Lottery Strategy

No player has ever turned to playing the lottery because he or she liked their odds. Major lottery draws can provide odds as high as 200,000,000/1 so to say playing the lottery is a gamble is quite the understatement. Lottery is actually the form of gambling with the most risk involved and least amount of practical strategy, unlike poker or sports betting, which come with a wealth strategy and tips.

Fortunately, there is a bit of strategy that can be utilized when considering the lottery to at the very least increase your expected rate-of-return which is almost always negative with lottery play. Concentrating on which lotteries to play, when to play them, and the numbers you select can create a positive expected rate of return, an almost unheard of scenario when playing the major draws.

Increasing Expected Rate-of-Return

Garth Sundem, 'Best Selling' author and avid TED speaker, wrote an interesting guest blog post for Scientific American back in 2012 titled "A Fun DIY Science Goodie: How to Get a Positive Expected Rate of Return on a Lottery Ticket."

The article addresses Sundem's realization that a majority of lottery players assume there is absolutely no strategy involved and completely accept the negative expected rate of return major lottery draws provide. Sundem begins his notable blog post as so:

"So goes popular opinion: the lottery’s an egregious societal evil implemented and overseen by shape-shifting, blood-drinking reptilian aliens. And that may be largely true – designed to slowly and quietly bleed dry your pockets – that is, unless you learn to drive it."

The article proceeds to explain one of the few, if not the only, lottery strategies out there to increase your expected rate of return or as Sundem puts it, "make the dollar you put down likely to win back that dollar and more." Expected rate of return can be explained like so; when a player wagers \$1 on a Mega Millions draw, they can expect an average return of about \$0.55, a negative return rate. Playing a smaller state-level lottery can produce a much more favorable return with some reaching \$1.30 per \$1.00, an actual positive expected rate of return on a lottery drawing.

The core strategy topics to increase your expected rate of return discussed in Sundem's article are the type of lottery players choose to play, when to play those lotteries and the numbers players should select once a lottery is chosen.

Choosing a Lottery

Sundem and other lottery experts recommend any lottery players looking to embrace more favorable odds (or anything better than 200,000,000/1) should look to play large jackpots with low ticket sales; obviously easier said than done. Sundem describes the formula for a finding good lottery draw as:

Look for an after-tax, cash value of the jackpot that exceeds 0.8 times the odds against you, and in which the number of tickets sold remains less than one-fifth this jackpot.

This implies players stick to small or state level lotteries like the United States' New York Lotto, a lottery intended to only be played by New York state residents and typically doesn't garner much national media attention. The New York Lotto provides hefty jackpots with much smaller ticket sales than a major draw indicating a better chance of fulfilling Sundem's suggested requirements.

Also worth noting is the amount of times the lottery has rolled over as well as the overall jackpot size. Sundem's article suggest when choosing a lottery, players should consider draws that have "rolled over at least five times and that remains below \$40 million." Sticking to these perimeters should almost guarantee a positive expected rate of return.

Numbers to Avoid

Once players have successfully chosen a quality lottery to play, consideration of the numbers to select must begin. Now, it's common practice across most societies to use 'lucky' numbers when gambling making lottery and Roulette prime targets for myths and superstitions. Sundem and others suggest avoiding historically 'lucky' numbers regardless of the culture which produced the myth meaning stay away from "7, 13, 23, 32, 42, and 48." Instead, Sundem's article provides a list of rarely used lottery numbers to be used: 26, 34, 44, 45, and 46.

The last real consideration when choosing numbers is recognizable patterns. It's suggested you avoid any recognizable or noteworthy number combinations/patterns as they will most likely be played a lot more than random combinations. Only the numbers found on the edge of the ticket should be considered in terms of patterns due to their low number of plays in general.

Numbers in a row (especially the middle row) should always be avoided as well as evidenced by the 1995 UK National Lottery drawing which crowned 133 jackpots winners due to that fact that all 133 players selected right down the middle row (7, 17, 23, 32, 38, 42, and 48) which eventually was the winning combo. The winners had to split the £16 million prize 133 ways meaning they each took home less than £100 thousand after taxes despite winning a million dollar lottery jackpot.

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