A Touch of Lottery History

Lotteries have followed mankind throughout history. Several famous instances of lottery exist such as lotteries described in the Bible (these rarely had monetary prizes. Rather, they had varying degrees of religious significance and were supposed to determine the Divine Will). Other famous ancient lotteries include ancient keno games played in China (including those which helped finance the construction of the Great Wall of China) and lotteries held in ancient Rome (where everyone won something). Apparently, there is something mystical and uplifting in throwing the fate of a person to the whimsy of Lady Luck and the Fates.

Small Losses Big Wins at the Lottery

The enticement of the lottery is that even though the investment is generally quite small, the sum of the big jackpot is usually very large indeed. People feel that if they lose, they have lost nothing whereas if they win, they win everything. Usually, there are several smaller prizes that can be won as well as the big jackpot. In addition, it is theoretically possible for the jackpot to be won by two separate players (this I usually only possible when players are allowed to select the numbers for their lottery ticket by themselves). When available, lotteries are often regulated by the state and are sometimes even used as a method for the state to raise money. Lotteries are ideally suited for such money raising since the expected value of any given lottery ticket is usually quite low. In lotteries where the numbers to be drawn are not directly related to the numbers purchased (which is the case in most state lotteries as well as Mega Millions and similar big lotteries), it is possible for there to be no winning combination. The precise event in such an occurrence differs between different lotteries but the common rule is that the jackpot rolls over to the next lottery. This allows for the creation of bigger and bigger jackpots. Theoretically, a jackpot could become so big as to make it worthwhile to buy up all possible tickets in order to ensure a win. The problem with this strategy is that the big prize might end up being split with other winners in which case it might not cover the cost of the investment (such a strategy was employed by a Polish businessman by the name of Klincewitz in order to win at the Irish sweepstakes).