Sunday, October 18, 2009

Luck Sucks

Despite considering myself reasonably intelligent, I still buy a ticket for the Saturday night tatts-lotto draw every few weeks or so.

Australia's population is approaching twenty-two million and any mathematician (ie Love Chunks) will tell you that the chances of selecting the winning six numbers from a combination of 45, is well, about 123,456,789 to one. Most of us would have either created a program or seen a friend create one that compares the success of choosing the same six numbers every week to varying them each week - with the same six winning by the mere skin of a cooling custard.

To complicate things further (at least for a numerically-challenged meathead like me) is that most people tend to select their 'regular six' using birthdates which means that numbers above 31 are unlikely to feature on their tickets. Whether any boffin has bothered to work out the odds of selecting numbers 32 to 45 to increase the chances of winning is probably still being undertaken by science undergrads seeking a wild and crazy change from spending their Saturday nights translating the Old Testament into Klingon.

Yet, as admitted to earlier, I avoid logic and willingly buy a ticket and, before I've even left the newsagent, idly waste about ten minutes of my life indulging in the 'What if I Won Lotto' fantasy. Yes, the most unoriginal, unrewarding and unrealistic daydream that every person above the age of seven has entertained at least once in their lives. It is sadly pathetic and even though I'd like to think I am above all that, I still do it. It's a bit like believing that an orange eaten after a Kit-Kat cancels out the wickedness of the chocolate, and I still do that too.

On Sunday mornings I flick to page two of the newspaper, write down the winning lotto numbers (and the two supps - any money is good money) and then meticulously check my ticket. Nope, not even a division six prize, dammit. But do I throw the ticket away? Of course not.

It stays in my purse until Friday morning. On my way to the supermarket for the weekly shop I'll pop into the newsagent, flash a hopeful smile and ask them to run the now-slightly-tattered ticket through their computer, vainly hoping that I've mis-checked and the numbers will tell a better story.

The bored shop assistant slips it into the slot, counts to three and hands me back my ticket and a slip and tells me, "Sorry, not this time love."

And here's the killer: the slip says 'Not A Winner,' as if to rub salt in my already pus-infected wound of disappointment.

Why don't they just go all out and say 'YOU'RE A TOTAL LOSER' instead? Perhaps they could also get a bit creative with the rejection slips and have a different one each time: 'You're still poor. And ugly'. Or: 'You should be happy that you even had the guts to turn up here today and not frighten any of our customers'; 'Hell, a face like yours would be able to sand down a log,'; or 'Trust me, you didn't win last time, didn't win this time and will never win. Rack off.'

This would be the one I'd get: 'You lost. Now get out of here; you make the place look untidy.'

I blame the work lotto club for introducing me to this world of unrealistic hope and crushing reality. We would all chip in our $2 for the week and get a group ticket. However, as soon as I joined up, we didn't win a brass razoo. (What is a 'razoo' exactly? Well whatever it was, we never won it).

Our statistical analyst suggested that the odds would be far more favourable if we tried putting our money on the gee-gees, taking it in turns to select the race and whichever horse's name appealed to us. Twelve months of that and still no pot of gold.

How about the greyhounds? Zilcho. Our other stats guy helpfully pointed out that if we'd invested our weekly contributions instead we'd have fully paid for our christmas lunch, endless drinks and taxi fares. He was promptly shoved into the photocopier room and ignored until the deadline rush for the unit's monthly finance reports.

Scratchies were our last resort. Again it was two bucks each and we'd buy a whole toilet roll of them and take it in turns each week to scratch them all. It was absolutely tragic - our biggest windfall was $3 and we'd only spent $28 to 'win' it.

Is there a message in all of this? Well obviously it's to keep your money in your wallet or the bank, but we don't do we? We all like to wish, hope and fantasise. My naive little gambling bug also extends to entering competitions. Thankfully I'm not like my friend Bill's sister who ended up buying 16 jars of mustard for the entry tokens, but I am prepared to pay for a 55c stamp to enter a competition on the back of a packet that I'd ordinarily buy.

And what have I won? Well, I wanted to win the First Class around-the-world tickets on offer, but got the consolation prize of a Deeko paper serviette holder instead. It's actually rather useful and is a quite attractive wrought iron design that can withstand most windy days when we're having lunch outside.....

I also wanted to win the Cadbury $250,000 cash promotion, but got a blue plastic 'Time Out' watch instead. To be fair, it proved handy for gardening and swimming in the three-month life span it provided and getting some facial cleanser and toner from Jurlique was OK but I felt a bit shortchanged when what I really wanted was all-expenses paid fortnight's health and beauty retreat at the Golden Door in Queensland....

At the time of typing this, I'm still hoping to come up trumps for the Schweppes 'Magic Moments' win two-grand per week for a year competition; the Woolworths/Safeway Honda Odyssey/Fiji holiday/free groceries for o
ne year in the 'Read it - Win it' magazine promotion; Home Beautiful 'Aussie Home' photography awards; Epilepsy Association BMW raffle; Flemington Traders' local calendar shots, the Grand Angus $50,000 cash first prize...... Oh, wait. I actually have to buy - and possibly eat - one of those to be in the running, don't I...?

Overly optimistic and pathetic, yes. But the day I stop hoping is the day I'll stop living; regardless of the mathematical logic. And I ain't a logical gal, as Love Chunks and the general population will readily tell


the projectivist said...

those analyst chaps are a bit rubbish, aren't they? when are they going to come up with something that pays?

i never pay any attention to those statistics about what my chances of winning are, someone has to win and it might as well be us hey Kath?

Anonymous said...

See, the thing is, imagination is free. You don't actually need to buy the ticket to indulge in the "what would I do if I won lotto" game.

You could imagine that you found a ticket. You could imagine that some mysterious distant relative you've never heard of has carked it and you've inherited their estate. You could imagine charlie and the chocolate factory is real, and you've just laid your hands on the golden ticket.

None of this costs you anything.

And obviously you know how improbable it is to win, but you convince yourself otherwise. So quoting numbers isn't going to win you, but maybe visualising it will. So here goes...

Google tells me the odds of winning oz lotto are 8,145,060 to 1. Let's imagine these odds on a roulette table.

Let's assume our roulette ball is 1cm wide. So it needs to fall into a slot that is at least 1cm wide. And there needs to be 8,145,060 slots. So that makes a roulette wheel with a circumference of at least 81 km. The good ol' 2 pi R formula tells us that would make the wheel about 26km across.

This is way bigger than the biggest circular thing I can think of, the arecibo radio observatory. Take a look at this picture of it.

Imagine playing roulette on that baby, hoping your ball will fall into the 1cm wide slot on the edge with your number on it.

That radio telescope is only 305 metres wide. The imaginary "lotto" roulette wheel is 26km wide; 86 times bigger! It might take you an hour of driving around it just to see who won, if you were doing 80km/hr! Assuming you can even spot a 1cm wide roulette ball at that speed!

Wow it was fun working that out and imagining it. And it cost me nothing! In conclusion, I am a total nerd and you should not buy lotto tickets.

Excuse me I'm off to translate Deuteronomy...

Benjamin Solah said...

I can't tell you how many times I've dreamed of winning enough so I didn't have to work for the rest of my life whilst I wrote novels and protested against the system.

Yes, even I'm a sucker...

River said...

I also buy a weekly ticket in hopes of winning, when there's a mega draw going, I'll buy two (or three), but instead of ten minutes fantasising, I'll happily spend ten hours spending and sharing the money and in my fantasy it's always the first division I've won.(Ypu've got to be in it to win it...) I win small amounts on a less than regular basis, (last week $47.20)and while that makes me happy enough, I often wish that I could have the millions all at once, not a bit at a time. My winnings go into a special hidden moneybox that no-one else knows the location of (unless I need it desperately for groceries or chocolate)and the tin is opened in early December for christmas shopping.

Lorna Lilo said...

Keep entering competitions. Sometimes people win. I won a trip for 2 to London once just by leaving my name and telephone number. And I was always one of those "I never win" people. Now I have to just shut the hell up.

Kath Lockett said...

Exactly, Projectivist, EXACTLY.

DanielK, you're right too.
.... but it isn't as much fun admitting to that, is it? Do you ever buy a ticket?

Benjamin, even Marxist horror writers need a bit of a windfall every now and then.

River you've now revealed to the ENTIRE INTERNET that you have a tin of cash - enough to see you through the worst excesses of Christmas. The search is ON!

Anonymous said...

OK, so what *would* you do with your winnings if you came in as sole winner of Division 1 and pocketed, say, $15 million?

B Smith

River said...


ashleigh said...

Here's a thought. The chances of winning lotto are about a squillion to one.

The trouble is, if you win you might have to share the prize.

Using this and a masterful bit of logic, it follows that to have the SAME chance of winning, and to have a LOWER chance of sharing, you should choose numbers greater than 31. Given the distribution of dates, probably greater than 30 would do just as well.

This way, if you do win, the likelihood of keeping it to yourself is slightly greater by avoiding the date-scheme-pickers.

Alternatively, just don't buy the tickets. Save and invest the money instead. You'll get a wild ride but a far more certain long term payoff.

Baino said...

The best I can do is a $5 scratchie after the monthly shop. Once upon a time, I'd at least win enough to buy another scratchie but not lately.Even blew $10 on Powerball last week but I'm beginning to think it's a mugs game. Then I also console myself that having never won anything more than a $10 voucher for drawing a Western Star Cow on a Tarax Club competition, my odds must be improving!

Deep Kick Girl said...

I hear you sister (I say after opening my newly arrived Easyorder Boystown lottery tickets). I too share "the dream".

Maybe the contest entering/lotto/lottery ticket buying is a waste of money, but surely just those short, sweet moments of hope are worth the price.

BTW, stay away from scratchies. The only useful thing I've ever learnt from a Dr Phil episode (and I still can't understand why this segment was on Dr Phil) is this. Scratchies are a scam, even more than the obvious. You see there are only so many "big" prizes per type of scratchie. These cards can be anywhere in the rolls they send out to thousands of agents around the state/country. Once the winning tickets are sold they don't collect all the unsold rolls/tickets, they keep selling them, knowing that there is actually no chance of someone winning a big prize at that point.

Rowe said...

Nothing wrong with hoping to win something. My mum always said, you've gotta be in it to win it, just ask anyone who's won something.

Rowe said...

Er, don't recall mum ever winning, but I could not argue that logic...

The Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

I am a "logical" IT person with a degree in Maths, Computer Science and statistics. Yet I, too, am a loser who tries to buy a lottery ticket every week and am part of a work syndicate as well. In the UK you have to choose 6 numbers between 1 and 49 so a win is even more unlikely.

I am a sad sad idiot loser. But I won't change.




Carly said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kath Lockett said...

Anon/B Smith - I reckon that's a topic for a future blog article...

Ashleigh dearest sweetie dearest, I *know* you're right but it's always the lure of instant cash and losing myself in lotto fantasies whenever the 'lucky vibe' hits me. On second thought, maybe I should only buy a ticket when I don't have the 'lucky vibe' because it hasn't yielded me a cracker so far.

Baino, a winning drawing of a Western Star Cow is something to be very proud of. My Hector the Safety Cat won a colouring-in-competition for me in reception (1974!) but instead of a prize I got an 'early minute' from the teacher - how stingy was THAT?!

Deep Kick Girl - I didn't know that about scratchies - that's even more cynical and awful and mean than the lotto odds.

Rowe my mum used to say the same thing. She also used to say 'Better out than in' years before Shrek ever did, so perhaps I shouldn't have listened to her!

Don't ever change, Plastic Mancunian!

franzy said...

I LOVE lotto tickets!
But I, like Dan, don't actually buy them (often) and choose to stand around having supreme winning fantasies instead. I have different grades of fantasy too:
The million dollar fantasy (house, car, holiday, party)
The ten million dollar fantasy (bigger house, sweet-arse lanscaping, library, selection of cars, charity donations, paying off friends' bills)
The fifty million dollar fantasy (Bruce Wayne, but without the hard work)
I even have the fifty thousand dollar fantasy (Put it all on red! No! Black! Red!)

Then I get a bit sick with my own greed and have to go and think about something else ...

Anonymous said...

A rather late comment but I have the urgent need to share that I won a Toyota Prius not all that long ago AND I got a shot in the Flemington Traders' Calendar (no win but yay!).

Oh, and yesterday I found a five dollar note on the ground. I'm on a roll...

New Year's resolution: enter everything!