It seems there’s a bit of a hubbub about the Mega Millions jackpot this week. My general principle when it comes to the lottery is that I can’t win if I don’t play, and I don’t play. I do, however, have a theoretical lottery ticket I always hypothetically play. I checked it against Friday’s winning numbers, and I would have won $0 of the $640,000,000 available. And yes, if I won $640,000,000, I would quit my job. Wait, I already quit my job. Well, I certainly would quit a hypothetical job. Managing that much money would pretty much be a full-time job, and with that much money the balance of spending my time and money wisely would shift over to more spending my money wisely. However, I am under no impression that my life’s problems would be solved with that much money. Which is just one of the reasons I don’t play the lottery (except that one time 5 years ago).
Why do I have a theoretical ticket? Because I think about numbers way more than most people.
What numbers would I have played? 52-53-54-55-56, with mega ball 46.
But those numbers are all in a row, they’d never get drawn! Actually, they have the exact same probability to be drawn as any other set of numbers.
Why choose such strange, high numbers? Because not as many other people would.
Why does it matter what other people choose? For non-jackpot prizes, the amount is fixed based on the quantity of correctly chosen numbers (except in CA). For those, it doesn’t matter. However, the jackpot is split among all winning tickets. If I win the jackpot, I’d just as soon win on a week when nobody else wins.
Why would fewer people pick these? Seriously, whose lucky number is 52? I hypothesize that many people pick single digit numbers just because people think of those when choosing numbers. Also, many people choose numbers 31 or lower because they’re choosing dates. I figure many people aren’t going to choose the highest numbers, because many casual players don’t know exactly how high the choices are, so they’ll lowball their picks. Players who use the random number generator are just as likely to pick high numbers, but at least I am unlikely to share my jackpot with most non-random players.
So how much would I have won this week if I’d played? Nothing. This combination of numbers was among the 175,711,535 combinations that did not win a jackpot and the (roughly) 171,000,000 that didn’t win a lesser prize.