos kept all that money did you? Funny thing, it just goes to show how dumb it is to gamble--casinos rip people off of enough money to pay a huge chumk of it to the state and still have plenty left over to build build frilly over-the-top gold palaces and pay their executives millions.

Re:Lottery vs. poker (1)

Stoggie (95578) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201035)

maybe it's because people can fix deck/game easier when it's not controlled by the state.

Misleading summary (1)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200781)

I think the submitter purposely wrote the summary to mislead. It is clear from their conclusions that they haven't done anything that is being claimed in the summary; they only suggest in the end that if there were some sort of advantage in selecting certain balls, someone could take advantage of that (seems obvious).

Interesting, but... (1)

MikeyTheK (873329) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200787)

This assumes that no changes are made drawing over drawing. How would you be aware that such changes are made? For instance, what if a fan, stirrer, or the balls are switched out, as one can suppose does happen. As you are not aware of these changes, you are back where you started from. This also supposes that the auditors that are supposed to ensure that the results are random aren't doing their jobs by performing rigorous testing. In that way, the lottery commission is opening it up to lawsuits by players alleging that the game is not fair. So while the research is interesting, it would be extremely difficult to actually use it in the real world, especially now that the work is public, which means that the behavior of the lottery is likely to change as a result.

Sorta related question. (1)

Xoltri (1052470) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200793)

I have always wondered one thing about draws. Say you have a 50/50 type draw where you can enter as many times as you like. If you buy 2 tickets are your chances actually twice as great as if you just bought one? Or if you buy 100 tickets do you have a 100 times greater chance of winning?

Re:Sorta related question. (1)

Inmatarian (814090) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200899)

The chances depend on the desired outcome. The chance of any individual ticket hitting the win is still 50/50. The chance of having a win on either ticket can be demonstrated by this table of outcomes:

Win Win
Win Lose
Lose Win
Lose Lose

So, yes, you have a better chance of winning once with two tickets, assuming the odds are still 50/50.

Re:Sorta related question. (1, Informative)

exploder (196936) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200923)

For this problem, you think about your chances of not winning:

One ticket: chance of not winning = 1/2
Two tickets: chance of not winning = (1/2)^2 = 1/4
N tickets: chance of not winning = (1/2)^N

So, even with 100 tickets, you still have a (1/2)^100, or about a one in a thousand billion billion billion, chance to still not win.

Re:Sorta related question. (1)

Loether (769074) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200949)

Assuming you choose different numbers for each ticket, your odds of winning would go up however your odds of losing go up at the same level. Take your 50/50 example. You buy 1 ticket you have an equal chance to win and lose. you buy 2 tickets you have a 100% to win one and 100% to lose one. still 50/50 odds. In other words buy 1 ticket or 2 each have the same odds. The real question you should ask yourself is how much voluntary tax do you want to pay? I pay enough in tax's, therefore I don't pay extra to the lotto.

Re:Sorta related question. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201019)

That's not the real question, that is just you whining. Christ, the discussion is about math and numbers not taxes.

Re:Sorta related question. (1)

loserMcloser (748327) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200967)

Ticket draws are different than lotteries. With lotteries the number of possible winning numbers is fixed, so buying more tickets (with different numbers) increases the size of the numerator while the denomenator remains fixed, so playing two sets of numbers truly gives you twice the odds of winning. With ticket draws, every ticket you buy increases not only the tickets you hold but also increases the total number of tickets in the drum to be drawn from, so your increase in odds is not just a multiple.

For example, suppose there is a draw where 99 tickets have already been sold. You buy one ticket, so now there are 100 tickets sold and you have a 1/100 chance of winning. You buy another ticket (before anyone else does), so now you hold two tickets out of the 101 tickets sold, so your chances are now 2/101, which is *slightly* less than twice your chances with just the one ticket.

Re:Sorta related question. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200971)

Yes, assuming each ticket has a different number.

if you have 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 and the drawing will be for one of those numbers.

If you buy 1 number, you chance are 1 in 10
2 number 2 in 10.
.
.
.
10 different numbers, 10/10

Now the lottery has gotten to an amount where if you bought every possible combination, you would of course win, and make money, but:
You would have only made money if only you won, and more importantly, you can not get the machines to produce that many selection in the time between drawings... and you would need millions of dollars.

I am waiting for them to go online, Then I will automate the buying process, and submit just before the drawing. That way the drawing will happen before my account is checked!
genius I tells you!

Re:Sorta related question. (1)

bpjk (305635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201223)

Well, let's use basic counting (and assume the drawings are all independent) and that the outcomes of each drawig is a "Heads" or "Tails"

If you play once, there are only two possible outcomes: it's either Heads or it's Tails. You picked one when playing (say you picked Heads). Of all possible outcomes (two), your choice (or ticket) is one of them, so you a one to two chance of winning (or 1/2 which is 50%).

Now take playing twice. The possible outcomes are:

  • Heads for the first draw, Heads for the second
  • Heads for the first draw, Tails for the second
  • Tails for the first draw, Heads for the second
  • Tails for the first draw, Tails for the second

So, there are four possible outcomes. Now let's say you chose Heads for the first and Heads for the second drawing. What are you chances of winning *something*?

To win something, one of the two or both drawings must score. You have Heads+Heads. Of all the outcomes, this gives you a win for possible outcomes 1, 2 and 3 as they have a Heads in there, so that's 3 out of 4 or 75%. So, playing twice, you have a 75% chance of winning something. This is obviously not twice as much as 50%, so the answer to your question is "No".

Notes:

  • As you play more often, the chance keeps getting closer to 100%, but it will never reach 100%
  • Even if you have a 99% of winning something, that doesn't mean you *will* win something
  • The chances of winning multiple times decrease rapidly: in the example above, the chances of winning both drawings is 25% (only one of the possibilities out of four), so as you play more often, the chances of getting back your accumulated investment decrrease rapidly as well (assuming it costs you something to play)
  • This method still works when drawings are not independent but counting possible outcomes becomes more complex
  • There are fairly easy methods of computing all of this quickly using factorials and combinatorics and such. Google for it.

How about ANY random numbers? (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200795)

I wonder how much ANY random set of numbers would show patterns if one tried hard enough to find them.

Re:How about ANY random numbers? (2, Interesting)

AmigaHeretic (991368) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200855)

I wonder how much ANY person would see ghosts if one tried hard enough to find them at the Waverly Hills Sanatorium?

Re:How about ANY random numbers? (1)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201201)

Chances of getting me to spend a night there...approaching zero.

Fl. lottery... (2, Interesting)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200801)

Fl. Lottery used to print which machine would be used for a particular drawing, and old drawing numbers - with machine that was used - in a nice column format (probably real easy to rip out of a web page, etc).

Now I'm not a math guy, but I *know* that all 50whatever balls aren't identical. Should there be some (very) slight preference for a particular ball, or set of balls, over a series of draws over time? I seem to remember an article in a Dragon magazine about dice and using math to find out if yours had a preference for a particular number...

Re:Fl. lottery... (1)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201031)

I seem to remember an article in a Dragon magazine about dice and using math to find out if yours had a preference for a particular number...

That's "Be thy die ill-wrought?" in Dragon 78; it's also in the collection "The Dragon Compendium, Volume 1". The article talks about using the chi-square test in order to quantify your dice rolls. A similar article that pushes all the math to your computer is at Are my dice random? [godsmonsters.com] .

Power Point (1)

AmigaHeretic (991368) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200805)

I prefer my bad math in Power Point format.... err I guess it's Preso now.

Oh wait, just kidding...Keynotes the winner!!

Re:Power Point (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201073)

I prefer my bad math in Excel spreadsheets [slashdot.org]

-mcgrew [mcgrew.info]

Lottery Equation??? (1)

madhatter256 (443326) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200827)

So, where's the equation? I need to know so that I have a chance at winning my state's lottery. I'm a poor college student!

Closest I got to winning the lotto jackpot here was with 4 numbers, out of 6.

Transmeta (1)

AmigaHeretic (991368) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200895)

I'm broke and I got all 6 numbers out of 6.

I invested in http://www.transmeta.com/ [transmeta.com] :(

yes, indeed there *Are* patterns (and not) (5, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200843)

Yes, you will see patterns.

And if you look up in the night sky, you'll see an archer, a bull, a big and a small dipper.

What's your point?

The author of... (1)

MuscaDomestica (764805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200845)

So that is the author of the Book "Winning Lottery Numbers" as seen on the Simpsons!

You can't lose if you don't play (5, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200887)

One of the slogans for the Illinois lottery used to be "you can't win if you don't play", but I figured every time I didn't play, I won $1. Its both stupid and ironic that many of the same people bitching about taxes pay this voluntary tax!

At the astronomical odds against winning, I figure my chances of finding a winning ticket on the ground are only marginally worse than my chances of buying a winning ticket. So rather than give extra money to the government so it will be funnelled to politically connected rich people, I just watch the ground.

-mcgrew

Re:You can't lose if you don't play (5, Interesting)

zerocool^ (112121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201041)



One of the slogans for the Illinois lottery used to be "you can't win if you don't play", but I figured every time I didn't play, I won $1. Its both stupid and ironic that many of the same people bitching about taxes pay this voluntary tax!

At the astronomical odds against winning, I figure my chances of finding a winning ticket on the ground are only marginally worse than my chances of buying a winning ticket. So rather than give extra money to the government so it will be funnelled to politically connected rich people, I just watch the ground.


I play the Mega Millions every time the numbers are drawn. We have a standing office pool with 4 of us, and we play 4 numbers every time the balls are dropped, the same 4 sets of numbers each time.

What have we won? Well, one time we won $150. But aside from that, we know that the lotto money goes into the public school system. So, in effect, I'm donating $8 - $9 minus administrative fees to the school system every month.

I'm ok with that.

And on the off chance that I ever win the lotto, none of you will ever hear from my fat ass again.

~Wx

Re:You can't lose if you don't play (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21201043)

> Its both stupid and ironic that many of the same people bitching about taxes pay this voluntary tax!

I DEMAND PROOF OF THIS ASSERTION!!!!

Re:You can't lose if you don't play (1)

Peter La Casse (3992) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201215)

Its both stupid and ironic that many of the same people bitching about taxes pay this voluntary tax!

Why is that stupid and ironic? Lots of things become unacceptable when you make them involuntary.

from TFA reference Note #1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21200907)

also at: http://www.uncoveror.com/lottery.htm [uncoveror.com]

--

THE LOTTERY IS RIGGED

You may have heard that you are more likely to be hit on the head by a meteorite than to win the lottery. This is certainly so. Assuming that the game is honest, the odds are roughly one in several hundred million. Even with these odds, lottery commissions are not satisfied. The lottery is rigged.

  The giant multi-state and individual state lotteries are more fixed than pro wrestling. The jackpots go up and up, with no winners. People get lottery fever. Millions nationwide are willing to wait in a line just like the ones for bread in the former Soviet Union for the pipe dream of striking it rich. The rigging works like this: super computers keep track of each combination sold, and then the ping-pong balls are weighted to assure that a losing combination comes up. On rare occasions, all possible combinations are sold, and they must let someone win. Only then is the game honest.

Why? The lottery, which is a state-run version of the Mafia's numbers racket, is a great money grab scam, as long as it brings in more than it pays out. In the past, lotteries were abolished because they lost money.

The worst part of this is whom it hurts. The poor and desperate are the most common victims of lottery fever. Children go hungry and senior citizens go without their medication because of it. People prone to gambling addiction also blow huge sums.

We spoke with an employee at a state lottery agency. We can not reveal his name or even which state, as some of the same gangsters who ran the numbers racket now run the lottery, and they would kill him.

"Yes, I personally am involved in it. Lottery ping-pong balls have a small valve, like a basketball or soccer ball, only it's very tiny, and nearly invisible. We use a hypodermic needle to inject heavier-than-air gasses such as radon into the balls we don't want to come up. At first, we tried helium in the ones we did want to rise, but they jumped up so quickly that it was obvious. Lotteries are raking in much more than if the games were honest, and people don't know they have literally no chance!"

"If you think about it logically, you certainly don't play anyway. You are betting that you can predict which six of 45 or more balls are going to come out of the hopper. In some games, the order even matters! It's a sucker's bet, and that's when it's honest! Most drawings are rigged, making the odds zero in infinity! The lottery is not only a tax on people who don't understand math; it is an unfair and unjust tax. Didn't we have the American Revolution over taxes like that?"

--

Missing data (5, Insightful)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200909)

While you can analyse the numbers that come up, the interesting data isn't usually available to you: namely what numbers people are betting on. For example in the UK lottery it is known that about 10,000 people a week bet on 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. So that automatically is a really bad choice because if that combination came up, you would get £prize / 10,000.

Example: if lots of people bet on (eg.) birthdays, then you'd expect the people to select numbers > 31 less frequently, which means you could try to cover bets with numbers > 31 and have a greater payout. Without the distribution of betting numbers though you can't tell.

Rich.

Re:Missing data (4, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201081)

A lot of lottos that offer a computer 'quick-pick' are set up so that the quick-pick only chooses numbers not already taken. Of course, someone could namually choose your set of numbers after you buy your ticket, but if you want to maximize your potential earnings, always use the quick-pick (for lottos that obey this rule).

Re:Missing data (1)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201149)

That's interesting, thanks.

I haven't played the UK lottery, ever, so I don't know if they have the "quick pick" feature over here.

But on the other hand, it means I've won £1/week every week for the past 15 or so years by not playing, with only a miniscule chance that I could have won the big prize!

Rich.

Re:Missing data (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201127)

"So that automatically is a really bad choice because if that combination came up, you would get £prize / 10,000."

Do you want to think about that some more?

You are saying that lottery winning / 10,000 is worse then not winning at all.

No if you want to optimize the amount of many you could win if the numbers come up, then I would bet all my numbers over 31.

Personally, when I do play I just let the machine pick. I would never use the same numbers because if they happened to win and I didn't bet that week I'd shoot myself.

Once I wanted to play one of those million dollar slot machines(megabucks). It was a six million, but i couldn't find someone to give me change(it was early mosring) I left. 10 minutes later I was home and on the news was some old guy who won the 6 million from that same machine. I couldn't sleep for a week.

Re:Missing data (1)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201251)

We know that the simple 1,2,3,4,5,6 is a bad idea. But, if I'd bet on 6,5,4,3,2,1, would that give me prize*10000?

Do you really want to win? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21200915)

A lot of people who win high sums of money end up broke. If you are not mature enough to know how to manage the money and fight off the inevitable "investment" requests then your windfall will not last long and you may end up worse off than you were before you won. Money is not happiness. Good friends and family are.

Don't play the lottery, play the players... (2, Insightful)

nweaver (113078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200929)

Any statistical deviation in the balls is going to be microscopic.

Rather, observe the following. When a progressive jackpot gets large enough, a single winner would have a positive expectation value, but multiple winners have negative value.

Thus what you need to do is not pick something that is "more likely", you need to pick combinations that normal players would NOT choose, as your odds of winning are the same, but your odds of having to share a win go way down.

EG, something like 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Given the raw stream of what numbers people choose, there are probably lots of such "less likely" patterns you could use.

Re:Don't play the lottery, play the players... (2, Informative)

snarkh (118018) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201045)

Unfortunately, the jackpot is probably still not large enough, even if you do not have to share it. You lose 30-35% on taxes + the lottery only pays it out over many years (or you can take a much smaller lump sum) which devalues the jackpot at the rate of inflation.

You would be lucky to take 1/3 of the value of the jackpot even if you are the sole winner. In that case
the expected payoff is no longer in your favor.

consecutive is human conceivable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21201137)

If something obeys a human conceivable or recognizable pattern .. like 7 8 9 10 11 12 13, then I reckon a person is likely to play it.

Now you may think people would say "it's too unlikely consecutive numbers would happen". And you would be correct for 99.9% of the population.

But .1% may think it's funny and choose consecutive numbers. They may have read somewhere that consecutive numbers have the same chance of popping up and non consecutive numbers.

Now if you don't think people would do something like that .. I know people who use the word "password" as their password thinking it's secure because "nobody would ever guess the word password as being my password cause it's too obvious".

Re:Don't play the lottery, play the players... (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201179)

Actually, one of the biggest number of shared winners in the German lottery was with on of those "unlikely" patterns (something like 1,2,3, 45,46,47). Over 200 people had this. Just because you think it's unlikely doesn't mean a lot of other people don't pick it for the same reason.

Re:Don't play the lottery, play the players... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21201207)

I've been using that scheme for years on the rare occasions when i buy a lottery ticket.
But.... You are seriously blowing it with numbers like that! How many guys do you think have reached the same conclusion (that the maximum expected payout comes from 'lonely numbers' that nobody else would pick)? You have to take them into account. I would imagine that quite a lot of people actually pick 7 8 9 10 11 12 13.
Pick something a little less pattern. say 24 36 37 41 42 43. Still less likely than the typical pick.
2nd important point: minimize the numbers 1-31. lots of people use special days.
But don't avoid them completely! otherwise all the people with that strategy are concentrated in 1/1000 of the key space.
-Rob Ryland

Statistically significant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21200943)

OK, math nerds, help me out. Maybe I'm misremembering, but in a sample like this, isn't the statistical error basically sqrt(n)? So for the claimed 1078 drawings, sqrt(1078)/1078 is 3%. So I should be looking for "bumps" in the graph bigger than 3%, right? And I'm not seeing that. It looks like in all his charts, I can just draw a straight line through the mean, and my ±3% error bars cover all the variation.

What am I missing?

I've known people that used patterns (1)

Jimmy King (828214) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200977)

Article is slashdotted, so I can't go read it to see how relevant this really is.

I have known people that have used patterns and formulas to pick lottery numbers weekly and overall come out on top. Now this was with regular state lottery which has a far better chance of being won anyway. Also, it certainly wasn't anything they could live off of, wasn't consistent, and took a few thousand dollars that you could risk losing to get started with and keep spending monthly.

Overall, though, the guys that I have known who have done this sort of stuff have won, though. Not tons, maybe an average of a couple hundred dollars per month at best with the risk of losing thousands. Seems to be working so far, though.

The way I see it (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200987)

Anything where you have better chances of being killed driving to get the damn thing than winning isn't worth the money...
Chance of dying from a car accident: 1 in 18,585

Re:The way I see it (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201231)

Chance of dying from a car accident: 1 in 18,585

Bad statistical analogy there. You see, 18585 is your chances of dying in an auto accident in your entire life. Multiply this by the number of car trips you take and take the odds on winning any lottery and divide that by the number of times/sets of numbers you play. I'm sure someone can come up with some variations on that.

But as we both know it's all just a bit crapshoot anyhow... when the Great Cthulhu "calls you home" there is no winning odds for an escape.

Evidence and changing beliefs (1)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 6 years ago | (#21200989)

When that particular lottery drawing was in the news I came up with a conjecture about picking lottery numbers that would have a higher probability of winning. I'm not a statistician, but from my limited knowledge of Bayesian statistics [wikipedia.org] I figured I could take the set of all possible picks, then from this list remove "subjectively unlikely" combinations such as all previous winning picks as well as combinations like all straits (1-2-3-4-5), flushes (10-10-10-10-10), and other weird coincidences (all primes, etc). Then pick a few random numbers from this reduced list. I never did any actual calculations but I'm curious as to whether 1) this would actually increase your odds of winning and 2) by how much.

Ummm.... (3, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201001)

1) These guys did an impressive amount of work, but seem to be completely oblivious to proper statistical analysis. It would have been nice to have seen a p-value somewhere in there.

2) You don't get an edge in the lottery by picking numbers that are more likely to come up; you get it by picking numbers that other players are less likely to choose (e.g. >31), so that you don't have to split your win with as many others.

Compare the odds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21201009)

the chances of being struck by lightning are estimated at 1 in 700,000

http://www.usatoday.com/weather/resources/basics/wlightning.htm [usatoday.com]

The chances of being killed by honey bees of any sort are actually less than the chances of being hit by lightning, according to Center for Disease Control statistics.

http://stingshield.com/2000news.htm [stingshield.com]

Yet

A single dollar in MegaMillions purchases a 1 in 175,711,536 chance

Odds are on the lightning!

Let's try some simulations shall we? (4, Informative)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201015)

Let's simulate the history of MegaMillions in a computer, using a hardware random-number-generator that we trust to be completely random with an even distribution.

Examine the results and look for patterns. Odds are, you will see minor variations from "average." After all, if you flip a coin 1000 times, odds are you won't get exactly 500 heads and 500 tails.

Next, let's repeat this 100 times. Odds are you will see such patterns in most of the experimental runs, but the patterns will vary from run to run.

Think of the real-life MegaMillions lottery as a single experimental run.

How do you counter this?

You could slice-and-dice the MegaMillions into 100 "experimental runs" each consisting of a random 10% of actual drawings. While the overall trend of this slice-and-dice will reflect the real history of MegaMillions, the results of the individual "experimental runs" should vary enough to convince people that this is just a statistical fluke, or at least it's flukiness can't be ruled out.

In particular, let's slice MM into 10 time periods with an equal number of drawings. Odds are the most recent time period's statistical anomalies won't match those of earlier times.

The bottom line:

There is nothing to suggest the statistical anomaly of the history of MM so far will continue.

Ah, lotteries... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201023)

the tax on people who can't do math.

Patterns? Oh sure there are patterns... But consider, if you look at the moon, you might see a face there too... there's a definite pattern there! Or if you look at clouds you might see familiar shapes.

The point of what I'm saying being that the human brain is the ultimate pattern recognition engine, and it's going to see patterns arising even when their really aren't any.

Any increased likelihood that using such "patterns" to predict the outcome of discrete random events will be statistically insignificant, compared to the number of actual possibilities.

Notwithstanding, otherwise discrete random events may potentially affect the outcome of other such events due to circumstances unrelated to the event being analyzed, such as the physical wearing down of certain equipment.

In other news (1)

ZipprHead (106133) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201037)

In other news, global warming has caused a decrease in Ninja population, while simultaneously increasing pirate population.

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21201143)

Preach my pastafarian brother!

In other news (1)

Van Cutter Romney (973766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201059)

In other news Matt Vea's girlfriend was recently seen leaving a 7-11 screaming, "Just choose the goddammned numbers!"

Statistically bankrupt (1)

elvum (9344) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201097)

What's the point of doing this kind of analysis if you're not going to calculate the probability that the balls used are unweighted? If you want to admire some random numbers, go and roll some dice - the interesting question is whether or not the pattern analysis can be put to use.

Can't get to the link! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21201129)

Ah the power of telling millions of people that they can cheat the odds on their local lotteries at once. ;)

College stats course (4, Interesting)

rueger (210566) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201141)

Of all of the courses I took over the years, my college Statistics course stands out. The teacher was the kind of guy who would spend an evening at his kitchen table flipping pennies just to prove to himself that yes, ultimately they would trend towards a 50/50 distribution. For fun.

What stuck with me though we a couple of ideas:
  • What happened in the past has no influence over what will happen in the future. You may have flipped seventy-five heads, but the odds of the next penny landing head or tails is still 50/50.
  • The decision whether to make a bet in any game is based on a variety of factors - the size of the bet, the size of the possible prize, and the odds of winning. No one of those three is enough to make a decision, you need to know all three.
In life, as in games, you have to make decisions based on real odds, not of conjecture or media speculation. Where's the bigger risk? A falling meteor, or getting hit by a city bus? Food poisoning or a terrorist attack?

Best choice is numbers over 31 (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201153)

Reduced odds of sharing the win with someone else.

I win $1 every week!

The only ticket's I've ever bought were to give out as party favors.

A better way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21201163)

A more interesting statistical analysis would include a survey of commonly chosen numbers. You could actually improve your statistical payout if you could reduce the chance of splitting the pot with someone else.

How to win at the lottery (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201173)

1. Don't play.

2. Don't play unless the present value of this week's expected total payout after taxes is less than this week's pay-in.

Here's an example of when it's okay to play:

The odds of winning Mega Millions are 175,711,536.

If the net present value of the rollover prize is high enough that you buying 175,711,536 tickets and nobody else playing will win you at least $175,711,536 after taxes, then you'd be smart to play.

Likewise, if you expect the players collectively to add enough so the expected total payout after taxes was less than the expected contribution that week, then it makes sense to play.

Unfortunately, big jackpots attract lots of players, frequently tipping the odds away from the gambler.

If you want good odds on a pure gamble, go to Vegas. At least with Roulette, you'll get back $36 of every $38 you wager.

In most jackpots, the real winners are the people running the lottery and the IRS.

The Balls not to use Random Number Generators (1)

ConnortheMad (546429) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201221)

There are some lotteries that use a random number generator, which could have coding issues with their algorithms as some of them are on older systems. Any randomness linked to a clock or timer is never a good bet, as I'm sure many a programmer can attest to. There are indpendent groups that verify and test these generators - both on the drawing devices as well as the terminal side, to ensure your quick pick truly is "random." I put more faith into the old style of ping pong style balls. There are more than one set of draw machines and sets of balls, which are kept under lock and key, and chosen right before the televised draw. The balls are ecamined and weighed to ensure that they have not been tampered with. The only patterns that may occur is if the balls are loaded in the same numerical order into the mixer every time, but this can be mitigated with allowing the balls to mix for a few moments prior to actually drawing the numbers. Machines used for subsequent drawings, may result in duplicates to the previous draw, as the ball has just been released and may be towards the top - therefore more apt to climb the chute once more.

Heads, heads, heads, heads, ... (3, Funny)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201225)

Rosencrantz: [flips coin which lands as 'heads'] 78 in a row. A new record, I imagine.
Guildenstern: Is that what you imagine? A new record?
Rosencrantz: Well...
Guildenstern: No questions? Not a flicker of doubt?
Rosencrantz: I could be wrong.

...
Guildenstern: Consider: One, probability is a factor which operates *within* natural forces. Two, probability is *not* operating as a factor. Three, we are now held within un-, sub- or super-natural forces. Discuss.
Rosencrantz: What?

Definition of Lottery (1)

Innova (1669) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201227)

Lottery: Tax for those people bad at math.

My Dad always said "the lottery is a tax .." (1)

FinMacCool (969097) | more than 6 years ago | (#21201235)

on people who are bad at math... it looks like this proves it.
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