The BBC recently reported that the Bulgarian national lottery winning numbers were identical for two consecutive drawings. For obvious reasons, this raised many Bulgarian eyebrows, with some suggesting fraud. A mathematician, however, said the odds of such an occurrence were one in four million—slim, but by no means impossible.
Sometimes improbable things just happen. If you have been secretly hoping for a big lottery windfall of your own, here’s how to boost your odds:
Listen to the fortune cookie
WHAT HAPPENED: In 2005, a record 110 players won $500,000 and $100,000 prizes in a Powerball drawing; many of them used the numbers included in a fortune cookie. (Normally only around four people win the Powerball at the Match 5 level).
LESSON LEARNED: Sometimes, playing the same number that many others have chosen may boost your odds. Of course, this assertion is not statistically valid, but we tend to be superstitious. Maybe there is something to group think!
POTENTIAL DOWNSIDES: None, so long as the prize amount is fixed. If, however, you win a drawing where jackpot money is divided equally amongst all winners, you may be in for a disappointingly low payout.
Ask your neighborhood celebrity illusionist
WHAT HAPPENED: Earlier this month, illusionist Derren Brown astounded the British public when he successfully predicted the winning lottery numbers ahead of the actual drawing on national television.
LESSON LEARNED: If you know someone with unusual powers, such as a publicity hungry illusionist more interested in notoriety than in the jackpot, ask him or her if they would mind giving you their next prediction!
POTENTIAL DOWNSIDES: Aside from the angry pitch-fork wielding mob crashing your mansion gate? None at all.
On second thought, don’t play at all
Robert Burton, author of “On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not,” gave MainStreet the straight talk on lotteries and understanding your odds: “It's never good to invest in a lottery,” he explained. Furthermore, Burton doesn’t buy into the idea that wishful thinking or superstitious voodoo will increase your chances: “There is no relationship between skill, mental attitude and outcome.”
Of course, we have all heard horror stories of lottery winners who are relentlessly slammed with requests from parasitic family members and shady charities. As one millionaire recently told us, “lottery winners rarely end up well financially.”
Take the case of a 16 year old woman who won more than $3 million in 2003. She allegedly spent over $400,000 on cocaine and likened the experience of winning the lotto to being caught in a “black hole”—three suicide attempts later, she has only about $32,000 left in the bank.
Bad experience or not, though, you can expect a call from me if you hit the Powerball—I can be your personal biographer (or anything else you want).
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