Categories
BLOG

is the lottery random

Does Quick Picking Your Lottery Numbers Work?

Are You More Likely to Win If You Choose Your Own Lottery Numbers?

Image (c) Gerville / Getty Images

When you buy a ticket for a lottery, like Powerball or Mega Millions, you have a choice to make. You need to decide whether to select your own numbers or use Quick Pick, which lets a computer randomly pick numbers for you.

But which choice is better? Are you more likely to win the lottery if you use one method or the other?

The Argument for Quick Picking Lottery Numbers

Using Quick Pick has an obvious advantage: It’s quick. If you just want to get in the game and have the chance of winning a jackpot, Quick Pick is fast, convenient, and will have you on your way in a flash. You don’t have to consider which numbers to play and you don’t have to spend time filling in dozens of numbers on the form.

Another thing that Quick Pick has going for it is that lottery numbers are random and so are the numbers Quick Pick draws. By trying to outguess the computer by choosing your own numbers, you could actually be lowering your odds.

Why? People tend to react emotionally to numbers, “liking” some and “disliking” others.   People tend to pick the numbers they like, while computers have no bias.

Furthermore, humans are likely to pick numbers that mean something to them, such as birth dates or anniversaries. That means that some numbers are selected more often than others (especially numbers that fall in the range of 1 – 31, since they correspond to dates). If you win with a commonly-used number, the chances are higher that you’ll have to split your jackpot.

The Argument for Choosing Your Own Lottery Numbers

So Quick Pack has some advantages, but choosing your own numbers does as well.

Many people simply enjoy having control over the numbers that they buy. They may feel closer to a loved one by playing their birth date or they may find that playing a lucky hunch or the numbers in a fortune cookie is more fun.

Self-pickers also have the ability to avoid the most commonly-played numbers. If all numbers have the exact same chance of being drawn, then you can at least narrow the odds of having to share your jackpot if you win by picking the most rarely-selected numbers, something that Quick Pick won’t do for you. Quick Pick won’t prioritize lottery numbers that give you higher chances of winning the whole pot.

Another thing that Quick Pick can’t do is to ensure you choose unique numbers across tickets. There’s no guarantee that your Quick Picked lottery numbers won’t repeat themselves. With very bad luck, a Quick Pick could even end up with two tickets with the exact same numbers on them — a waste of money that won’t happen when you choose your own numbers. The Quick Pick is likely to generate the same random numbers for other lottery players, too.

Some people believe that they can use a system to crack the lottery. To try your luck with a lottery system like wheeling, analyzing the probability of numbers being drawn, or following recommendations from lottery software, you need to pick your own numbers.

Quick Picks Versus Self-Picks: Which Are Better?

If there were a clear way to get better chances of winning the lottery, everyone would do it. That the debate over Quick Pick versus self-pick exists at all indicates there’s no clear winner.

If you are going strictly by the numbers, more Quick Pickers than self-pickers win lottery jackpots. About 70% of lottery winners used Quick Pick to choose their numbers.   But then again, about the same percentage of all lottery players — about 70% – 80%   — use Quick Pick. So it seems that about the same percentage of people win using each method.

It really boils down to what makes the most sense for you. If you have fun poring over numbers to find a pattern, then coming up with a system might be right for you. If it makes you smile to play your children’s birthdays, then play them! Even splitting a jackpot is better than not winning at all.

If you just want to grab a few tickets while you are picking up milk at your local convenience store or you want to buy a batch of tickets for your office lottery pool, Quick Pick is a solid option.

Most important of all is to make sure that if you do play the lottery, you set a budget that you can afford and never go above it. The chance of winning a huge lottery jackpot isn’t worth blowing your rent or grocery money on tickets.

When you buy a lottery ticket, you can choose your own numbers or use Quick Pick to have numbers randomly assigned. Which has the best chances of winning?

Statistician Cracks Secret Code Behind Lottery Tickets

Lottery games aren’t as random as they first may appear. (AP)

The random winning numbers on lottery tickets aren’t exactly random at all.

Mohan Srivastava is the man who figured out how to beat a scratch lottery game — and he didn’t even profit from it.

Srivastava, who was featured in this month’s Wired magazine, is a geological statistician by trade and is naturally adept at analyzing numbers and realizing patterns. His day job involves scoping out potential gold mines and determining the how much gold they might contain.

Cracking the lottery wasn’t all that different. Srivastava, using the same math, was able to predict winning tickets for a Canadian Tic-Tac-Toe scratch lottery game 9 out of 10 times. The method is surprisingly simple but his road to discovery involved a bit of chance.

Holding degrees from MIT and Stanford, Srivastava was never drawn to the allure of the lottery — given the inherent propensity to lose long term. When a friend gave him a couple of cheap scratch games as a joke, he didn’t think much of it. But one of the tickets turned out to be a winner. Srivastava was intrigued.

“On my way [to the cash station to cash my ticket], I start looking at the tic-tac-toe game, and I begin to wonder how they make these things,” Srivastava said in an interview with Wired Magazine. “The tickets are clearly mass-produced, which means there must be some computer program that lays down the numbers. Of course, it would be really nice if the computer could just spit out random digits.”

“But that’s not possible, since the lottery corporation needs to control the number of winning tickets. The game can’t be truly random,” he concluded. “Instead, it has to generate the illusion of randomness while actually being carefully determined.”

Powered with this knowledge, Srivastava realized the game was flawed — that you could indeed, crack the lottery.

The ultimate solution would allow him to determine a winning ticket with 90% accuracy. “The numbers themselves couldn’t have been more meaningless,” he told Wired Magazine. “But whether or not they were repeated told me nearly everything I needed to know.”

Srivastava was looking for numbers that never repeated, or singletons, raising the probability that the numbers would repeat under the latex coating that must be scratched off. If three singletons appeared in a row, he knew he most likely had a winner.

Since it was never his main goal to scam the lottery, Srivastava duly reported his findings to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, which pulled the flawed game the next day. But variations of his trick have been shown to increase odds of winning on various other scratch tickets.

The larger significance of Srivastava’s winning hack, though, is the confirmation that the lottery is often more contrived than spontaneous. “There is nothing random about the lottery,” he said. “In reality, everything about the game has been carefully designed to control payouts and entice the consumer.”

When random isn't random at all. Mohan Srivastava is a statistician who figured out how to beat a Canadian scratch lottery game — and he didn’t even profit from it. ]]>