Playing the Lottery: Can You Really Beat the Odds?
This month a professional gambler spent $200,000 on Connecticut Lotto tickets trying to win a multimillion-dollar jackpot. Was it a winning strategy?
Here’s one for the books: professional gambler Bernard Marantelli recently traveled from the UK to Stamford, Connecticut hoping to bag a multimillion-dollar lottery jackpot—and willing to spend big to do it.
According to the Hartford Courant, Marantelli scooped up hundreds of thousands of Quick Pick Lotto tickets at a local mini-mart. The $25.8 million jackpot, which had been growing since January 2018, was the third largest ever in the state.
But after shelling out some $200,000 at the Atlantic Market in Stamford, Marantelli lost, to a player who spent a buck at the Stop & Shop in Danbury.
The winning numbers were 1-9-10-15-41-43.
Odds are Marantelli made back some of his investment in smaller wins, but it was a costly lesson. With a one in 7,059,052 chance of winning, he simply couldn’t buy enough tickets to guarantee a jackpot.
“Playing the lottery is entertaining and exciting and once in a while somebody gets paid, so you think, ‘It could be me,’” says Professor Steve Bleiler, mathematician and games expert at Portland State University. “But the fact is, you could buy every lottery ticket except one, and still lose all your money.”
So what strategies actually work? These tips may get you a little closer to a life-changing win:
- Choose numbers above 31. “Everybody and their sister plays their birthday or a lucky number, which tend not to be more than 31,” says Bleiler. “Stop picking numbers between 1 and 31.”
- Choose a unique combination of numbers. That way, if you actually win, you won’t have to split the prize with others.
- Play your state’s Pick 3 type games. They offer vastly better odds and more chances to win. Play “boxed” bets, which let you match winning numbers in any order (i.e., 123, 231, 213). Then try the same in Pick 4, reinvesting any wins into “straight” wagers, where you have to match winning numbers in the order they were drawn. Eventually, level up to Pick 5 or Pick 6.
- Join a lottery pool—or start one. Do the math. Spend $10 at $2 per game, and you’ve played five games. Throw $10 into a pool of 100 people, and you’ve played 500! Your luck just increased a hundredfold.
- Go ahead and play Powerball, but don’t expect a life-changing win. Understand that each Powerball entry has odds of 1 in 292.2 million, in every drawing. But it’s fun to throw your hat in the ring, and after all, someone has to win. Again, choose a mix of unpopular numbers, so if you win, you stand a better chance of winning big.
Above all, always play within your means, and have fun. On November 12 the Danbury winner, William Mclaughlin, claimed a lump sum of $21,365,302, and will likely have a very happy Thanksgiving with all his new best friends, long-lost relatives and tax attorneys.
“When you buy a lottery ticket,” says Bleiler, “you’re buying a dream. As long as the cost of the dream does not adversely affect your reality, go ahead and enjoy it.”
Go Ahead, Scratch That Itch!