Do you ever dream about what it might be like to suddenly have millions of dollars? Do you run out to the nearest gas station with your heart aflutter to purchase a ticket when the Powerball jackpot reaches a certain amount? If you are nodding your head in agreement, you are not alone. In 2014, the allure of striking it rich was strong enough to entice Americans to spend over $70 billion on lottery tickets.
As fun as it can be to participate in these drawings, figures from the National Weather Service suggest that you are more than 20,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than win the MegaMillions jackpot.
Is winning a matter of luck or math?
Lotteries are games of chance. Your odds of winning are determined by a number of factors, including how many winning numbers or combinations you need to get and how many people are playing the game. The greater the number of ticket-holders, the less likely you are to walk away with a chunk of change.
The odds of winning MegaMillions or Powerball, two of the most well known lotteries, are a dismal 175 million to one. As you can see, winning is a matter of math and luck, and most of the math points toward a lack of luck.
Why do you need to know your chances of winning?
Many people invest in lottery tickets without understanding the odds. In fact, in low-income communities, buying a lottery ticket is often viewed as an investment, a form of entertainment, and a possible ticket out of challenging circumstances. There is a complex set of socio-economic factors that contribute to this perception of lotteries as investments. If you are foregoing setting up a stable form of savings to play the lottery, your chances of coming up empty-handed are high.
How can you increase your chances of winning?
There are a few ways that you can increase your chances of winning should you choose to play. 
- Play the right games. When we talk about national lotteries with massive jackpots, your chances of winning become minuscule. Playing a state competition or buying a chance in a smaller competition will increase your odds. Scratch-tickets for smaller games may have lower rewards, but they are also more likely to yield a win.
- Participate in second-chance games. Even if your numbers aren’t selected initially, they may come up in a second-chance drawing. To maximize your chances of winning, keep your ticket for the second chance round.
- Don’t change your numbers. Even though buying lottery tickets doesn’t require the same skills as sitting at a poker table in Las Vegas, there is definitely some strategy involved in choosing your numbers. Seven-time lottery-winner, expert in how to win the lottery, and author, Richard Lustig, recommends playing the same numbers over and over instead of switching them. He also recommends avoiding “quick picks” and using numbers besides birthdays and anniversaries, which limit the spread of numbers you can use.
- You can’t win if you don’t play. Richard Lustig recommends keeping up with the game you are playing. Pay attention to drawings, and play consistently to increase your chances of winning. Every year there are winners who fail to come forward because they didn’t follow up to see if their numbers won.
But still, don’t fall into the gambling trap!
Just like other forms of gambling, the lottery can be addictive. Participants may mistakenly think that because the lottery is sanctioned by the government, it is not as harmful as other forms of gambling. The same risks apply.
If you have a history of gambling addiction, playing the lottery could draw you into unhealthy behaviors. The hope of victory, occasional small wins, and the thought that your big win awaits around every corner drive the lottery.
The most important thing you need to know about playing the lottery is that you need to set a budget before you play and stick to it. Playing the lottery can be fun and harmless, but if you start to use funds you would normally reserve for food or bills to buy more chances, then you’re in dangerous territory.
Even winning a lottery can’t bring you happiness.
The mathematics behind the lottery show that you are almost always guaranteed to lose. Assuming that you hit the jackpot, there is no guarantee that the windfall would make you a happier person. Numerous studies have shown that lottery winners do not fare well with their newfound wealth.
Even knowing how to win the lottery doesn’t prevent loss. You can use mathematical strategies, and you can follow the advice of successful players, and even this may not be enough. When you play, let it be for the fun of it. Purchase that ticket so that you can have that moment of fantasizing about buying your mother a house or traveling the world. There is always a chance that you could be one of the fortunate few, but even if you don’t have winning numbers, at least you’ll be entertained.
Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com
|The Atlantic: Lotteries: America’s $70 billion shame
|Wonderopolis: What are your odds of winning the lottery?
|The Balance: What are the odds of winning the lottery?
|American Journal of Economics and Sociology: Hitting the Jackpot or Hitting the Skids: Entertainment, Poverty, and the Demand for State Lotteries
|The Balance: How to win the lottery: 7 tips that really work
|Forbes: It’s Math: Why you should never play the lottery
|Vice: Addicted to the Lottery: Why People Buy False Hope and Lottery Tickets
|MSN: 8 ways you can improve your chances of winning the lottery
|Mayo Clinic: Compulsive Gambling