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Winning the Lottery: Can You Beat the Odds?

Just Explain It

Mega Millions made history in 2012 with a $656 million jackpot. It was the largest lottery prize ever in the United States.

And now, another huge jackpot is up for grabs on Wednesday. Lottery officials estimate the Powerball grand prize will be at least $400 million.

Is winning luck, or is there a strategy at work? We’ll take a look in this Just Explain It.

First, the numbers.

In 2010, more than a thousand people in the United States and Canada won a million dollars or more playing the lottery. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia participate in lotteries. They rake in as much as $78 billion a year. It's almost unbelievable that Nevada, a state that has legalized just about every type of gambling, isn't down with the program. It goes to show the power of the casinos. They think a Nevada lottery would be competition.

When it comes to playing lottery games, there are plenty to choose from in each state. What they all have in common are steep odds against winning. For instance, the odds of winning a Mega Millions jackpot are 175 million to one. You’re more likely to get struck by lightning.

For games like Powerball and Mega Millions, winning might depend on your strategy.

One strategy is called the lottery wheeling system, and some players believe it improves their chances of winning. Wheeling is a method that plays all possible combinations of a group of numbers. You have to play more than one game and more numbers than those drawn in the lottery. For example, a pick six lotto would require you to wheel at least seven numbers. This strategy doesn’t increase your chances of winning the jackpot, but there is a better chance you’ll win a smaller prize.

On the other hand, Richard Lustig uses his own method to beat the odds. Lustig has won the Florida lottery grand prize seven times. His technique? He picks his own numbers, checks to see if they’ve won before, buys as many tickets as he can afford, chooses ten sets of numbers and plays them continuously.

But a recent study of the California SuperLotto found that commonly used strategies, like the ones previously mentioned, work just as well as random guessing.

The best winning strategy might be to buy a ticket in a lucky state. Pennsylvania tops the list of lucky states according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. Seventeen winning jackpot Powerball tickets have been sold there. In 2012, Pennsylvania sold almost $3.5 billion worth of lottery tickets. Of every dollar sold, 62 cents go to prizes, 29 cents are awarded to benefit programs, retailers and vendors take seven cents and the last two cents cover operating expenses.

Do you have a winning lottery strategy? Or do you have a topic you’d like explained? Give us your feedback in the comments below or on Twitter using #JustExplainIt.

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