# How To Win The Lottery

This is certainly a million dollar question. Countless efforts have been made to come up with a winning lottery formula. Many have tried, but, needless to say, have failed and given up their pursuit of a winning lottery system. Some have succeeded, though. One of such people is Brad Duke, a Powerball winner, who a few years back won well over 200 million greenbacks, pocketing over 80 million dollars in a lump sum.

Here is what Mr. Duke had to say for Fortune, a popular financial magazine:

“I just started playing number games with myself about how to capture the most diverse numbers. Then I looked at the most recent Powerball numbers over the last six months and took the set of 15 numbers that were most commonly coming up. My Powerball numbers were going to be those 15. So I started messing around with it, and my number games got a little more complex and a little bigger. I was starting to win smaller amounts like $150 and $500.”

What he is not saying is whether he was spending more than he was winning. While a hundred bucks or even five times that sounds nice, if he was spending more than he was winning, his system was not a winning one at all. Fortunately, even if it were the case, all losses were eventually covered by one huge win, so the gamble was indeed worth it.

His system based on seeking a most diverse pool of numbers seems like a step in the right direction compared to systems that assume that all sets of numbers are equally good. To see this, let us consider the following set of five numbers: 1,2,3,4,5. This is a set of consecutive numbers and there are only a few dozens of such sets which can be formed from the whole numbers ranging from 1 to 39 or to 56 or to whatever the top number in a given lottery happens to be. Let us remind the reader that in a standard lottery, without a mega number, 5 or 6 numbers are drawn from the universe of whole numbers ranging from 1 to some top number that is usually about 50. If you compare this (a few dozens) to many millions of five number combinations that you can possibly draw, you quickly realize that it makes more sense to bet on the sets of non-consecutive numbers as such sets are statistically more likely to come up. And the longer you play, the more true this becomes. This is what Brad Duke would probably mean by a more diverse pool of numbers.

That’s nice, except that all this argument is wrong. And here is why: all number combinations are equally likely and while there are more combinations that do not constitute consecutive numbers, the bet is not on the property (consecutive or non-consecutive), but on a precise combination and it is this particular combination that wins and not its mathematical property.

So how come that Mr. Duke won? Well, his system made things easier for him. By choosing only 15 numbers and focusing on those instead of, say, 50, he simplified things and, eventually, got lucky. He might have gotten lucky, but in some other drawing, with some other set of numbers, not just those 15 that he chose because they seemed most commonly coming up. It remains to be seen if his set of numbers was more statistically valid in their alleged higher frequency than some other set. I somewhat doubt it.

Does that mean that this approach has no merit? Not at all. As a matter of fact, it’s the best if not the only sensible approach you can use in such a case, an approach that is often used by scientists to arrive at an approximate solution if an exact one is hard to figure out. Using 15 “most likely candidates” as Mr. Duke did to win his millions or simply a smaller sample is an example of an approximation to a more complex problem which cannot be handled exactly in a realistic, cost efficient manner due to its enormous size. Sometimes an approximate solution, if we are lucky enough, may turn out to the exact one as was the case for Brad Duke a few years ago.

Yes, luck is what we still need here too. Even the most intelligent, most high-tech, lottery system cannot guarantee that you will ever win. It can certainly help you by simplifying the task of handling the game complexity, but to win the lottery you still need old-fashioned good luck. You need to have Lady Luck on your side. So, how can you win her over? Well, avoiding black cats and standing ladders is said to work miracles in securing good luck, but that may not be enough, though. And I am, obviously, facetious here. There is only one way you can help your luck: by playing the lottery. Otherwise, how else can you even begin to think you will ever become a lotto millionaire?