Archive for March, 2010

Why don’t I win the lottery?

March 16, 2010

I started the last entry with some historical notes about English lotteries paying for colonization, as venture capital for slave trades of several sorts. And, it wasn’t just the English who were “taxing the poor” to pay for these activities. Europe was all about the numbers game (when it got out of the dark ages). Gambling helped make the transition to capitalism–sort of the modern primitive of yesteryear. Modernity brought a certain safety and dullness to everyday life. Gambling took a person to the edge, and it still does. Unless you have other pursuits: surfing, race car driving, tattooing, making art, and even, as has been mentioned, shopping. Gets the endorphins going. “You gotta be in it to win it” and every other cliche about wagering something on something.

So, when the lotto or mega millions or power ball drawings get up over 100 milion dollars, people throw the dollar or more in and take a chance. Even though the odds, the odds…, are not really in anyone’s favor. What are the odds of winning the lottery? That is easy enough to find out. The games vary. Overall odds of winning any amount on a $1 mega millions ticket is around 1 in 39. The FAQ page claims that overall odds on a scratch ticket of any amount is between 1 in 4 and 1 in 6. However, the big game winners’ odds are not listed. The instant scratch games’ odds per game are often between 1 in 16 and 1 in 1 million…or more…Who actually wants to win a dollar on a dollar bet? But it’s slightly better than losing the dollar…

In other areas of their lives, most people try to play games with better odds. Attraction has always been both personal and somewhat public. Are we really living in the most vapid time in history, where physical beauty trumps everything else? Modelizers and middle-age crises meet the odds? I have heard individuals actually say that they went after the “best” they could. “Out of my league” usually applies to looks, sometimes intelligence. And, of course, there are long shots. Maybe not like the lottery, maybe just like the lottery. Or maybe like the races, the more people betting, the more the odds change.

changing odds at aqueduct