Extraordinary Claim: British Boffins Crack Lottery

Supposedly, a group of scentists and academics in Britain have, on an investment of $8700, used a mathematical approach to win a $13M jackpot. (Source: A Statistical Approach for Winning Lottery — Group Wins $13M!)

Momentarily assuming that there’s no “rake” and that the lottery pays $1 in prizes for each $1 in gambling, that’s “only” ~1500:1 odds. Not likely, but stranger things happen every day.

But, of course, the problem with any kind of approach to the lottery (or, for that matter, stock picking), is that there is a rake. In the case of the lottery, the state takes a large percentage of the income. In the case of stocks, trading costs and the speed of execution have destroyed many a trading “system” (it’s surprisingly easy to create a statistical model that works, if execution is instantaneous and free).

The scant details seem to describe a technique for covering all numbers in order to increase the amount of payout when those numbers hit (as opposed to, say, the numbers 1-12 and 1-30, which are used by people betting birthdays and anniversaries). I find it highly doubtful that any such technique could beat the rake in a professionally-run, large-scale lottery. If there is a technique, I hope the newly rich academics publish their mathematical techniques, because it will probably necessitate rewriting the textbooks of probability!

Oh, and this gives me an excuse to blog a long-held opinion of mine: it’s perfectly rational to buy a ticket for a lottery. What’s contemptibly irrational is buying two or more.