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How to Win the Lottery

The lottery is an enormously popular gambling game in which participants buy tickets for a chance to win a prize based on a random drawing of numbers. Almost every state in the United States has one. It’s also a way for governments to raise money without raising taxes. The practice has a long history. Moses was instructed to take a census of the people of Israel and distribute land by lot, while Roman emperors used lottery-like games as giveaways during Saturnalian feasts. Public lotteries were even common during the American Revolution and helped to build several prominent institutions of higher learning, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, King’s College (now Columbia), William and Mary, and Union.

We’ve spoken to many people who play the lottery regularly, people who spend $50, $100 a week on tickets. These folks seem to be completely clear-eyed about the odds, and they know that the jackpots are long. And yet they still gamble — because, it turns out, they really like to gamble.

When you’re buying scratch-off tickets, look for a breakdown of how many prizes are available and when the records were last updated. If you’re lucky, the odds will be lower when more prizes remain. Also, consider purchasing lottery tickets for a smaller game that has less competition — you’ll likely have better odds than if you purchased a ticket to a massive multi-state lottery. The same goes for choosing your numbers — pick a random number or go with a sequence that’s less obvious, like birthdays or ages, rather than picking a set of consecutive numbers like 1-3-2-6.

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