Friday, March 30, 2012

Section XX, Row 37, Seat 19 -- C'mon Down!!

So the record-setting Mega Millions jackpot is up to a whopping 640 million dollars. That is enough to finally coax 3 bucks out of my wallet and pitch in to our company's lottery pool. I don't know why we wait until jackpots get to ridiculous amounts before we do this. It's not like splitting $50 million 20 ways would be a bad thing, but let me tell you about the time I got everybody to hate me...

It was a number of years ago. I was working at another company and Wisconsin's MegaBucks jackpot reached an outrageous level. The company was large and many pitched in about 5 bucks. We obtained hundreds of numbers. I'll admit, the day I saw a stack of paper with all of our numbers printed on them I thought, "Wow, we're gonna win this thing! We may have to divide it 237 ways, but with this many numbers, we're going to win!"

But then my mathematical side took over. I looked at the odds of winning the jackpot with a single ticket (I'm not going to get in the actual math here), and they were something like 1 in 119,874,496. I then looked at how many numbers we owned. Maybe about a thousand. I then figured out our true odds of winning with all of these numbers. It came out to be 1 in the-capacity-of-major-college-football-stadium.

With my associates all making plans for how they would soon spend their newly rewarded wealth, I cruelly explained their odds, "Hey, if you were sitting in the Rose Bowl at a sold-out football game, how confident would you be that your seat number would be called in prize drawing?"

"Uh. Not very confident."

"Well that's the same odds we have of winning with all of these pages of numbers!"

Nobody ever liked it when I put it in those terms. It was a real bubble burster.

And that is why I rarely play the lottery. Putting those numbers into a more visionary example makes the odds of winning seem even more implausible.

That also probably explains why that group never asked me to be in their lottery pool again.

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