Sunday, October 9, 2011

Math: The best and worst lottery numbers

So I've got a question for everyone. What is the best lottery number? What is the worst? If you thought that I was smart, you  might be questioning your original judgement. Some of you have a few numbers for me already. Probably none of you have the actual answer. For all the mathematically inclined readers familiar in probability, there IS an answer. For all of the conspiracists, it's not YOUR answer.

The best lottery number is 13. The worst is 7. Before you start arguing that probability dictates that all numbers are random, give me the benefit of the doubt. If you wish to argue that all the numbers are random and therefore, none is better than any other, you are not thinking outside of the box. And for this question, it actually makes you wrong.

The reason that 13 is the best number, is because it's considered the most unlucky. Although you may be right that all numbers have an equal outcome, you would be wrong to think that every number is an equivalent candidate in when playing the lottery. Human behavior is not random. As a result of 13's stigma, it is the least chosen number in any lottery. So why is it good for YOU to choose 13? The fact that less people choose it means that if you win the lottery, you have a lower chance of needing to split the winnings. You do not change your probability of hitting numbers by picking 13. However, because of the reduced chance to split winnings, you are actually able to increase your mathematical expectation when you actually hit.

The same logic applies to lucky numbers like 7, and the numbers 1 through 12, which represent months of the year. People love picking birthdays, and memorable dates. The terrible payout of state lotteries are terrible. You might see 30 cents on the dollar after taxes if you're lucky. Considering the low odds of actually hitting, you might be better off betting your money on humanity. Donate some money to a homeless man and you have better odds that he won't spend it on drugs and alcohol. However, if you MUST play, know that I will always pick number 13 and I will never pick 7.

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