Reports that 433 persons in the Philippines had won the grand prize of a government-backed lotto, totaling 236 million pesos (roughly US$4 million), caused more than a few folks to stop in their tracks.
This has, somewhat predictably, prompted requests for an investigation into the origins of this "near-impossible" result. However, this scenario isn't as far-fetched as it may seem after you factor in some fundamentals of probability and human nature.
In essence, it is rather straightforward. People shell out a couple of bucks for a lottery ticket with a series of numbers printed on it. The lottery, which is usually conducted by a state or local government, selects a collection of numbers at random once every day. If your digits match those on the lottery ticket, you'll earn a portion of the proceeds while the government keeps the remainder.
You have a 1 in 13,983,816 chance of winning the jackpot in a lottery when you choose six digits from a selection of 49 numbers. There is a one-in-nearly-14-million chance of it happening. You may hope to win only once in 269,000 years if you purchase lottery tickets once per week.
But the unfortunate truth is that the chances in several lotteries are significantly worse than what was just mentioned. Mega Millions, a major multi-state lottery, with odds of about 1 in 175,711,536.
Given how many people win the lottery, some can be considered lucky ones at 175,711,536 odds.
There's no way to calculate the true odds of receiving one of the 433 winning tickets without determining how many tickets have been sold.
This week, a ridiculously low estimate of "one out of one followed by 1,224 zeros" was widely disseminated based on the assumption that 10 million tickets would be sold. You have a better probability of getting heads 2,000 times in a row with a standard coin than getting heads that many times.
There is a lot of data about psychological theories and behavior that this approximation doesn't consider. There are 28,989,675 potential combinations of numbers, but this calculation implies that each person buying a ticket has an equal probability of picking one of those numbers.
Some pairings are much more prominent than others throughout the world.
Because of this, using a random number generator is strongly encouraged by most industry experts whenever it is practical. Even though it won't increase your chances of striking the winning numbers, it might reduce the likelihood of sharing the pot with others if you win.
The sale of 433 winning tickets does not provide even close to enough proof of illegality to warrant further investigation. It would be intriguing to learn how many individuals have purchased this particular set of numbers over prior weeks or whether other numerical configurations also sell several hundred tickets.
Likely, this figure is not out of the ordinary, given anecdotal information from previous lotteries.
We must also consider the thousands upon thousands of identical lotteries held annually worldwide, the vast majority of which are never reported on in the international news. While such results are extremely unlikely to occur in any one lottery draw, they are by no means impossible to occur in any single lottery.
Conspiracy theories abound whenever a person wins a lottery. Still, the most prominent example is when FC Barcelona great Xavi won a secret lottery briefly after relocating to Qatar.
However, it is quite likely that the only true statistical oddity at play here is that so many people's impression of randomness drove them to follow the identical number pattern. Still, it's probably not a good idea to run out and buy a lottery ticket immediately.
Additionally, you must remember that the lucky combination in the Philippines lottery is not any less probable to be drawn compared to any other combination. The odds of the numbers 9, 18, 27, 36, 45, and 54 being picked are identical to other numbers, such as 1, 18, 19, 28, 30, and 46.
Of course, every lottery draw is a huge deal for the winners, and every jackpot is a cause for celebration, but every so often the numbers come in that are just too unusual to ignore. There are several winners, or the pattern of numbers is highly irregular. Some incredible previous outcomes are listed below.
On Saturday, January 14, 1995, 133 players split a £16.2 million Lotto prize after hitting the digits 7, 17, 23, 32, 38, and 42. Were these seemingly random numbers chosen by accident by so many ticket buyers? It was found that all of them appeared in the playslip's middle columns. Each winner was awarded a significant sum of £122,510.
When the numbers 4, 15, 23, 24, 35, and 42 were drawn in Bulgaria's lottery on September 10th, 2009, international attention was drawn to the event. Normally it wouldn't raise eyebrows, but the preceding draw was four days ago, and identical numbers had also shown up. Picking the same digits that have recently shown up is reported to be a common strategy among many players; while none won on September 6th, an all-time high of 18 people shared the grand prize the following week. The probability of this occurring in the Bulgarian lottery is estimated to be one in four million.
While no one won the jackpot in Wednesday's Lotto draw, 4,082 people won by matching the five main numbers.
Because there are so many lotteries and the winners are chosen randomly, it is practically certain that bizarre or coincidental outcomes will emerge on occasion. This is because of the random nature of the drawing process. Players that choose their numbers based on trends or previous outcomes have a better chance of winning. Still, unexpected drawings like these show that many other participants adopt the same strategy.
It is best to steer clear of such sequences and choose instead of something more random, as doing so will make it less likely that you will have to split a large reward with someone else if your numbers are picked. Because each possible combination has an equal probability of being drawn, it is totally up to you to select your numbers in any way you see fit. Before the next major draw, you may select your numbers online or by visiting an authorized store.