Mega Millions Winning Strategies Not In Your Favor, Say Mathematicians

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The most popular selection for a Quebec lottery drawing in January 2010 were numbers in multiples of seven. In particular, 824 wagers chose 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, and 42. The second most popular selection, chosen by 424 wagers, was the consecutive numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. The third most popular selection was the mysterious set of numbers in the television series, "Lost." According to the Quebec lottery, 377 wagers chose: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42.

Another consideration, Shackleford said, is when to play the game.

"It's good for you when the jackpot increases but it also induces more people to play, increasing your chance of sharing it," he said.

Peak sales hours for Mega Millions are typically on the day of the drawing during the evening rush hour, Reddick said.

"We anticipate brisk sales as people head home from work Friday, leading up to the drawing," she said.

Parties with lotto fever can purchase tickets until 10:45 p.m. EDT on draw nights, though in Oregon, you can buy tickets until 7:00 p.m. In Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont tickets may be purchased up until 9:50 p.m.

Bruce Sacerdote, economics professor at Dartmouth College, studied the effects of lottery winnings from Massachusetts winners in the 1980s.

When asked why people are obsessed with the lottery, Sacerdote said, "for certain small bets we are 'risk loving.' That is to say we are willing to make a poor expected value bet for the chance to have an enormous 'transformative' gain."

Based on the survey, "we don't find that winning the lottery makes people miserable or destroys their lives in the long run. In fact, many people continue working after winning the lottery."

Several years after winning big prizes about 40 percent of winners are still working. People save about 16 percent of their gross winnings, on average. For each $100,000 won per year, people reduce labor market earnings by $11,000.

"People actually get utility from dreaming about what they would do with the money," Sacerdote said. "And again, actually getting the money does not make them unhappy."

Shackleford, who specializes in studying casino games, admits he has not purchased a lotto ticket in 25 years, "because it's a sucker's bet."

"I would be opposed to it just on principle alone," he said.

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