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Win and Tell? And Why Do People Play The Lottery?

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Earlier this week I asked you all whether you would tell anyone if you won a small sum in a lottery but I never gave you my own thoughts about it (not really anyway), so here we go… I wouldn’t tell anyone (besides maybe my parents, my sister, and my fiancĂ©e). Why?

I don’t think people care. I know I wouldn’t. Would you? Sure, I’d be happy for someone who won a small lottery but it honestly doesn’t do anything for me. Plus, the people who do care will probably be jealous, which probably is something most people don’t strive for (for other people to be jealous of them).

What’s funny about the question is that I don’t even play the lottery, I throw in a few dollars with a bunch of friends whenever the Powerball hits some astronomical number but that’s just for kicks. In fact, I don’t want to win the lottery because I’m pretty happy with my life the way it is now. I like going to work, I like hanging out with my friends, and I think that winning the lottery would just mess that all up.

Then again, a few hundred thousand bucks, not enough to mess with my life but certainly would smooth some things out; sure would be nice. 🙂

For those who play, why do you play the lottery?

{ 33 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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33 Responses to “Win and Tell? And Why Do People Play The Lottery?”

  1. dong says:

    Don’t play the lottery except for maybe the group thing or redeeming a free coupon. Though if I did win, I would tell my friends. It’d seem like keeping it a secret wouldn’t really seem right in the spirit of friendship.

  2. rocketc says:

    The lottery is a tax on poor people. . .

    I don’t play for a lot of reasons, but I definitely would want it kept a secret if I won. If a person wins a large jackpot, do they have the option to remain anonymous?

  3. Patrick says:

    Rocketc, If you win the big jackpot, you do not have the option of remaining anonymous. (If I won, I would tell them I am in the FBI’s witness protection program so I could remain anonymous… do you think they would buy it?)

    And to answer Jim,

    I play the Mega Millions lottery, but only when the jackpot gets above $175M. (Pot odds, though it doesn’t make it any easier to win…). I only buy one ticket at a time and I do it for fun. If I were to win, cool. If not, no worries. It’s only a dollar. By no means do I buy tickets often, nor do I recommend them as an investment!

    I have seen people spend hundreds of dollars on them though. This past March when the jackpot got over $300M, an aquaintance split $350 tickets with another person. I don’t think they won anything! LOL. I won $7 on the one ticket I bought. 🙂

  4. Tim says:

    funny thing, buying more tickets does not increase your odds. neither does going in as a group. unless there is something written that everyone has signed and blessed off on the lawyers that be ahead of time, i wouldn’t do a group thing. just too much hassle when a lot of money is involved.

    as far as not telling anyone, it really doesn’t matter. the way the rules are your name will be out there for everyone to see anyways. now your family may not know, but everyone else and their illegitimate children will. of course there are ways of buffering yourself you win. see how positive that was?

  5. Exick says:

    Depending on what state/country you play the lottery in, it’s possible to not have your name disclosed.

    My wife and I used to play the lottery for fun. It was $1 or $2 per week and we never picked our own numbers.

    Tim, I’m not sure I follow your logic that buying more tickets doesn’t increase your odds. Buying X tickets each with a different number combination multiplies your odds of winning by X. Now, the difference between buying 5 tickets and buying 1 may not be statistically significant. For instance, 1 ticket has a 1 in about 5 billion probability of winning. Making that 5 in 5 billion isn’t that impressive, but it does quintuple your chances over a single ticket.

    • Tim says:

      exick, your math is off, if you buy 1 ticket and hypothetically it’s 1:5billion. if you buy 5, it is no longer 1:5billion, you’ve added 5 tickets to the equation. statistically speaking, you gain no advantage over buying more than one ticket.

  6. Moneymonk says:

    It’s been said that the lottery is no more than a tax on the poor. So the middle class can send their children to school

    I do not play I rather invest the money elsewhere

  7. David says:

    I do buy a ticket about 4-5 times a year, totally on a whim. I know I will never win, but I don’t mind taking the chance since the money goes towards education anyway.

    My grandfather won $5000 once, but that was the biggest winner in our family ever.

  8. zen says:

    I’ll buy in group sessions – but would I tell? No.

    The only reason to tell is to brag or boast, and then complain about others jealousy if their response isn’t what you hoped.

  9. Financial Phoenix says:

    The few times in my life I played the lottery, I was desperate for money and thought “why not.” I think this is why you find the majority of lottery players are at the lower end of the income scale. I think everyone realizes that it’s a long shot, but some people just see it as a last ditch effort.

  10. Zook says:

    Let me just say that it seems you guys posting have it under wraps pretty darn well….ONE dollar a week? Playing when it only gets above a certain amount? That won’t hurt anyone or your finances, but people play hundreds a week on social security or worse. I know, my grandfather used to waste money like that when I was younger and looking back it actually makes me angry. All that money wasted. Yeah he won a few grand here and there, but trust me, he didn’t even come close to breaking even.

    For those people that simply can’t afford to do so, it’s a disgusting habit and they lack self-control.

    Rather than build your financial goals the hard way, saving each week, it seems there are just to many people out there that want to get ‘lucky’ and don’t care that they could easily begin placing lottery funds into investment vehicles and get on the proper road to freedom.

    But hey………the lottery helps your local schools!

  11. I buy lottery tickets for the states I’m traveling in, and sometimes bring them back along with trip presents for our housesitters. It’s kinda goofy, but more fun than spending money on some crummy plastic souvenir. This way, I buy a ticket perhaps a few times per year…just enough to give a little fuel to those “hit the lottery” fantasies!

  12. juanny says:

    Tim, your logic still doesn’t make sense, Exick is correct. What do you mean by “adding 5 tickets to the equation”? Regardless of how many tickets I buy, there are still the same number of possible combinations. If I buy more tickets, I have a larger percentage of the possible combinations, thus my odds of winning go up.

  13. Tim says:

    i like this site

    but if there are 100 people playing and you are one of them (99+1), that isn’t the same combination if you buy two tickets, because now there are 101 people (99+2). with the large numbers of people playing, most people don’t have the cash to purchase all combinations of the lottery, so really statistically you have no better chance of winning than if you just bought one. if you buy more, you also increase the possibility that you are going to share winnings. if you also buy more, you also have the chance of losing more. so figure in all three factors and i’ll stick with buying just one lottery ticket.

  14. Tim says:

    oh, and the odds of winning the jackpot doesn’t change regardless of the number of people. your odds remain the same for every ticket that you have. it’s not a cumulative thing. for example, every ticket you possess for Powerball has the same odds: 1 in 120,526,770 no matter how many people play. The Mega Millions odds is 1 in 135,145,920 for each ticket you hold regardless of how many people play. each of your tickets represents a person playing.

  15. Elaine says:

    I agree with rocketc and moneymonk. The lottery is a tax on poor people, its plays on their desperation. I read an article on MSN Money that said 20% of the people who play contribute over 80% of the revenue. Most of these players are low income minorities with little to no college level education. The idea of ‘winning big’ is far more exciting and than being patient and saving a little at a time. It sucks, but that’s how it is.

  16. Jeanne B. says:

    I’m glad I fall into the other percentage (the college-educated majority).

    Limiting beliefs are what keep people from doing anything, be it winning the lottery or digging themselves out of a dire situation (and I realize I may come off as hypocritical in the next few sentences). I’m not desperate. But I have also built the belief based on past experience that for a single woman in this post-9/11 economy, being patient and saving a little at a time is a pipe dream when jobs are difficult to come by. Also, a college degree does not guarantee a good life for my generation the way it did for my parents’ generation. Unfortunately, I trained for a field that was demolished by 9/11 fallout, and I only have a BFA. The available jobs fall into two categories: those for which I am over-qualified (low-paying) and those for which an advanced degree is required. I’m structurally unemployed at this point.

    Therefore, I have put my focus firmly onto the lottery while also pursuing entrepreneurial possibilities as well as working toward graduate school. All my bases are covered. I play the lottery, two dollars per week (two drawings at $1 each), every week without fail because I KNOW I have just as much chance of winning as anyone else. What IF I did win? Why not? It could happen. It’s happened to others. Anyone who buys a ticket has a shot.

    I play because… what if I didn’t, and my numbers actually came up?

  17. Baz says:

    Tim, you’re not making sense. Chances of winning are entirely unrelated to the possibility of sharing the jackpot. Quite simply your chances increase if you buy more tickets in the same draw, just as Exick pointed out. Take it to the extreme, if you bought all possible ticket combinations you are 100% guaranteed to hold the jackpot ticket – according to your logic you still only have a 1 in x million chance..!

  18. Rene says:

    I find it odd that statistics reveal that minorities play the lottery three times more than whites however when it comes to winning the lottery and big jackpot winners whites win 10 times more than minorities.



    • Jeannie says:

      Oh please are you serious rene? How can the lottery know you’re not white? You don’t have to give your information when buying a ticket give me a break!

  19. Wendy says:

    So True Rene… I and others have been wondering the same thing. They are always indicating the poor, the minorities but yet it looks like the middle class whites are always winning. Boy, if it is found that the lottery is fixed towards whites, HUH……. HELL HATH NO FURY IF THIS MONEY IS DEEMED STOLEN.

  20. Erik says:

    The answer to the minority question is in different lottery games. Low-income consumers (a correlation with minority status exists but is not absolute) play more of the lower-stakes games, like instant scratch-offs or daily Match-4 types, and account for a greater proportion of tickets sold. Middle class consumers, playing for fun or perhaps in a pool with friends or coworkers, play the weekly or semiweekly lottery games with the massive jackpots and remote odds.

    So the middle class buys a lower proportion of overall tickets, but account for a greater proportion of the huge jackpots. And only the huge jackpots make the news. For every $100m white mega winner, there are several thousand minority $5k winners, we just never hear about them.

  21. Hannah says:

    Yes, I would love to Win the Lottery,but if I don’t, I’m still happy. Winning the Lottery will change some people in my life who don’t have much. I would love to give them a chance to start over with no bills.

  22. Heather says:

    Well if you are any race other than white you should not be playing the lottery anyway. Research indicates that more hispanics, blacks asians,etc buy many more lottery tickets than whites but whites win 10 times more. Why is this? Obviously the lottery drawings are done behind closed doors instead of being televised so everyone can see the winning combination. The wining combinations are then picked or re-selected if the winning comnbination lands in the wrong neighborhoods. This is a crook’s paradise.. I am white but I do not play as this is racist armed robbery.

    • Hazelgrl says:

      in reply to your comment i do see more white
      peoples pictures in the winning section but
      i would of not have guessed it to be that
      I am part spanish i just thought maybe white
      people had more extra money set a side to play
      but your point if true is racist and makes me
      not want to continue to play although i do buy
      scratch tickets once in a while here and there..

  23. 911Joe says:

    C’mon people. Do you really think the lottery folks give a damn about who wins? The suggestion that drawings are “fixed” so non-minority individuals win is just preposterous. How would the lottery know who bought what tickets? I’ll bet you can’t guess my race, height, weight, eye color, hair color. So how in the world could the lottery people “magically” know what race a person who buys a random lottery ticket is? BTW, here are the answers: Asian, 5’7″, 150 lbs, hazel, brown. How well did you do?

  24. aw says:

    It’s geographically designed to exclude impoverished neighborhoods. I have never heard anyone winning the lottery in debilitated neighborhoods…the chance of having the probability of winning the lottery you must play in the white demographics. It’s a rig system.

  25. lol says:

    To Tim:

    It does increase your chances to WIN when you buy a ticket (not win more money). If you had a 2 person raffle and each bought one ticket. You’d have a 50% chance of winning. Now if you had 2 ticket while the other person had one, your chances doesn’t double however you do have 2 tickets out of 3. So your chances increased to 66% (a 16% improvement over having one ticket).

    Now whether it increases your chances to win more money overall, thats a whole another question. In the situation above, if everyone had to spend a dollar to contribute to a total prize pool. You’d be paying $1 for a 50% to win $2 and $2 for a 66% to win 3. When you calculate the project winnings (EV). You win $0 per bet for each situation. So yeah you are right in the big picture that it is the same. You win more buying two raffles but you lose more as well and it works out to be the same.

    Now in a real lottery your paying $1 for a 50% chance to win $1.50 etc etc, so the odds are clearly not in your favor.

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