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Friday, April 01, 2011

April Fool's Day: Lottery ticket foolishness

There’s a great Wired story by Jonah Lehrer about a Canadian statistician who figured out how to beat the scratch lottery.



This true story ends with a warning appropriate for April Fool’s Day:


“The fact that these games can be manipulated, that a geological statistician can defeat their algorithm, seems to undercut a crucial part of the lottery’s appeal. Everybody knows that the chances of winning a big payday are minuscule, a tiny 1 in front of an awful lot of zeros. But we play anyway, because hope is an irrational hunch. We assume that, even if the odds are stacked against us, we might get lucky. Today might be the day. And then, when the latex reveals a stack of losers, when we’ve lost our money yet again, we blame the fickleness of fate. But maybe our bad luck isn’t the problem. Maybe we never win because someone else has broken the game.”

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