Let’s discuss a gambling experience that almost half of all Americans engage in (source Gallup poll: https://news.gallup.com/poll/193874/half-americans-play-state-lotteries.aspx).
There are many B.S. strategies out there, some involving martingale type strategies, and other strategies involve just straight up bunk. I’ve even seen classes that purport to help the winner pick numbers that are more likely to hit. That’s all just bullsh*t. Lotteries are very precisely monitored and tested operations. Advice on which balls to pick usually rely upon an assumption that certain numbers are ‘hot’ or ‘cold’. Sometimes, the advice is premised on the hypothesis that certain balls have more weight, due to the paint or ink used to print the numbers; however, lotteries account for this differential: https://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/no-chances-lottery-ball-tests-article-1.781799
The real analysis from playing the lottery comes from increasing your expected payout. Simply stated, the RoadGambler philosophy is that if the lottery player wins a big jackpot where the probability of hitting the lottery was in the tens of millions, that jackpot should change their lives. It’s somewhat anticlimactic to win a large jackpot prize, and then find out that you are sharing the prize with dozens of other persons.
You want to win that prize with as few persons as possible. This is especially true if you participate in an office jackpot pool, where in addition to any other winning tickets, you will split the jackpot with potentially dozens of other people in your office or workplace.
Before we discuss the big lottery drawings, let me give you my advice on scratchers.
NUMBER 1. CHECK WEBSITES FOR SCRATCHER PRIZES REMAINING
Did you know that when playing the lottery, you can check to see how many major prizes are left? Most lotteries display the remaining prizes on their website.
Here are two examples from the California and Texas lottery.
Here is a pic from the California lottery of how many major prizes remain. Notice that for the game with the largest prize, that prize has been claimed.
You buy this Triple Jackpot ticket, which costs a whopping $20, with fantasies that you are playing for a cool $20,000…but, in reality, there is no top prize. Ouch.
Here is a screenshot from the page of the Texas lottery.
Notice that the game Frogger and Holiday Greetings both have the same top prizes.
Both games have top prizes of $100,000, a medium prize of $1000, and a small prize of $500.
Both tickets are also $5.
However, notice that for Frogger, 4 top prizes remain, while on Holiday Greetings, all top prizes have been claimed.
Frogger has 15 remaining $1000 prizes (out of a total available 46 $1000 prizes), while Holiday Greetings has only 9 remaining middle prizes (out of a total available 51 $1000 prizes).
Frogger has 239 remaining small prizes, while Holiday Greetings only has 207 remaining prizes.
It’s highly likely that the better play is to buy Frogger if given the choice.
If you regularly play scratchers, pull up the lottery prize page for your state and save it on your phone. Before you make a purchase, check your state’s lottery prizes to see what prizes remain. Often you will find that all the major prizes have been claimed. Alternatively, you can sometimes find that a certain game has a disproportionate number of large prizes that have not been claimed.
NUMBER 2. IF YOU PARTICIPATE IN POOLS, TELL YOUR POOL TO WAIT AT LEAST 3 WEEKS AFTER A JACKPOT IS WON (BY SOMEONE ELSE) BEFORE PLAYING AGAIN
Imagine playing a life-changing lottery game, hitting the jackpot, and then taking home $400,000 instead of tens of millions of dollars. Yeah, you might say, hey it’s $400,000 that you didn’t have.
I hold the philosophy that if you hit a lottery jackpot that runs in the possibility of 1 in tens of millions, that your life should be changed. $400,000 will not change your life. It’s such an astronomically rare event that you must take advantage, especially considering that your chances of making it happen are the same from week to week.
$400,000 might buy you a bit of relief from bills, but $400,000 isn’t going to allow you to quit your job and never work again.
That’s why if you’re involved in a lottery office pool, tell your co-workers to wait at least 4 weeks after a lottery jackpot is hit before you play again. That gives the jackpot sufficient time to build up. The build-up will also increase the return percentage on your lottery bet. Let others build up the jackpot, while you wait to swoop in and take it later.
You are better off collecting the money and holding it in trust until the jackpot has grown sufficiently large, and then buying more tickets when the jackpot is larger.
Be aware though, that the method of building up a lottery ticket pool can lead to the holder of the funds embezzling the money. That’s why I do not advocate growing the lottery pool fund for longer than 3 weeks. There are enough lottery games offered nowadays that three weeks is of sufficient time for a jackpot to grow to life-changing proportions, regardless of the numbers of office participants.
For the sake of psychological peace of mind, play different numbers for each pooled drawing. That way, if your pool is in the habit of buying tickets every week, you won’t lose sleep if your numbers hit when the jackpot is small. Don’t let the fear of missing out (FOMO, as the kids call it), induce you into making bad decisions.
Even better advice, don’t participate in office lottery pools. Don’t let FOMO cause you to make bad decisions because even if your office wins and leaves you out, you may end up the winner, anyways: https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2018/10/18/mega-millions-powerball-lottery-office-pool-jason-kurland/
NUMBER 3. DO NOT PLAY SEQUENTIAL NUMBERS OR THE MOST COMMONLY DRAWN NUMBERS
It is a fact that all combination of numbers have an equal probability of being drawn. The combination of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and Powerball 6 is just as probable to show up as any combination. If you buy 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 it is estimated that you will share the top prize with over 10,000 tickets, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2301360/The-Lotto-numbers-avoid-Going-1-2-3-4-5-6-bring-tiny-windfall.html
Also, according to websites that track commonly drawn numbers, these are the most commonly drawn numbers: 2, 17, 31, 39, 4 and 46, with the most common Mega Ball number being 3. Avoid these numbers because people will be attracted to picking these numbers. Remember that all numbers are equally likely to appear, and any variance of a number being drawn more often is just pure coincidence. Thus the fact that a number has appeared more often in the past, does mean that it will appear more often in the future. It will, however, mean more people will pick that number.
NUMBER 4. PLAY NUMBERS 32 and ABOVE
In the spirit of increasing your expected return and winning the lottery with as few people as possible, you can eliminate a significant number of other players by picking numbers 32 and above. This is simply due to the fact that a large number of players play calendar dates that are of a personal significance, such as birthday, wedding date, etc.
This strategy will not increase your probability of winning, but it will increase your chances of winning by yourself. Remember, all combinations have an equal probability of appearing, so pick the combinations that are most advantageous to you.
This is really the only legitimate piece of advice I can give you when it comes to picking numbers. I could tell you B.S., but that’s not the way I operate.
NUMBER 5. IF YOU WIN THE LOTTERY, ADVICE ON WHAT TO DO: CALL EVERYONE YOU KNOW AND ASK TO BORROW $500
While it’s usually the $100,000,000+ jackpots that make the news, the reality is that most jackpots are not that large. If you win, it’s likely that your jackpot will be in the 7 figure range to maybe 10-20 million. Split three among three tickets, for example, after tax, you might take home only about $2,000,000 on a jackpot that you thought was $20,000,000. There is a huge life-changing difference between winning $2,000,000 and winning $20,000,000.
Almost every lottery jackpot you see is worth approximately 1/2 of the advertised jackpot because the advertised jackpot is really an annuity paid out from 20 to 30 years. Most lottery jackpots also have the option to take a cash lump sum. My advice is to take the cash lump sum. Without a doubt, the cash lump sum is the best option. Sellers of annuities might argue that an annuity forces the recipient to control their spending, but this is not true. If you win the top prize and take the annuity, and you become desperate for cash, or you just lose discipline, you can sell the annuity for a deep discount. In the end, because the owner of the annuity has the option to sell the annuity, the benefit of forced discipline goes right out the window. Oh, I’m very knowledgable about the annuity because one of my main businesses is involved in buying and selling annuities.
Let’s look at the math of taking a lump sum…
At $20,000,000 after accounting for the annuity and after accounting for the top tax bracket, you will take home approximately $6,000,000 as a lump sum. Let’s say you take that home and you find a respectable and conservative way to invest your money, returning a manageable and low risk 5% annually. You will take home $300,000 FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE at the mere rate of 5%. If you set up the money in a trust and hire the right accountants, the money might last into eternity for you and your children’s children. That’s better than taking the annuity, where you might become acclimated to your standard and style of living, only to have your payments cease after 20 to 30 years (and that time will go faster than you think).
Notice that with a $20,000,000 hypothetical jackpot, if you follow my disciplined plan, your money is earning a respectable $300,000 every year. That’s why you want to win the jackpot by yourself. If you share it with four other winning tickets, then your $300,000 annually might be less than $75,000 a year, which, while comfortable, is a far cry from caviar dreams.
Call everyone you know and ask to borrow $500
According to various reports, as much as 70% of jackpot winners go broke within a few years. https://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2016/01/why_do_70_percent_of_lottery_w.html
Part of the reason is ‘friends’ and family will come out of the woodwork, asking for a handout. I understand if it’s immediate family or someone who has shown you loyalty or helped you in the past. Those people deserve help because they have been good to you and have helped you to where you are now. If you decide that you owe a debt to them because they have done something for you, then you are a good person.
The people you have to worry about are the people who you only marginally know and have done nothing for you. They’ll come asking for a handout. As a kind and decent human being, you may have a hard time saying ‘no’. If you have a hard time saying no. So do this if you win the jackpot: calm down and call everyone who you might suspect of asking for a handout, and ask to borrow $500 from them because you had a problem arise.
If they say no or dismiss you, it will make it much easier for you to say no to them in the future. Actually, they may be too embarrassed to ask you for money when they find out that you won the lottery (actually, don’t bank on that because people can be shameless).
On advice number 5, I have personal experience in this issue. While I did not win the ‘lottery’ lottery, but I did build a successful business from the ground up, going from broke to living a pretty good life. People will come asking for money. At first, it’s going to be hard to say ‘no’, especially when they tell you that you have the ability to save their kids from living in the streets. The last bit of advice is a bit of a joke, but trust me, there’s some truth and usefulness to the joke.