Winning the lottery and other myths and misconceptions

I just checked my Powerball tickets and came away very disappointed.   Again.   The jackpot was $320 Million, about a $200 Million lump sum, maybe $130 Million after taxes, of which I had spent all but the last $10,000.  The kid in the commissary at 175 W. Jackson (Chicago) is probably bummed, as well. I promised him our ship was coming in this weekend. I hope the pier is still there on Monday.

I guess I'll try again on Wednesday, but now I'm thinking about something said this morning on the "Today" show by Erica Hill, the show's newest co-host.  Hill's sidekick, Lester Holt noted the way people were lining up to buy tickets ahead of tonight's drawing and commented about the frenzy surrounding one of Powerball's biggest jackpots, while smaller jackpots of $50 Million or less incite much less interest. Ms. Hill suggested that people should play the smaller jackpots more aggressively because their chances of winning were greater. WHAAAT????

I don't know if Hill believes that or if an alarm went off in her head when she heard herself say it. Come to think of it, I don't know if you believe it, so let's get that out of the way.

The size of the jackpot doesn't matter. It doesn't even matter if you're the only one in the world playing, the odds of your numbers being called are about 175 million to 1. It's based upon the number of possible outcomes, which is based upon the number of available numbers and the number of ping pong balls pulled out of the machine. You get one chance in 175 million for each $2 ticket you buy. For $10 you get 5 chances in 175 million.

There's 59 numbers for the first 5 balls, each of which can only be used once and another 35 numbers for the Powerball.   For simplicity, that equation would look something like this: (59 X 58 X 57 X 56 X 55 X 35).
You get the idea.  I hope.  But what about all the knuckle-draggers out there?

Tomorrow we'll talk about some other misconceptions under which our less bright-eyed brethen (and sister-en) labor.   Preview:  Do you say "I could care less" ????

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