The $640 million jackpot in the Mega Millions lottery Friday night created a huge buzz. Unfortunately this fizzled out for all but the three big winners in Illinois, Kansas, and Maryland. Even we analytical types get swept up in the frenzy, seeing as how the money sunk in prior drawings brings the expected value over 100 percent. Yes, the odds of 1 in 176,000,000 remain daunting, but it sure is fun to have a few numbers to play with.
The really gutsy lottery wonks focus on other games where situations arise that make huge bets nearly a sure thing. For example, see this Boston Globe heads-up on “a game with a windfall for a knowing few”. Imagine showing up at your corner gas station with $100,000s in cash for lottery tickets—that would be a great day for the own, especially given the seller earns a commission that can grow to $100,000 for some jackpots.
“Bettors like the Selbees, who spent at least $500,000 on the game, had almost no risk of losing money.”
- Mark Kon, a professor of math and statistics at Boston University