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BucktownTiger, Lead Shopwrecker

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Mega Millions Fever Folly [Mar. 30th, 2012|04:12 am]
BucktownTiger, Lead Shopwrecker

It is so amazing how many people are going crazy and buying Mega Millions tickets... even the Amish are getting in on the craze! (Okay maybe not really hehe)

But what the massive throngs don't understand is that their odds are getting worse and worse - and in fact - their true odds of winning - which we math geeks call "expected value" - are much much lower than they would be if the jackpot were 20 million or something much lower.

Sure, the odds of having all six numbers right don't change - but as so many more people play - the chances of more than one person winning go WAY UP. but of course the news and the lottery people will never ever tell you that. Oh noes. Of course not. They want to continue to fuel the craze and drive lottery ticket sales.

It is a damn shame, too.

[User Picture]From: whitetail
2012-03-30 11:52 am (UTC)
A bumper sign I saw once.

"Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math."
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[User Picture]From: sonious
2012-03-30 09:07 pm (UTC)
And that's the reason it goes toward education, clearly for each ticket sold means our math teachers did something wrong.
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[User Picture]From: guitar_stitch
2012-03-30 12:00 pm (UTC)
Meh. Let dreamers dream. They help pay for education. I play a scratch off once per pay period. If I hit a winning streak, I use the lottery winnings to continue the cycle until I bust.
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[User Picture]From: kindar
2012-03-30 01:10 pm (UTC)
if I remember correctly the long term returns would be higher if instead of buying a lottery ticket the person puts that money in a regular savings account.
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[User Picture]From: skippyfox
2012-03-30 01:25 pm (UTC)
The way I see it, your first ticket increases your odds of winning from absolute 0 to a positive real number. That is an increase of INFINITY PERCENT. ;)

I never found it to be worth buying more than one ticket though XD
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[User Picture]From: harvardheinous
2012-03-30 04:00 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: phoenix_audubon
2012-03-31 03:39 am (UTC)

Also, no matter how many other tickets are bought, it never decreases your chance of winning. (Although, the payout would be less with multiple winners.)
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[User Picture]From: foxxdamone
2012-03-30 01:26 pm (UTC)
Your chances of winning are really slim, but there IS a chance you could hit for a lot of money after only having played once.
Twice here, people that normally didn't play scratch offs bought one for the novelty. One won 777,777 dollars and the other hit for 2 million.
The odds are really bad, but there is always that chance, and that's what drives those people.
I myself prefer the safer, surer way of simply saving.
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[User Picture]From: aj_hyena
2012-03-30 02:02 pm (UTC)
I think most people know this but they do it anyway, to have -a- chance, *any* chance at all. I know people who dropped $40 or more a couple days ago on tonight's draw, and I myself put up a $20.
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[User Picture]From: almightytora
2012-03-30 04:46 pm (UTC)
I put in my $5 for this jackpot. Yes, I know I have literally no chance of winning, but not playing at all gives you zero chance of winning.

I have won stuff before where the odds were very stacked against me, and even finished a puzzle where the odds of finding the correct answer were millions to 1, so it is possible.

And yes, the news never shows that every huge jackpot has been won by 2 people or more.

Oddly, the Mega Millions website showed that story yesterday, but it has been taken down. (The link doesn't go to the right story.)

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[User Picture]From: mortonfox
2012-03-30 05:10 pm (UTC)
Maybe not. The jackpot seems to rise as more tickets are sold. It is up to $640 million now. Unless the top prize gets split more than 30 ways, a ticket will still have a better EV than when the jackpot was $20 million.

However, as I've noted on another thread, the ticket EV doesn't mean much unless you're buying a significant fraction of 176 million tickets because otherwise, we're still talking about vanishingly-small odds.
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[User Picture]From: bucktowntiger
2012-03-30 05:17 pm (UTC)
But there are hundreds of times more tickets sold this time than at twenty million. Maybe thousands of times more. As of this morning, over 400 million tickets had been sold for tonight's drawing
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[User Picture]From: mortonfox
2012-03-30 05:29 pm (UTC)
Before writing my reply, I took a look at the history of the biggest jackpots and I haven't seen one split by more than 4 tickets yet, even for those $300 million+ jackpots. A 30-way split would itself be freakish.
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[User Picture]From: bucktowntiger
2012-03-30 07:27 pm (UTC)
I found an article that said the expected value at $600 million is about 90 cents on the dollar... pretty good...
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From: actonrf
2012-03-30 11:19 pm (UTC)
For me its a mixed bag on the positive side it is a voluntary tax but the negatives outweigh any positives; that is the lottery is a government ran numbers racket and monopoly. If I try pull a private lottery I would have the State and the Feds banging down my door and arresting under RICO. Wost the government lottery can pull stunts and exempt themselves from State regulations on legal gambling. Only the state can run a scam to tighten the odds to increase the take and call just making the game (or should I say scam) more exciting.
There are more ambiguous moral issues, Especially as a Christian, I prefer not to participate for moral and political reasons. , but will not press the issue.

PS. as I think about it the voluntary tax issue dose not wash. The issue is the Broken window fallacy; the cost of the ticket is a net loss in relation to any economic benefit.

Edited at 2012-03-30 11:30 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: doodlesthegreat
2012-03-31 04:05 pm (UTC)
I bought just one ticket. It's nice to dream a bit, but realism is also useful.
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