Ideas that add up #89

The only really sound [lottery] strategy is to avoid numbers that others pick, since shared numbers mean shared prizes.

The Economist, March 23rd 2013

“Lucky” and “unlucky” numbers, number-pattern numbers, previous winning numbers, numbers that are last week’s plus or minus one, numbers that form geometric patterns on the ticket or are in straight or diagonal lines. These are picked by more punters than other numbers, though the chance of winning by means of a wishful-thinking strategy is the same as for any other combination of six numbers from 49 — one in 13,983,816. Which is why a £16 million jackpot in the UK national lottery in 1995 had to be shared by 133 people, all of whom had picked a set of numbers in the central columns on the ticket.  When the crowd trundles after a wishful-thinking strategy, in defiance of cold, hard evidence, then it’s time to gamble on the other direction.

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