Today, "Mega Millions" is trending on Twitter. The lottery has already reached 1 Billion dollars, making it the third largest jackpot in United States history so far. It's times like these I like to remind people about probability and statistics. Generally speaking, you'll be more of a winner putting your money into savings or even just blowing it on something you want than tossing it into the lottery.
The lottery is fun, but the chances of winner are so nearly nonexistent, there's no real financially rational reason to play it.
How many tickets? ($1 each)
But because the lottery is all about probabilities, you don't really need any money to play it as long as you're okay not collecting any real money either if you do win. So we built this interactive lottery game based on the true probabilities and payouts of the actual PowerBall
What's enlightening about this interactive demo is how it awakens us to just how crazy it is to play a much smaller amount of this money. The lottery is good at alluring us to near-zero odds because at the end of the day, someone truly will win this jackpot, so you do...technically...have a chance.
Did you know?
- Which of the following chosen numbers has the best chance of winning? 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 or 23, 13, 2, 63, 14, 20? We're tempted to say it's the latter, but actually all of these selections have an equal chance of winning.
- Similarly, when flipping a coin for heads (H) or tails (T) ten times, you're just as likely to get HHHHHHHHHH as you are HTTHTHTHTT. It feels like the latter combination looks more realistic, but no matter how many times you've flipped heads previously, you have the same potential to flip it again. 50/50. Thinking otherwise is called the gambler's fallacy. In short, the misconception that a win is "due" when wins are truly random.
- In a room of just 23 people, there is a 50% chance two people will have the same birthday.
More likely than winning the lottery
According to Las Vegas Review, here are some events that are more likely to happen to you than winning the lottery:
- Winning an Oscar
- Being killed by a meteorite
- Dying in a plane crash
- Being a U.S. President
- Winning a gold medal in the olympics
- Having a conjoined twin