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How to win $325 million: Get lucky

Jackpot in Friday lottery drawing interest

POSTED: August 28, 2009 9:29 a.m.
There are no secret mathematical tricks to hitting it big on tonight’s Mega Millions drawing for a gigantic jackpot, according to Georgia Southern University math instructor.
Georgia residents and others are scrambling to buy tickets today for the highest Mega Millions lottery jackpot in two years, $325 million.
But, according to Georgia Southern statistician and lottery aficionado, Dr. Patricia Humphrey, there are no surefire schemes, no matter how bad a person might want to win.
In fact, she said many of the superstitions people have when picking their numbers actually end up hurting their chances of winning.
“People tend to go with birthdays, but that decreases their odds,” Humphrey said as she explained that it automatically caps the number choices at 12 (months) and 31 (days) when there are 56 numbers available. 
Another superstition she said people rely on when picking numbers is to choose the same numbers over and over again, going with the train of thought that numbers are more likely to be drawn if they were passed over in previous drawings.
“One week’s drawing does not affect the next,” said Humphrey simply.
She said the only way to up your chances of having the golden ticket is to buy more numbers.
And, Humphrey’s a trustworthy lottery source as she’s spent a lot of time thinking about it. She’s written numerous academic papers on large-scale lottery statistics that include topics such as what are the chances of having a pair when picking six numbers out of 66.
“It’s much more often than most people’s intuitions would expect … about 54 percent. It has to do with mathematical hyper-geometric distributions,” she said with a laugh.
Humphrey has also tackled questions of whether the sum of the winning combination is more likely to be odd or even, the differences in scratch-off tickets versus drawings, and the impact of technology on the lottery system (specifically the probability of a computer system being programmed wrong).
“We’ve looked at the issue of are the drawings really fair. We’ve found errors from ping-pong drawings to computers where certain numbers couldn’t have possibly come up,” she said.
Humphrey said that tonight, lottery players will have about a one in 175 million chance of winning big, but reminds players that they can still win big money by matching some of the numbers.
She also reminded residents to play responsibly and not get carried away.
“Ticket sales always go up a lot when the numbers start to get high,” she said of many people’s penchant for gambling.
The drawing for the $325 million will take place at 11 p.m. Players can buy tickets up until 10:45. For results or more information, visit The Courier also publishes Mega Million numbers on the entertainment page.
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