Lotto advice from the Undercover Economist

With almost 14 million combinations to try, this would take, on average, seven million attempts – about 67,000 years if you play twice a week. Success would be guaranteed after 135,000 years. If you choose your numbers at random, however, success is never guaranteed, and tame mathematicians tell me that the average time to strike lucky is also longer – perhaps 100,000 years or so.

But whether you can shave 35,000 years off is beside the point. The lottery machine is not trying to find your number. It has no memory of previous combinations, and is equally unlikely to pick any of the 14 million. Pick at random, write down your birthday … it makes no difference to your chance of winning – although if you write down unusual numbers, it will minimise the likelihood that if you win, you’ll have to share your prize. | The Undercover Economist | Dear Economist: Can you help me win the lottery?.

This is as good a reminder of the difficulties of winning the lottery as any I’ve seen.

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