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How to win the lottery

the Shanghai man who blew his $967,000 life savings on tickets
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You’re more likely to die in a car crash on the way to buy a lottery ticket than you are to win the lottery. That’s not surprising – we all know the odds of winning are outrageously slim.

Some people have found clever ways to beat the odds. For example, a group of MIT students found a loophole in a Massachusetts lottery, raised money from investors to buy tickets, and raked in about USD$8 million. A local husband and wife team found the same loophole and made $27 million during a year of almost full-time lottery playing.

Then there’s the Shanghai man who blew his $967,000 life savings on tickets just to come up empty. He lost his wife and now lives in a bathhouse.

It seems that almost everybody who beats the system does it by exploiting a glitch in the system or straight-up cheating.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t do certain things to improve your odds. Here are some dos and don’ts to get you thinking. Good luck!

1. DON’T stress about your numbers

From a mathematical point of view, every number combination has an equal chance of winning in a random draw. It doesn’t matter if you choose odd numbers, even numbers, large numbers or small numbers. All those balls tumbling around in a big glass sphere are no less likely to spit out your phone number than any other combination. Just pick numbers you like and cross your fingers.

2. DON’T worry about playing the same numbers

If every draw is totally random and any combination is as likely as any other, then there’s no real value in sticking to the same set of numbers every week. Unless, of course, it’s a matter of superstition for you. In that case, go nuts. Also, if you’re already playing the same numbers every week, you might want to stick to that plan just so your life won’t be ruined if your numbers come up the week after you change them.

3. DO avoid obvious patterns

The combination 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 is just as likely to win as any other, but there’s a catch: thousands of people play these numbers every week. That means if you choose them and win, you’ll be sharing your prize with a lot of other people. Same with any other “obvious” approach, like shading in a row of numbers that form a vertical or diagonal line. A more random-looking set of numbers is not more likely to win, but if they do happen to come up, you’ll get to keep a bigger chunk of the prize.

4. DO play regularly

Every play is another chance to win, so playing more frequently is a sound way to improve your odds. Two chances in 27 million is a crazy longshot, but at least it’s slightly better than one chance. The risk, of course, is that things can get out of control. The fantasy of winning is powerful, and if more tickets means more chances to win, then heck, why not just mortgage the farm?

5. DON’T mortgage the farm

When you put your money in a savings account, you get almost no interest but there’s also almost no chance of losing anything. When you buy a lottery ticket, you might win millions but you’re almost guaranteed to lose everything. Risk and reward are like counter-balancing laws of nature, and you are not above the law. Don’t risk anything that’s important to you. Set a budget and only include money that you can afford to see go *poof*.

6. DO consider investing instead

Let’s say you get into the habit of buying one lottery ticket per week when you’re 25 years old and keep it up until you’re 65. If you spend $3 on each ticket and never win, that’s $6,240 down the tubes. On the other hand, if you invest that $3 per week at a 6% annual return, you’ll end up with $12,686. It’s not exactly a fortune, but it’s a lot better than nothing.

Gambling can provide a thrill. It’s an escape from everyday life and somebody has to win, so maybe it’ll be you someday. But if you want to see how investing can build your wealth the slow-but-steady way, you should get your hands on a free plan from Planswell. It only takes about three minutes!

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