Thursday, 3 February 2011

win the lottery! for real!

(If this is the past and you live in Ontario.)

Mohan Srivastava, a geological statistician, which I hope and honestly think means someone who works out from stats models where you might be able to dig for gold, worked out how to beat the Ontario State Lottery's scratchcards a few years ago.

It's a crackerjack story, told here in Wired. 'The North American lottery system is a $70 billion-a-year business, an industry bigger than movie tickets, music, and porn combined.' Srivastava started thinking about scratchcards. They couldn't feature random numbers, 'since the lottery corporation needs to control the number of winning tickets ... Instead, it has to generate the illusion of randomness while actually being carefully determined.'

He wondered if there was a flaw in the system and cracked it almost immediately - it was to do with visibly-printed numbers which hinted at numbers to be scratched away. He worked out it would be too labour-intensive to make a living out of, and tried to tell the Lottery. Amusingly, they wouldn't listen. There's loads more, including 'Joan Ginther, who has won more than $1 million from the Texas Lottery on four different occasions.' She won't do interviews. It's possible that she's the luckiest person in the world. Or...

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