Powerball, Mega Millions and the various state lottery jackpot games offer a shot at instant riches — a very long shot — and players are always looking for a strategy to beat the odds and increase their chances of winning a massive, life-changing jackpot.
But despite some self-styled “experts” who claim to have a “system” for increasing your chances of winning at Powerball and other lotteries, statisticians and financial experts are adamant that such claims are deeply misleading to lottery consumers, and could lead to players spending far more money than they should in the belief that a “system” for winning millions of dollars in the blink of an eye through a lottery actually exists.
Sorry to report, there is no “system” for winning Powerball or Mega Millions — or any lottery jackpot game based on a random number drawing.
One popular lottery “guru,” Richard Lustig, sells a small book which he claims spells out his proprietary “system” for beating the odds. And they are long odds indeed. The chances of winning Powerball are one in 175,223,510. The odds of a Mega Millions win are even longer — one in 258,890,000.
Lustig’s claim to fame is that he has, he says, won the lottery seven times. But as one expert points out, that credential means nothing because Lustig never reveals how much money he spent playing the lottery. Spending huge amounts of money on games with shorter odds, of course, increases the chances of winning.
But with odds as long as those on nationwide lotteries such as Powerball, the probability of a jackpot win is so miniscule that even spending large sums on Powerball tickets won’t increase your chances by enough to make a difference.
Lustig says that you will boost your chances of beating the odds by picking your own numbers, rather than relying on the random “Quick Picks,” and playing those numbers again and again until they win. Then never play them again, because the same combination, he says, has very little chance of ever turning up again.
Statisticians say that’s just dead wrong. Because each combination has exactly the same chance of occurring in every drawing, it doesn’t matter whether you pick numbers at random, or pick the yourself based on “research,” which is another “tip” offered by Lustig.
“I hesitate to even say this,” said financial adviser Zee Bissonette, “but if you do buy lottery tickets, picking random numbers is the way to do it.”
Why? Picking your own numbers means that you’re more likely to pick numbers that other people also pick. So if you are extremely lucky and win the Powerball jackpot, random numbers give you a greater chance of keeping all the money, rather than splitting it with a co-winner.
Playing Powerball and Mega Millions can be fun, as long as you never spend any more money than you can comfortably afford to lose — and you are very careful about how you make that decision. Just keep in mind that your chances of actually winning are extraordinarily slim to say the least, and that what you’re actually buying is not a realistic chance at becoming an instant multi-millionaire. What you’re really paying for is a few hours of the pleasant fantasy of what you’d do with all that money.