100 Words On: A Surefire Way to Beat the Lottery – Guaranteed.

I realize I’ve made this point before but, come on, talk about a sucker’s bet: The odds are before you ever strike it rich playing the lottery you’ll most likely be struck by lightning. Twice. Now consider this: Over a ten year period, somebody who puts $25 per week into a savings account or CD earning 4.5% compounded monthly will earn $16,417. Meanwhile, someone hoping to strike it rich by spending $25 on lottery tickets each week has to win $13,000 over that same period just to break even.

The bottom line: And that, my friends, is precisely why they call the lottery a tax on the stupid.

Photo Credit: vvvracer


  1. 1

    Chupacabras says

    4.5% Len?

    I agree with your main point, but it’s going to be quite a while before we so those kinds of rates again.

    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      Yeah, I figured somebody would call me on that number — just not on the first comment. LOL!

      Yes, it’s a bit high by today’s standards — a 5-yr CD is currently at ~2.5% — but I’ve been around long enough to know that those low rates will not stay that way forever, trust me. It’s all cyclical!

      Heck, as a kid growing up in the 70s, I remember pulling savings account interest rates in the high teens.

  2. 3

    jennypenny says

    Take the money you’d spend every week on tickets and buy a stock. One share of one stock is fine if the stock is expensive (depends on how much you spend each week on tickets). It’s still gambling, but you have something to show for it. Pick the stock for whatever reason you want–the ticker symbols are like playing the Pick 3 or Pick 4 just with letters instead of numbers. Some will be dogs. Some will work out. But a much better way to feed the gambling beast.

    • 4

      Len Penzo says

      What a great alternative for folks looking for a little gambling fun, but with much better odds. Thanks for sharing that, Jenny!

  3. 5

    AniVee says

    Thank you for nailing – and so succinctly! – one of the reasons I think some people never get ahead …. now could you please cast an eye at Casino Gambling as well?

    How many of us have seen or heard of those casino-goers who insist (rather pitifully?) “I’ve been putting money into this machine for hours, it’s GOTTA pay off soon ….”?

    A good friend, a gaming-industry-insider (and he’s not a casino-goer, interestingly enough) tells me the slot machines are programmed with a cycle of 20,000 (twenty thousand) plays. During each cycle the machine will pay back a percentage (perhaps 50, 60 or 80%) of the money put into it. The percentage is determined by the computerized board the casino owner buys to have installed in the machine. So now we know why “some machines pay better than others.”

    Now, – correct me if I calculated wrong – if you take 15 seconds per “play” you can do 240 plays per hour, and in 83 hours you will have done one complete cycle of plays (and not gotten all of your investment back, either). That’s 3-1/2 days in front of the same machine without getting up to go to the bathroom or sleeping or changing clothes …. (eeewwwww…!) and you will only get back less than 100% of the money put in. And some folks call this fun ..!

    • 6

      Talyssa says

      The casinos have tons of tricks like that – the machines on the edges and by the doors are programmed to pay out more often too (small payouts) so that people walking by are constantly hearing the sound of winning. Its actually pretty interesting, its VERY carefully calculated. wizardofodds is good for that kind of data

    • 8

      Len Penzo says

      Okay; I have to admit, I enjoy casino gambling on rare occasion — but when I do it, it’s with the understanding that I’m going to lose a portion (or all) of my bankroll. And you’re right, AniVee, they don’t call those machines one-armed bandits for nothing!

  4. 9

    Talyssa says

    Maybe I just don’t know the right people but I can’t imagine anyone spending 25 dollars on lottery tickets a week. We buy lottery tickets sometimes but I think its more like 1-2 dollars per month. Even if you bought a super lotto and mega millions ticket for EVERY drawing (California and a multi state lotto) that’s 5 bucks a week — obviously not a winning money proposition but its also a far cry from 25 dollars a week. Who ARE these people who everyone thinks spends that kind of money on lottery tickets?

    • 10

      Chupacabras says

      Have you not heard of scratchers?

      Check out your local down on its luck community; nothing but cigarette butts and losing scratchers filling the gutters. Those are the people who spend $25 a week on the lottery.

      This is why I prefer to call the lottery a tax on people who don’t pay income tax.

    • 14

      Len Penzo says

      I think I’ve spent probably $50 on the Pick 6 lottery over my lifetime. For Christmas, I sometimes buy the Honeybee $25 worth of scratchers as stocking stuffers. (Of course, we’ve never won.)

  5. 15

    DC says

    Here’s my commentary in two words: Don’t play.

    The problem with any gambling-based system is it plays directly on our basic animal instincts. Consider a bear in the woods. The bear rolls over a log looking for yummy grubs to eat. The bear may, or may not, win the “grub lottery”. It is a random reinforcement of behavior that encourages lots of log rolling.

    In the lab, researchers taught some rats in one group that pressing a lever *always* yields a food pellet. Rats in a 2nd group had levers that would *randomly* provide a food pellet.

    Then the food supply was cut off.

    Rats in the 1st group very quickly gave up pressing the lever for food, maybe after 20-30 tries.

    Rats in the 2nd group continued to press the lever thousands of times hoping to get a food pellet before finally giving up.

    It’s that random reinforcement that makes the lottery such a sneaky, nasty way to collect revenue — it deliberate plays on addictive behavior. I would love to see it made illegal again.

  6. 17

    Mindimoo says

    Talyssa, I bought a $1.25 lottery ticket the other day and the man in front of me had just handed over $80 for his. I asked the lady at the counter, do people really spend that much on lotteries? She said she’d had another customer spend $500 last week!! Well if I had that kind of money to throw away on lotteries, frankly, I wouldn’t need the lottery! :) My theory is that if I’m meant to win it I will win it with my measly $1.25 ticket that I buy every so often. And strangely enough I quite often win small prizes of $10-$20.

    • 18

      Len Penzo says

      Aww, geez. That’s terrible, Mindimoo. Here’s another point using an over-simplified example (but you’ll get the idea):

      If the odds of winning with one ticket are 1 in 100 million, then the odds of winning with ten tickets are roughly 1 in 10 million. In other words, the extra nine bucks you spend doesn’t really give you a more realistic chance of winning.

      Heck, even if you buy 1000 tickets, the odds of winning are still 1 in 100,000 — again, while the odds are better, that extra financial outlay does not give the buyer a more realistic chance of winning than the person paying only $1 for one ticket. The odds are poor regardless!

      So if you’re going to play, save yourself some money and keep it to $1.

  7. 19


    I will buy a few when I’m in Georgia, which is about once a year, and only if the Princess is with me. I always enjoy the car conversations that result from discussing what we would do with that money. Over the years her ideas have evolved from “A month at Disney World” to “A huge room sized closet” to “Would you buy me a new Mustang?” (yeah, right, like I’m going to buy a teenager a new Mustang regardless of how much money I have!)….

    and then this past weekend we were on our way back from Atlanta (we live in Alabama), and I picked up $2 worth of tickets. So, I asked her what we should do if we won….. and her answer left me a bit speechless…. “Mom, I think if we win, we should start a fund to help rebuild the schools and libraries that were destroyed in the (April 27) tornados”. My baby girl is growing up! Well worth that $2 to hear that as her first answer!

  8. 23

    DrewShock says

    Gee Len I don’t drink or go out much which usually cost well over $25 a week for some. So I figure dropping a couple of bucks a month for the lottery is just something I like to have fun with. You definitely won’t win if you don’t play. As with all things moderation.

    • 24

      Len Penzo says

      Amen. Like I said in an earlier comment, if you understand it’s just for fun, then there is no harm. It’s the folks who use the lottery as a pathway to getting rich that get in trouble.

  9. 25

    joelapierre says


  10. 27

    Anthony Breaux says

    I’m in Arizona. We have tne local game and 2 mult-state games, each has two drawings a week. I get my tickets on my every-other-Friday payday, one ticket, four draws each game. $12.00 a paycheck, $6.00 a week. I budget this as entertainment, not an investment. I won $1200.00 once, and gave it all back over the next four years.

    • 28

      Len Penzo says

      If you can afford it, budget for it and — more importantly — understand you’re essentially donating your money to the government, more power to you. We all have entertainment preferences that cost money.

  11. 29

    enzov says

    interesting read and comments. every now and again i will ask for a mege-million ticket..$1 it’s $1 for crisakes and wouldn’t it be a hoot to win millions for just a buck. i feel sorry for people who think their numbers will ‘come up’ someday..prolly not. i did win $625 once after dropping just $18 into a slot machine in canada..it was very thrilling and i can see how people can be become addicted. i took the $$ and left..high fiving myself for my good fortune…bought a decent tv w/the money.

  12. 30

    Len Penzo says

    I think the most I ever won off a slot machine was $125 for a $1.25 “bet” — and that was in an airport while killing time during a business trip layover! LOL

    Needless to say, I thanked my good fortune and took the winnings, then hopped on the plane for the ride home. (I didn’t mention it on the expense report either.)

  13. 31

    John says


    1. I tell people I have a “fool proof” method of winning – I win every time I play. They ask, “How many times have you played?” I say, “Never” – every time I walk past a machine and don’t play, I’ve “won” $2.
    2. Ever seen a player present a winning ticket? Watch what they do with the “winnings” – THEY BUY MORE TICKETS!!! Sad.

    • 32

      Len Penzo says

      I like that, John! (By the way, I’ve never seen a player cash a winning ticket, but I can believe it.)

  14. 33

    Cemlyn Jones says

    I work in the Gaming Industry and ‘marketing’ is as rife in our industry as it is in any other. Casinos like winners, because they know they will return and everyone else will see the winner. But there is one very important point here. The payouts are very closely monitored by external agencies. The ‘profit’ made by the casino from the slots and tables is closely monitored as well. Strict percentages are applied. Now we have all heard that ‘the house always wins’. In the long run it always will but only because of the human weakness. A person can walk in, place one bet, win,and walk out, but we all know they won’t. Those really disciplined will take half their winnings and put it away and play with the other half and keep doing that until the ‘betting’ money is gone. People with that type of discipline can make it work but these are very very few. Gambling is a suckers game and trust me I know.

    I do however go gambling but I treat it as any other entertainment. If you go for a show and then a meal you know roughly how much you will spend. We do the same. We set a figure each and off we go and have some fun. At a set time we meet up and compare results. The ‘winner’ usually buys a round of drinks. In this way it is fun and I’m pleased to say none of our group has ever got carried away.

    Now one of us brought a new friend along. She knew nothing about gambling and at the end she just said ” Give me chip, I’ll just throw it on” It was on a roulette table. You know the rest, she won at 35-1. It was a $100 chip. She, and us, were very happy but we could see that glint in her eye. She was hooked. She never joined us again. We could see the danger.

    • 34

      Len Penzo says

      Great story, Cemlyn. Sad, but very interesting. That being said, you’ve got to tell me … where do you go to celebrate after your friend won $3500?

  15. 35

    Rich L says

    This reminds me of a customer we had at the convienance store I worked at.
    We will only look at 1 years spending, Her job did allow her to have this much “fun money”, But can you imagine if she had invested it.
    For the first 6 months she would drop $120 to $160 twice a week. There is 2 Pick 6 drawings a week.
    In June she said I haven’t one a cent this year and halved her drop to $60 to $80 twice a week.
    IN September she came in as giddy as a child in the candy store.
    She had her first and only “BIG PAYOFF”

    Drum Roll Please…

    It was a whooping FIFTY FIVE DOLLARS!!
    She then turned around and dropped $60 on tonights drawing.
    A $9,000 innvestment netted her $55 – minus the gas.

    • 36

      Len Penzo says

      How people can fail to see the folly of it all completely baffles me, Rich. For the government to take advantage of people like that is really off-putting to me.

  16. 37

    David says

    The problem with gambling for most people is that they don’t know how to evaluate the odds they are getting. If the odds are against you, don’t bet. If the odds are in your favor, so ahead.

    For example, say someone has one six-sided die and they want to gamble with you by having you bet $1, then guess the number that will come up when they roll. You have a 1-in-6 chance of winning. Should you play? If they pay you more that $6 when you win, you should take that bet every time, because the payout is greater than the odds of you winning. If they pay exactly $6, you have even odds and shouldn’t bet unless you like running in place. If they pay less than $6, pass on that sucker bet.

    Lotteries work the same, but the chance of you winning (which is different than the odds) is much lower. The chances of winning Powerball are ~1 in 193 million. So, when the jackpot is over $193 million, you can bet with a clear conscience.

    However, if you spend $2, you halve your payout ($2 gets you $193 million, or $1 gets you $96.5 million,) you don’t double your chances, so don’t bet more than a dollar unless the jackpot is double your chances of winning!

  17. 38

    Len Penzo says

    Great point, David. Las Vegas shaves the odds like that all the time because they have to do it to make money. For example, they pay 35:1 for hitting a single number on the roulette wheel — even though there are 38 numbers on the wheel (1 to 36, plus 0 and 00).

  18. 39

    A. Loriss says

    Remenber, there are numerous prizes paid besides the top jackpot. I play the same numbers, just one ticket per draw, most weeks. Ive won enuff onesey-twoseys prizes to keep it interesting, and heck, if you dont play, you cant win.

    I have chosen a set a numbers, and hopefully the Lotto will catch up to me!

  19. 41

    Kuenzler Kevin says

    It was hard for me to believe when i saw a comment on the internet regarding how Dr. Soula help people winning lottery by sending them the winning numbers. This winning numbers are 100% guarantee that you must win the lottery. I give it a try and i won $159,000. My comment looks funny but it the truth, The email is drsoula_b@live. com and i promise you that it will not be funny when you win and share a testimony with others. This is a secret to win lottery so i advice you do that same. the name is Kevin Kuenzler from Carlsbad, New mexico

  20. 42

    Patrick Morgan says

    I am a very poor man who has always not find luck when it comes to playing the lottery. I have been playing lottery since i was 21 years and now i am 45 meaning i have been playing lottery for 24 years. The biggest amount i have ever won in my life was 400 bucks.

    • 43

      Len Penzo says

      Patrick, thank you for sharing your story and making the real-life case why lotteries are a losing proposition for everyone.


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