The Stupid Tax

AKA the lottery. Guess what, kid’s? It’s rigged.

The random winning numbers on lottery tickets aren’t exactly random at all.

Mohan Srivastava is the man who figured out how to beat a scratch lottery game — and he didn’t even profit from it.

Srivastava, who was featured in this month’s Wired magazine, is a geological statistician by trade and is naturally adept at analyzing numbers and realizing patterns. His day job involves scoping out potential gold mines and determining the how much gold they might contain.

Cracking the lottery wasn’t all that different. Srivastava, using the same math, was able to predict winning tickets for a Canadian Tic-Tac-Toe scratch lottery game 9 out of 10 times. The method is surprisingly simple but his road to discovery involved a bit of chance.

The games are not at all random, they are carefully controlled so there are a fixed number of winners – and a lot of losers. Srivastava reported his findings to the Canadian lottery officials – his intent was never to get rich off the code breaking. Just an intellectual exercise for the man.

The various lotteries run by states, provinces and combinations thereof are nothing more than revenue generators – another tax – targeted at people who can’t figure out that their odds of winning suck.

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6 Responses to The Stupid Tax

  1. BadBob says:

    The odds favor the house? Say it ain’t so ….

  2. Foxfier says:

    From a programing point of view, it’s basically impossible to have a truly random number generator.

    All we can do is have a pattern that’s complicated enough that it looks random. (Algorithms, yay!)

    It’s sort of like card-counting– with enough data, you get an edge.

  3. Gaius says:

    Yeah, I know, Foxfier. “Random” number generators in computing space must have repeatable patterns or they are useless.

  4. Terrence says:

    I agree that lotteries and gambling are taxes on stupid, As such, I am all in favor of them – if they were not there, I would be paying more taxes.

    And both lotteries and casinos make such that someone wins every so often – if there were no visible winners, fewer people would thin THEY might be the next winner.

    An example of the latter is one of my nephew-in-laws and his son. When the son was about four years old, they were in a convenience store buying some stuff. He was carrying his son; and at the checkout, he decide to buy a lottery ticket; so he asked his son. “Which one”. The little guy pointed to one and said, “That one, daddy.” The dad bought “that one” and won just over $180,000 (in today’s dollars). He has not won anything of note since then (and he does not buy a lot of tickets).

  5. Gaius says:

    Good for him, then. He beat the system, in a way.

  6. Foxfier says:

    I’d much rather someone pay into the system by having fun than have the rest of us paying taxes without even the thrill!

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