How to Win the Lottery

A lottery is any contest in which there is a low chance of winning, but the prize money can be big. The word is a contraction of the Middle Dutch noun loterie or the French noun loterie, and it’s used for state-run games as well as private ones, such as picking college students.

It’s no secret that a huge jackpot drives ticket sales, but the question of where the money comes from remains murky, Vox reports. A state’s coffers may swell, but that money comes from the pockets of real people—and it tends to flow to low-income people and minorities. Study after study has found that lottery tickets are bought in poor neighborhoods and often sold by addicts.

The process of a lottery drawing takes more than two hours and involves a minimum of three lottery officials, plus a handful of staff who run the machines and set up the balls. The entire process is filmed and broadcast live on newscasts. The result is that anyone who’s ever watched the Powerball drawing knows that it takes a long time to draw the winning numbers.

But there are ways to beat the lottery—and win a respectable chunk of change, too. A mathematician named Stefan Mandel, for example, figured out how to maximize the odds of winning by buying thousands of tickets at a time and spreading the cost among investors. While he didn’t end up with the coveted jackpot, he did win enough to support himself for a long while.

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