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Old 17 December 2013, 06:28 AM
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Icon605 Why Do Lottery Players Think They Can Defy Odds?

It's the ultimate fantasy: Walk into a store, plunk down a dollar, and with nothing but luck — really extraordinary luck — you win a giant lottery. Suddenly, you're rich as a sultan with enough money to buy an NBA team or your own island.

The odds of that happening, of course, are astronomical. But tell that to the optimists and dreamers across the country who lined up at gas stations, mini-marts and drug stores for the last-minute buying frenzy in the Mega Millions jackpot.

So what drives people to play, and what makes them think their $1 investment— among the many, many millions — will bring staggering wealth?

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...ryId=251816627
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  #2  
Old 17 December 2013, 06:37 AM
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I buy tickets only when it gets ludicrously high like this. Even now the expected payoff is less than what you pay for a ticket (after you factor in annuity discount, taxes, and odds of multiple winners). But infinitesimal chance of having all the money is better than zero chance. Just don't spend more on lottery tickets than you can afford to throw in the garbage.
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Old 17 December 2013, 07:50 AM
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Not that I doubt that we can't comprehend the odds but I don't see any evidence that most or even a sizable minority of players expect to win.
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  #4  
Old 17 December 2013, 08:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Errata View Post
Even now the expected payoff is less than what you pay for a ticket (after you factor in annuity discount, taxes, and odds of multiple winners).
That isn't really relevant, since you can't possibly (unless you're immensely wealthy) participate in enough trials to approach the expected value.
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  #5  
Old 17 December 2013, 01:30 PM
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Like Errata, I occasionally buy when it gets as high as it is now. But I don't "expect" to win. And I highly doubt many people do "expect." If you're not spending more money than you can afford to lose then what's the problem?
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  #6  
Old 17 December 2013, 01:59 PM
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It's a buck for a dream. Most of us are never going to be highly paid athletes, musicians, or actors, either, and it takes a lot of work and some natural talent to even begin that route. Most of us are never going to be multimillion dollar CEOs or business owners, either, even if we invest a lot of time, effort, and money on education. Spending a dollar on the lottery allows one to imagine having ridiculous riches without much of an investment at all. A dollar for any chance (even infinitessimally small) at that dream is worth it for a lot of people.

It's all about risk/reward. I risk more than a dollar every time I decide the price is right to fill my gas tank (will it go down $0.05 a gallon tomorrow or go up? If it goes up $0.20 that is $4.00 extra for the same gas). It doesn't offer me any chance at half a billion dollars.
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  #7  
Old 17 December 2013, 03:34 PM
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IMO, they continue to buy because they focus on "one in eight tickets is a winner" rather than "your odds of winning the grand prize are one in fifty-seven million."

I also agree with the person quoted in the article that most people don't understand probability and odds. That's why they play slot machines and look for machines that are "due" for a win, too.

Seaboe
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  #8  
Old 17 December 2013, 04:31 PM
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While someone doesn't win the jackpot every week, there is a drawing for it. Eventually, someone will win that money - someone who bought a ticket. So if I buy a ticket, it could be me.

I don't know if any people out there have credible conspiracy theories about lotteries, but I've never heard one whereby the lottery organizers have it "fixed" so the jackpot keeps growing but nobody wins. (Or even that a "winning ticket" is drawn but the prize is never claimed.) This enriches the lottery corporation and governments benefitting from the lottery. That would only go on for so long, and there are plenty of people interested in making sure this is all done straight-up. I rememember reading that the major Canadian lotteries all have a "guaranteed" payout based upon ticket sales, and that periodically there would be a "reckoning" for any positive balance (when prize payouts lag behind 45% of ticket sales), so even that UL wouldn't make sense.
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  #9  
Old 17 December 2013, 04:33 PM
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[
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
IMO, they continue to buy because they focus on "one in eight tickets is a winner" rather than "your odds of winning the grand prize are one in fifty-seven million."

I also agree with the person quoted in the article that most people don't understand probability and odds.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mags View Post
It's a buck for a dream.
While I'm sure that Seaboe is correct about some people, I think that for an awful lot of people who buy tickets mags is the one who has it. The dollar isn't spent in any expectation of winning; the dollar is spent in order to have the pleasant experience of imagining having all that money. Nobody asks why people spend a lot more than a dollar on movie tickets in order to enjoy themselves for a couple of hours.

thorny -- doesn't play the lottery but is enrolled in the publishers' sweepstakes -- locust
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  #10  
Old 17 December 2013, 04:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
IMO, they continue to buy because they focus on "one in eight tickets is a winner" rather than "your odds of winning the grand prize are one in fifty-seven million."
Who's "they," though? Are you discounting what people have posted here about their motivations for playing the lottery, or just assuming that they're the exceptions?
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  #11  
Old 17 December 2013, 04:57 PM
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I sell lottery and lotto LOTS of them. The ones that buy the scratchers seem to be the addicted ones. Some of them will spend hundreds on that stuff. Most of the people that buy the big jackpot lotto don't have expectations of winning. We get a lot more then the regular buyers when it gets big, and some people will buy 20.00 worth. My regular joke when I check the tickets for them after the draw is, "Oh well, back to work", and they all laugh. I've yet to meet anyone in the thousands I've sold tickets to that actually feel like they'll win. We'd like them to because our store gets a big bonus for selling a big winner that all associates get to share in, but so far we've only sold a $10,000.00 Fantasy Five winner.
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  #12  
Old 17 December 2013, 05:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hero_Mike View Post
I don't know if any people out there have credible conspiracy theories about lotteries, but I've never heard one whereby the lottery organizers have it "fixed" so the jackpot keeps growing but nobody wins. (Or even that a "winning ticket" is drawn but the prize is never claimed.)
This occured in Ontario last month -- a $52 million ticket was bought but not claimed -- the Lotto corp actually hired an investigator to track the person down before the 1 year claim deadline -- ann she was found a week before -- how they determined it was her -- i have no idea -- but hey --- they found her and she is rich
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  #13  
Old 17 December 2013, 05:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Not_Done_Living View Post
This occured in Ontario last month -- a $52 million ticket was bought but not claimed -- the Lotto corp actually hired an investigator to track the person down before the 1 year claim deadline -- ann she was found a week before -- how they determined it was her -- i have no idea -- but hey --- they found her and she is rich
In-store video surveillance and a debit-card transaction confirmed that she purchased the winning ticket at that time.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of secondary prizes of lesser value will go unclaimed because people will not make claiming that prize a priority. People probably don't think of a $2 winning ticket as having the same value as $2 cash. A free ticket, however, can be worth millions, but again, it's not treated as seriously as cash.
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  #14  
Old 17 December 2013, 07:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
Who's "they," though? Are you discounting what people have posted here about their motivations for playing the lottery, or just assuming that they're the exceptions?
Good question. I was thinking about those who honestly think that someday they have to win, because they've invested so much money into the lottery.

My father played scratch once a week because he figured it was good entertainment for the money, so I understand that motivation very well.

Seaboe
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  #15  
Old 17 December 2013, 07:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
Good question. I was thinking about those who honestly think that someday they have to win, because they've invested so much money into the lottery.
I have heard people express genuine frustration, apparently at some perceived unfairness, when someone wins a big jackpot when they haven't played regularly. And once I heard someone express frustration that someone else won with an auto-lotto, as opposed to picking numbers that had personal significance.

It's not that I don't think anyone expects to win, I just think they probably make up a small minority of lottery players.


Quote:
My father played scratch once a week because he figured it was good entertainment for the money, so I understand that motivation very well.
My dad did that, too. And I have a co-worker who slips scratch-off tickets into the Christmas cards she distributes at work .
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  #16  
Old 17 December 2013, 09:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Not_Done_Living View Post
This occured in Ontario last month -- a $52 million ticket was bought but not claimed -- the Lotto corp actually hired an investigator to track the person down before the 1 year claim deadline -- ann she was found a week before -- how they determined it was her -- i have no idea -- but hey --- they found her and she is rich
I would guess that since they knew where and when the winning ticket was sold, they looked at the security video of that moment, and started their search there. Maybe they were able to match her driver's license photo on file via facial recognition software.

We drop a few bucks when the jackpot gets high. We have no expectation we'll ever win; we rarely match even one number, and when we get two or more they are on different lines. But someday, maybe...
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  #17  
Old 17 December 2013, 09:34 PM
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My grandfather's hobby used to be tracking lottery ticket numbers. He's never owned a computer in his life, so this was all done by hand with binders full of paper going back years. I always found it a bit odd, becuase he and my grandmother were very religious people. I think his thought was that God would reveal a pattern in the numbers if he looked hard enough. He did win a couple times over the years (I think the best was a split pot of around $10,000 with his co-workers), but that wouldn't be unexpected for someone who'd played for that many years.

My husband and I were discussing this at the last hockey game we went to. I don't play lottery, and years of working casino survelliance killed any gambling desire he had (he still plays for fun occasionally because he enjoys the games), but we almost always buy $20 in 50/50 tickets when we go to a game. I think part of it is because it's feeding a good charity so it's really just a donation with a nice daydream attached, but there is an element of looking around the arena and knowing that one of those 19,000 people you see will be walking home with $30,000.
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  #18  
Old 17 December 2013, 10:51 PM
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And it's not a "jackpot or nothing" thing either. Maybe I get $50 back on my $5 ticket (which happened once to me), or maybe $100 or $1000. That would be cool too. Jackpot would be better, but when I buy a lottery ticket I don't expect to win. But it's sometimes nice to dream.
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  #19  
Old 18 December 2013, 12:05 AM
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I play for the entertainment value, not to win large sums of money. Though I would not complain if I did and have been completely shocked when it has happen. In the last 30 years I have won a couple of prizes between $500 and $1K and had fun bragging about it for a week or two. Over the long run I have lost a lot more than I have won, but I have fun playing and never spend more than I'm willing lose.
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  #20  
Old 18 December 2013, 02:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sylvanz View Post
I sell lottery and lotto LOTS of them. The ones that buy the scratchers seem to be the addicted ones. Some of them will spend hundreds on that stuff.
It's funny, I was in the drugstore four hours ago and told the guy I wanted 25 $1 or $2 scratchers and a $10 gift pack. He only had eighteen and actually had to bring another guy up from the back to sell me the rest. So both guys are looking at me like I'm nuts and I say again (I guess the one guy didn't hear me the first time), "They're for my co-worker's Christmas cards. The $10 pack is for my principal." And then they stopped looking at me like I was nuts.

I'm in a group at work - we put in $20 once or twice a year and there is a list of everyone who pays and it's listed as "in trust" and the tickets are photocopied for us and all of those things the OLC tells you to do. We've won $50 or $100 a few times and so many free tickets that we haven't had to pay since last year IIRC. When it's big he'll get extra tickets.

I don't really expect to win, and so many people are in now that it would have to be a huge win for us to get a good payout each. But I stay in it for one reason beside the dream - what if they did win and I was the only one not in it?

Besides, I gave up an evening and $60 to make a Christmas urn I have no intention of using because the people at the school were doing it. $20 a year is nothing.

Although the guy trucking them out to our cars told me he liked mine best
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