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Crazy odds, but we still love the Lottery!

From Claire Siblot
May 2016.

All over the world, one of the most popular forms of gambling is the lottery. As a consequence, there are some amazing lotteries in different countries where the jackpot totals can reach enormous amounts. It used to be that you'd get excited at the prospect of winning a million dollars, and while no-one would turn that kind of amount down today, it seems like small beer compared with some of the mega lottery jackpots that are now available.

Yet anyone who buys a ticket for a lotto draw does so knowing that they are going up against some huge odds in order to win. So why do we all love playing the lotto so much, when we know how unlikely it is that we're going to be that winner? The answer, according to Lethbridge University professor Robert Williams, is that many of us just can't get a handle on the size of the odds. The numbers are so big that they don't really seem real.

For example, the PowerBall lottery. To win the jackpot, you now need to beat odds of 1 in 292 million. It sounds like a big number, granted, but we tend not to think about the odds in real terms. Williams explains that human brains have not evolved to deal with really big numbers. While we can quickly see the difference between an army of 10 soldiers and an army of 1,000, throughout human history, we've never really needed to quantify really, really big numbers at a practical level. So that's why we don't acknowledge that there's a huge difference between odds of 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 292 million when we play the lottery. We're still in with a chance and the prize is definitely worth going for!

Playing the lotto has become even more interesting since it became possible to buy lotto tickets online. There's now no need to go and queue for a ticket at the local shop. And better yet is that we can now all take part in other countries' lotteries as well as our own. And when you buy lottery tickets online, just having one account means you can play the lottery in Spain, Italy, the UK, Canada and the US, wherever you happen to live.

Where would you go on holiday with a lotto win?

You can choose whichever lottery you want, whether you're guided by the size of the jackpot that's up for grabs or by the relative odds of winning one national lottery versus another. Buying online means that you mix up which lottery to play, or enter several at once and see which is luckiest for you.

Of course, you should bear in mind the low chances you have of winning and never think of the money spent as anything other than an entertainment fee. But with the relatively small price of a lotto ticket, you always get a lot of fantasy value imagining what you could spend your winnings on!

 

 

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