If you didn’t know already, the lottery is one of the worst ways to gamble. Lotto 6/49 and Lotto Max generally return less than 55 cents per dollar you put in over the long run.
Check out the EV calculator to compute an estimated expectation for any given jackpot.
If you must play, then there are ways to maximize your expected value. These tips revolve around avoiding a jackpot split (or split of a portion, e.g. when matching 4 or more numbers in Lotto 6/49). Generally, this is the only variable you have some degree of control while playing the lottery.
- Choose numbers that will less likely to be chosen by other players.
- Avoid choosing many numbers 31 or less, as this generally matches birth dates and lucky numbers
- Avoid choosing all numbers that fit a certain range or pattern (e.g. six very low numbers, six very high numbers, six numbers in a row, all even numbers, all numbers that end in “7” etc.)
- Avoid choosing numbers that form a pattern on the Scantron sheet / bet slip (e.g. avoid penciling in a shape that forms a line, a box, an X or other pattern on the betting slip)
- Avoid playing when the draw will likely have a high ratio of entrants to jackpot size.
- Avoid playing around Christmas time as many tend to give lottery tickets as gifts
- Avoid playing if the last jackpot was small and unwon, but is receiving a lot of media attention during that week (e.g. commercials, mentions in news broadcasts). Unfortunately, OLG tends to advertise frequently even with low, unwon jackpots to churn out more ticket sales and maximize their profits
- Overall, the idea is to avoid splitting a small jackpot with many other players as this significantly impacts your expected value
- Avoid playing when you perceive the economy to be doing poorly
- In high unemployment, high debt, high inflation scenarios (which Canada is rapidly approaching) more people will be making last ditch desperation bets on the lottery to immediately solve all their financial problems
- This is counter-intuitive because a poor economy generally means less disposable income. However, from a psychological perspective, those with disposable income and savings tend to invest and not think about the lottery whereas those without a solid income are more susceptible to manipulation (commericals, advertising)
Obviously, the best tip to maximize your expected value is to not play at all!
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