Mathematician Breaks Down the Best Ways to Win the Lottery | WIRED (2023)


The lottery is hard to win. But, is it possible to make it....less hard to win? We spoke with mathematician Skip Garibaldi about how to increase our odds of winning any kind of lottery. Are there any ways to guarantee a lottery win? What if you play EVERY number combination?

Director: Katherine Wzorek
Editor: Louville Moore
Expert: Skip Garibaldi

Line Producer: Joseph Buscemi
Associate Producer: Brandon White
Production Manager: Eric Martinez
Production Coordinator: Fernando Davila

Post Production Supervisor: Alexa Deutsch
Post Production Coordinator: Ian Bryant
Supervising Editor: Doug Larsen
Assistant Editors: Andy Morell

Special Thanks: Anna O'Donohue, Maya Dangerfield, Lea Donenberg, Ian Bryant, Sean Dacanay, Wendi Jonassen

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The lottery is obviously pretty hard to win.

But of course we had to test it ourselves.

So we got a few wired colleagues to play a scratcher game.

I didn't, win anything I did not win anything.

Nothing I got nothing I lost.

But I didn't.


We have won five dollars.

So I'm up by two dollars.

Scratchers are just one of the many lottery games out there beyond that.

You have draw games at both the state and National level.

And in particular, the Powerball, which keeps on making the news because the jackpots are so big, there are definitely lotteries that are easier to win than other lotteries.

When you gamble normally, a bigger chance of winning means lower payout.

So for example, this is familiar from roulette where if you bet on red or black, you get less money in return than if you bet on a single number, where you get a lot more to return because your odds of winning with red or black bet is much higher.

Similarly, your odds of winning on a Powerball or Mega Millions ticket are very low about one in 300 million let's.

Look at that.

One more time, your chances of winning the Powerball jackpot equal about 1 in 300 million they're all kinds of Lottery prizes out there.

And some of them are still pretty big, but they're, not a billion dollars next play in certain numbers, you're not going to increase your chances of winning by some strategy about out how you pick the exact numbers that you pick, however, for games like Powerball and Mega Millions.

What you'd like to do if you win, the jackpot is to be the only one who wins the jackpot.

So you don't split it.

So with that perspective in mind, you'd like to pick unpopular numbers, you'd like to pick numbers that other people will pick don't pick dates, for example, because a lot of people gamble based on dates.

Other advice might be.

If you look at the ticket, where you pick your numbers, don't just pick a column of numbers on that ticket, for example, because some people will do that repeat winners, Like, Richard, lusting won over one million dollars advocated for playing sequential numbers.

Now, this won't increase your odds of winning that kind of thing is going to give you the same chance of winning as the jackpot as any other method of choosing.

However, if you look at a ticket like that, it looks weird.

So many sequential numbers help you not share the jackpot, which is good I, don't know, but that's how it strikes me as a mathematician.

So what are some ways that people attempt to crease their odds of winning the lottery? First playing every single number combination in the drawing.

So for Mega Millions and Powerball that's, not really a feasible choice because there's 300 million tickets it's, super hard to go to the store and buy that many tickets.

You need a whole Army of helpers it's, a complicated Endeavor.

But for smaller state level, lotteries, which have fewer tickets that you have to buy and also a smaller jackpot people have done that.

So in particular in New, South Wales, in 1986, a Syndicate did that in Virginia in 1992 and then of the Irish National Lottery.

Now, in these cases, they didn't actually succeed in getting 100 of the tickets, but they got enough that they got lucky, and they did win the jackpot.

Now, if you do actually decide to do this, there are a bit of logistics involved, you're actually going to have to go to the stores and buy those tickets.

You can't just pay the clerk in a lottery store to buy those tickets because they're not allowed to do that by most lottery regulations and there's.

Another gotcha, that's really obvious, which is it could happen that someone else also wins the jackpot, and you have to split it with them.

So as someone trying to pursue this strategy, you absolutely want to keep your eyes open to that possibility.

Finally, some states have a higher chance of winning than others statisticians and economists have mapped out states that have a high rate of return.

A good recipe to look for is you want a lottery where maybe not a lot of people are buying tickets.

And yet the jackpot is pretty big so there's, a classic example of Oregon 1999.

They had a 18 million dollar jackpot.

And yet they didn't sell that many tickets.

And what that means is is when you buy a ticket in such a drawing you're unlikely to share the jackpot similarly, in the mid-auts in Texas, the Llano Texas had drawings like that as well.

And so looking around for those kinds of drawings, that's one way to increase your expected return on buying a lottery ticket and scratchers can High rate of return is Lottery has printed them out and picked the prizes in such a way that the total value of the prizes is less than the amount.

People are going to spend on tickets so they're going to make money on average.

You buy scratcher tickets and you're gonna lose money, just like any other gambling that said, sometimes it happens that the big prizes in the scratcher game.

Don't get bought at the beginning of the game.

And so effectively, all the people buying up those tickets at the beginning got unlucky, and they didn't get the big prizes.

And then the remaining lottery tickets the remaining scratchers that wait to be bought have too many prizes many states show you how many of the prizes have been claimed.

And that information gets aggregated into other websites, like and similar sites where you can go to that site and they'll tell you sort of which lottery scratcher ticket games have better payouts right now.

Okay, even if you've watched higher video, it'll think I need to win a lottery.

Is there a way you can actually guarantee a lottery win? You find a game where you have to guess a four digit number.

And you bet the six-way box that means you're gonna bet on a four digit number with repeated digits, like one, one, two two or one two one two.

And if you bet a six-way box, if that's all the possible, six possible ways of writing a number with, oh two ones in it and two twos in it.

And if you do that, your odds of winning are one in one thousand, six hundred and sixty seven and in Most states, if you hit that, if you win that bet, you will get eight hundred dollars, which means you got to go to a lottery office.

You probably owns money, just so you know, it is not a recipe for making money.

But it is a recipe for getting to that lottery office with the least amount of effort.

And there even used to be a game where you're almost guaranteed to win Marge and Jerry Selby ended up winning almost 8 million dollars playing the Massachusetts cash.

Win fall.

They even made a movie about it.

We are betting forty thousand.

You guys drug dealers, no for professional Lottery players in cash windfall.

The way it worked was when the jackpot gotten pretty big.

They would take some of that money and increase the value of the smaller prizes.

So to win the jackpot, you have to pick the right number it's about a one in nine million chance.

But the smaller prizes are much more likely to win.

So if you could buy some, but not all of the tickets in that situation, like say, you could buy a million tickets your odds of winning.

The jackpot are not so big one and nine, but you're gonna win a bunch of the lower tier prizes, which are now bigger.

And if they're enough bigger you're going to make money out of your total investment, it's really hard and unusual to be in a situation where you can reasonably expect to make money on the lottery it's, gambling.

You might get lucky, but it's really getting lucky.

But I'm, not telling you don't, buy lottery tickets I, personally, buy lottery tickets I, buy them for the fantasy to think for a few days about.

Oh, what happens if I win this, big jackpot and that's really worth something foreign.


Is there a mathematical formula to predict lottery numbers? ›

If the order of the lottery number matters, then each lottery number is called a permutation of numbers, and the formula we use to calculate the probability of winning the lottery when this is the case is as follows: a n P r , where nPr is the number of permutations possible of the lottery number, and. ( n − r ) ! .

Who is the mathematician that won the lottery? ›

That's where mathematician Stefan Mandel comes in. The Romanian-born Australian citizen has won the jackpot a jaw-dropping 14 times. And the math he uses is incredibly simple, though his 'hack' is far from easy to implement.

Is there a pattern to the lottery? ›

Some like to analyze past draws to spot any patterns, while others look to the Zodiac for the answers. Of course, no matter how you pick your lottery numbers, the draw is always totally random. While there is no method to guarantee a win (otherwise we'd all be millionaires!)

What math professor wins the lottery multiple times? ›

A MATHEMATICIAN won the lottery 14 times by creating a specific strategy that beat insane odds. While living in communist-era Romania, Stefan Mandel crafted a formula that secured a life-changing fortune before earning over a dozen jackpots in a surprisingly legal lottery business.

What is Richard Lustig method? ›

Lustig advises against relying on random number generators and instead recommends tracking winning numbers to identify patterns and trends. He also uses a wheeling system, which involves selecting a larger group of numbers and then creating multiple combinations of those numbers to increase the chances of winning.

What are the 6 most common winning lottery numbers? ›

Most common main numbers
  • 61: Drawn 78 times.
  • 32: Drawn 77 times.
  • 63: Drawn 73 times.
  • 21: Drawn 73 times.
  • 69: Drawn 72 times.
  • 36: Drawn 70 times.
  • 23: Drawn 70 times.
  • 39: Drawn 69 times.
Nov 5, 2022

What kind of math does the lottery use? ›

Lottery mathematics is used to calculate probabilities of winning or losing a lottery game. It is based primarily on combinatorics, particularly the twelvefold way and combinations without replacement.

What lottery expert won 7 times? ›

Richard Lustig is a man who has surpassed the odds and was victorious in the realm of lotteries. With a track record of seven grand prizes such as the Florida lottery.

Who has the most lottery winners? ›

The states with the most Powerball lottery winners are...

The luckiest of the lucky? That would be Indiana. The Hoosier State boasts 39 jackpot wins since 1992, when Powerball got its start. Read on to see how your state stacks up!

Is there a secret to playing the lottery? ›

The only way to really increase the odds of winning any lottery is to buy more tickets. The more tickets you buy, the more chances you have to win,” Kapoor said. “I've seen it all and those tips are usually technically true but useless, or are just not true,” said Lesser, who maintains a website on lottery literacy.

Has the lottery ever drawn the same numbers? ›

In dozens of the games across the United States, identical winning numbers have been generated within weeks or months of each other — sometimes in consecutive drawings, a Des Moines Register investigation shows.

Are most lottery winners random? ›

“Around 70 to 80 percent of Powerball players use Quick Pick tickets, and the same percentage of winning entries are Quick Picks,” one report said. “This shows that regardless of whether players choose to select their own numbers or not, the odds of winning remain the same.”

Who won lottery 14 times? ›

In the 1990s, Stefan Mandel won the lottery. Over and over and over again.

Who is the only American to win the lottery 4 times? ›

Joan Ginther is an American four-time lottery winner. She first won the lottery in 1993, when she won $5.4 million in Lotto Texas (equivalent to about $10.9M in 2022). Her next win came in 2006 when she won $2 million in the Holiday Millionaire scratch-off.

What's the hardest math question in the universe? ›

Collatz Conjecture

The Collatz conjecture states that no matter what value of n you begin with, this sequence will always eventually terminate in 1. Currently, this conjecture has been checked for all values of n up to 87 × 260 but so far no proof exists.

What is the lottery theory of probability? ›

According to expected utility theory, someone chooses among lotteries by multiplying his subjective estimate of the probabilities of the possible outcomes by a utility attached to each outcome by his personal utility function.

Can AI be used to predict lottery numbers? ›

Using advanced AI, machine learning, and applied pattern recognition technology to predict winning lottery numbers and give lottery enthusiasts a "Players Edge." Does it work? Yes, your odds are increased over a typical quick pick.

Can numerology predict lottery numbers? ›

Numerology is a science, which predicts that certain numbers, will show up in important combinations in your life again and again, which is so important when making your lottery/lotto selection. In United States, Powerball number is a platform providing good chances to try luck for making wealth's.

What is the mathematical probability of Powerball? ›

The chance of correctly choosing the Powerball is simply 1 in 26. figures together: 1 11,238,513 ∗ 1 26 = 1 292,201,338 or 1 chance in 292,201,338. Step 1: The chance of getting 5 numbers correct out of 5 numbers drawn from 69 unique numbers is 1 in 11,238,513 (see #1, Step 1 above.)

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