Fun fact

February 4, 2011

From age 18 to about 21, I worked in drug stores and card shops, among other places.  During my stints at the Shoppers Drug Marts of the world, I developed a love for bath products, lotions, make-up and snack foods. I was also really good at picking winning scratch and win lottery tickets.

There was a method to my madness.

I only picked tickets where you could see the numbers or letters on the board – like Bingo or Crossword. It generally meant no $1 tickets for me.  I was a high roller with my $2-$3 investments.

In a game of Bingo, if you saw the same numbers a lot, it was a bad sign.  It meant, either that ticket was a loser or a big winner.  (Because if you got all those numbers, you wouldn’t just win one line, you’d win a bunch.)

In Crossword, you really had to look at the letters that overlapped between words.  Again, if you saw common letters connecting the words, it would put you in the same position as above.

So if you are the ticket making computer, do you want to have people lose or win big?

I never won big, but as long as I was at the till and could look at the tickets for a few minutes, I had a good idea of the good ones. It always amused me when I would reach for a winner and the customer would gasp, “No, not that one.”

Because I was usually just winning my money back, and occasionally losing, it wasn’t something I really put much effort into.

Every once and a while I’ll be in a store and think about buying one, just for the fun of it, but I know the odds. There’s a reason they call the lottery an idiot tax.

An article in the latest Wired magazine reminded me of my scratch and win phase. Turns out, my theory was pretty bang on.


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