Srivastava had been hooked by a different sort of lure—that spooky voice, whispering to him about a flaw in the game. At first, he tried to brush it aside. “Like everyone else, I assumed that the lottery was unbreakable,” he says. “There’s no way there could be a flaw, and there’s no way I just happened to discover the flaw on my walk home.”

And yet, his inner voice refused to pipe down. “I remember telling myself that the Ontario Lottery is a multibillion-dollar-a- year business,” he says. “They must know what they’re doing, right?”

That night, however, he realized that the voice was right: The tic-tac-toe lottery was seriously flawed. It took a few hours of studying his tickets and some statistical sleuthing, but he discovered a defect in the game: The visible numbers turned out to reveal essential information about the digits hidden under the latex coating. Nothing needed to be scratched off—the ticket could be cracked if you knew the secret code.

  1. Nobody says:

    # 13 the author discusses that, the pattern of claimed wins in almost all lotteries is biased – too many small ‘ie another free card’ wins go unclaimed, and too many people win multiple jackpots. The assumption is that this sort of activity occurs frequently.

    But to the people running the lottery this doesn’t matter – as long as customers (idiots) buy tickets it doesn’t really matter if a lucky winner, a clever mathematician, or a criminal gang win. The only problem is if the customers (idiots) find out about it and stop playing.

    #18 – the UK lottery itself is random (6 balls from 39) but people’s choices of numbers is very interesting. The computer system for example was unable to count winners quickly enough to announce them live because the designer assumed that wins would be distributed evenly across all possible numbers. In fact numbers 1-31 are chosen much more often than 32-39 – most people pick birthdays.

  2. deowll says:

    #15 I don’t gamble because I can’t stand to loose. I may make bad choices but I don’t do something for nothing.

    I don’t think the people that do bet on lotteries are actually stupid. They are buying hope in the form of at least a small adrenaline rush. They know the odds are against them and they bet anyway. They even budget the same modest wager on a regular bases.

    A friend, sunshine, showed me her numbers yesterday and was up because she only missed by one digit. Sunshine teaches math so I’m pretty sure she can figure the odds but she is getting some sort of emotional high out of gambling.

    The guy who broke the system did it more or less by accident because he was betting on the things if I recall correctly even though it was a total waste of his time and money and he had to know it.

    Both of these people have to know the odds but for some reason the thrill is worth the money to them.

  3. Mextli says:

    I have watched people put over 2K in a video crack machine then hit $500 and yell “I won! I won!”.

    I always wanted to cut a slot in the wall, put some lights around it, and guarantee a win of at least $500 for every $1,500 bet.

  4. nobody says:

    #23 – games of pure chance (one arm bandits) generally have a required minimum payout – typically 70-75% of the amount paid in.

    Ironically, video poker machines, as a game of skill – don’t.

  5. gildersleeve says:

    Reminds me of the Beavis and Butthead episode with the Stop-N-Rob cashier busy scratching off lottery tickets off of a big spool of tickets. Half the spool is on the floor. HAH! Always good for a titter.

  6. Hmeyers says:

    I watched a guy buy a whole roll of lottery tickets and scratch them off. He had maybe 15-20 $1-$3 dollar winners, and a couple of $20 winners.

    Lottery tickets are a huge scam.

    The people that buy them regularly are horrible with money, if they did not waste the $$$ on lottery tickets they would find something else equally worthless to rid them of their cash.

    The lottery system helps the dumbest recycle their money back to the state government … which is probably the best thing in the end.

  7. CrankyGeeksFan says:

    # 25 Gildersleeve – I thought of that episode, too.

    I guess the scratch-off lottery player has to visually inspect the ticket rolls that are behind the cashier.

    Didn’t something like this happen to a McDonald’s Monopoly prize game years ago?

  8. rom_vd says:

    Can anyone explain something?
    Even if this guy from Canada found the pattern how can he buy the exact ticket he wants? As far as i know you don’t get to choose those. Either the clerk gives you one or the machine. So even if he broke the code he couldn’t be making this 600$ a day as he claims, unless he had an agreement with multiple clerks in multiple stores!