Tag Archives: lottery

Schrodinger’s Lottery

This morning, I woke up and I had won the Powerball jackpot.  And at the same time, I did not win it.  I was, for a brief while, Schrodinger’s cat.  And I could have remained in that state for as long as I wanted, provided I did not seek the truth or have it exposed to me by some means.

That period of time lasted longer than I thought.  I checked the news and learned there were three winners.  No change in status yet.  One of the winners was in my state.  Still no change in status.  I made it another couple hours all the way into work until I overheard a co-worker saying the ticket was sold in another city in the state.  Then, I knew my status.

Still, the idea of Schrodinger stuck with me.  Not being a quantum theory expert, my understanding is that anything can be in an infinite variety of states and doesn’t become actuality until it is observed.  The idea can really mess with your head especially if you have a good imagination.  There could be a skeleton behind you right now, but you won’t know until you turn around and confirm that.  If you wake up in the middle of the night, you could actually be dead.  You won’t know until someone can confirm to you that you are not.  Validate me!

If you have heard of or studied Theosophy, there is the idea that our spirit, or astral body (yes, the same astral as in astral projection), is so like our physical body and the astral world is so like the physical world, that upon a sudden death, many people aren’t even aware they are dead.

Quantum theory also suggests that there are infinite universes where all other alternatives exist.  Who observed them, I have no idea.  but whoever observed this one didn’t win me any Powerball.  Thanks for that.  But congratulations to my quantum fellows who did win.  See if you can get someone to observe some of that stuff my way.

Inflation Hurts The Poor The Most

It’s true, isn’t it?  It’s all about percentages.  When you typically spend $1000 in gas a year and that cost goes to $2000, that’s a much more significant impact on someone making $18,000/year vs. someone making $60,000/year vs. people making six figures.  So imagine how shocked I was when I bought lottery tickets at the store and the price had doubled.

“I’ll take 5 for tonight’s Powerball”

“Sure, that’ll be $10.”

The first thing I thought was that she rang up power play tickets.  Nope, the cost of lottery just went up.  Most state lotteries are pretty transparent – they will show where the money is being spent.  I wasn’t able to easily find any information about how Powerball proceeds are divvied up.  It’s probably just as well not to know; the obvious thing is they need more operating money, so they changed the odds to withhold more money for themselves.

The most ironic thing I find about lotteries is their fairness.  The odds are SO high that it can be nothing but luck to win.  There’s no way an obscenely rich person could leverage their money to ensure a win.  A millionaire and a bum have an equal chance of winning with a $1 ticket.  Excuse me, a $2 ticket.  And that’s where I’m a little irked.  Putting aside the obvious cases where people overspend on lottery and treat it less like gaming and more like a religion – in that they make an offering and hope the god of chance accepts their offering and blesses them with riches. But I digress.  Aside from those cases, this is simply a higher barrier to entry. 

A hypothetical family may just pick up 5 or 10 tickets a week – like me, a casual gamer.  That cost of entertainment just doubled.  That impact is going to be felt much stronger by someone who doesn’t have as large of an entertainment fund.  Now, the person who has more disposable income can shrug off the increase, while other people may have to reduce the number of tickets they buy to meet their budget.  Now, the rich person has a higher chance of winning.

Now, the most shameful part of this “improvement” is how the change is being marketed. “Bigger!” “More!” “Better!”  There is no value to any of it.  What are these incredible changes?

  • Starting jackpot goes from $20M to $40M.  Well, of course.  The ticket price doubled.
  • 2nd prize goes from $200K to $1M.  It’s the exact same thing you used to get when you spent the extra dollar in the old version. Now you just don’t have that option.
  • Powerball-only prize goes from $3 to $4. The most insulting change of all. Your winnings go from 300% to 200%.
  • Odds to win Jackpot goes from 1:195M to 1:175M.  This is still so high as to be irrelevant.  Someone is going to win eventually.  It may be you, it may be someone else.
  • Overall odds goes from 1:35.1 to 1:31.8. So before, you could theoretically win something if you spent $36. Now, you can theoretically win something if you spend $64. This is key.  If you happen to get one Powerball-only win in all those plays in the old game, you have lost $33.  In the new game, you have lost $60.

It’s been said to death that lottery is for the mathematically challenged, which is untrue.  I might be inclined to believe it’s for people who can’t grasp the concept of huge numbers.  I have no problem with the odds.  I do have a problem when companies try to market less as more.  In summary, the new Powerball has better odds at winning less, while costing more to play.


A while ago, I was thinking about lottery games.  I was out walking in a not-so-good part of town and there were a bunch of discarded scratch-off lottery tickets on the ground.  I had heard that scratch off games have better odds, but I don’t play them.  I only play the lotto games.

A thought came back to me of a recent and rare win on my lotto ticket: $75.  It’s not a lot.  It’s definitely not a lot when I’m playing $5/game and buying 10 games in advance, making my ticket $50 every month or so.  But the person cashing me out at the convenience store was slightly envious and said “wow, that’s a lot of money.”

And I felt a slight pang of guilt, because that’s not a lot of money to me.  However, I still remember my youthful days when that would have been a lot of money.  It was a life of going day-by-day or week-by-week.  It was all before I started my true career and became a working professional.

So when I look at scratch-off lottery tickets, I see top prizes of $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, whatever, and I don’t even feel it’s worth my time.  I saw a recent movie where the protagonists ended up with $100k and were having dreams of travelling the world and retirement and living the rich life.  I just rolled my eyes.  You can’t get by for more than a few years on $100k.  Certainly not for the rest of your life.

To make the top prize worthwhile to me, it has to be able to permanently secure my future.  It would have to be the equivalent of 25 years of my current salary.  So I’m not going to find that kind of money from a scratch-off.  However, the people who play the scratch tickets with such passion may not be thinking as far ahead as I am.  The winnings could pay off a current car loan, pay for clothes, jewelry, furniture, but then it’s gone.  It’s gone and life goes on.

I also perceive a difference in how people approach the lottery.  Me, I’m stable in my financial life, so I just spend a set amount of money every week as play money.  In a twisted way of thinking, it could be viewed as an insurance policy – I may never use it (i.e. get a win), but I still pay for it.  If you think $75 is a lot of money, as my cashier did, then spending $10 or $20 a week on scratch-offs is significant.  That could be a tank of gas, a meal for the whole family, or a monthly bill.  Then winning $500 back would seem to be amazing, although you’d probably spent that much to get it. 

That’s probably the key right there.  If you’re spending $5 or $10 or even $20 on a ticket and you win $100, $500, or even $1000.  You could easily spend that much on tickets before and after your win, negating any winnings at all.  However, even at spending $10/week for 30 years on lottery tickets, that’s only $15,000.  But the win in this case far exceeds what was paid out.

It’s different gambling styles.  Do you want to have a lot of small wins that can keep you in the game until your balance slowly drops to zero, like playing $20 in a nickel slot machine, or do you take that $20 and play a single pull on a $10 slot machine?  I guess that might be a reflection of modern society that so many people are happy to have small wins in their life.


Hey, the Multidraw is back on the Florida Lotto.  *sigh* Yes, I play the lottery.  No, I don’t expect to win.  Yes, I’ve heard the "idiot tax" joke.
So anyway, recently I was informed that you couldn’t do Multidraw on Florida Lotto.  Multidraw is where you buy tickets in advance for the same numbers you’re playing now.  I liked it because I didn’t have to stop at the store twice a week.  So with the news of this change, I was a little upset.  So I tried to get to the store twice a week, but a lot of times I just didn’t want to take the time.
Today I had some time and stopped in.  When I handed my ticket sheet (I play the same numbers all the time), the machine rejected it.  The cashier said, "This is the old sheet.  you need to use a new one."  So I went to get a new sheet.  Yes, it is a little different.
Old: image New: image

The big change is the addition of bet amounts.  I didn’t understand this and had to read the instructions.  *sigh* Yes, I read the instructions.  The $1 bet is the same as it used to be.  The $2 bet gives you an extra $10 million with the jackpot, The $3 bet gives you an extra $25 million with the jackpot.  This is interesting.  I’m sure the lottery commission didn’t just think this up for fun.  There’s probably some hard math behind it.  But I’m not that great at math (obviously, right?  I play the lottery).  These are some of the thoughts I had.

Florida lottery players probably are aware that the jackpot rarely goes over $30 mil.  Is it more appealing that you’re playing for a $55 mil jackpot, albeit at $3/play?  Maybe that option will be played more often by the players that only play when the jackpot is over say, $15 mil.  Conversely, since your odds are winning never change no matter how many people play, but your odds of splitting a jackpot are greater when the jackpot is higher (since more people play), is it a better strategy to play $3 on low jackpots and sit out on the higher jackpots?
Me, I’m just going to keep playing my usual.  If luck ever happens to come along, I hope I’m young enough to enjoy the winnings.
In other lottery thoughts, I once entertained a conspiracy theory that once the lottery hits $30 mil, it is won.  My theory was that there was one or multiple millionaires that would buy every number combination possible for a guaranteed jackpot win (plus all the 5 of 6, 4 of 6 and 3 of 6 wins).  It makes decent business sense.  The odds of winning the jackpot is about 1 in 23 million.  That’s 7 million dollars profit, if you can afford the 23 million buy-in.
Unfortunately, it’s logistically near impossible.  You would need to print 7.6 million numbers a day, or around 88 numbers a second.  That’s 88 numbers a second, 24 hours a day for 3 days.  That doesn’t take into account time to reload ticket paper (assuming you even have enough), time to read the ticket sheet and any other latencies.  Even if you took the conspiracy to an extreme:  there are 100 millionaires all in this together; they all own their own business that is a licensed lottery agent; they all shut down for three days to print tickets for three days straight; they all gather the tickets and find the winning ticket, they all… oh, come on, I can’t even continue this.  They would net less than a million for all that effort.  And if they split with a regular player, that cut their winnings in half.