How to Win the Lottery

The casting of lots to determine fates or share treasure has a long record in human history, going back as far as the Bible. But using lotteries for money has only a slightly more recent origin. In colonial America, for example, they played an important role in financing private and public ventures, including roads, libraries, schools, churches, and colleges. Some of the nation’s best universities, including Harvard and Yale, owe their founding to lottery-financed donations. Lotteries also helped fund George Washington’s expedition against Canada.

The lottery’s popularity has soared in recent years, and state coffers have benefited from ticket sales and winners. But that money comes from somewhere, and studies have found that it’s disproportionately coming from low-income people, minorities, and those with gambling addictions. And while it’s true that some people win the lottery and then lose it all, the odds of hitting the jackpot are pretty slim.

To increase your chances of winning, choose numbers that don’t have sentimental value to you. Avoid numbers that are close together or end in similar digits because other players might be following the same strategy. Also, buy more tickets, which will slightly improve your odds.

But remember that it doesn’t matter how you pick your numbers—software programs, astrology, asking friends, picking birthdays—because lottery selection is random. And it’s also important to know that the jackpot amount you receive is shared by everyone who bought a winning ticket. So if you play with friends and each buys three tickets, you’re splitting the prize of $1 million. That might sound like a lot of money, but it’s not as much as you’d think.

It’s also important to note that winning the lottery doesn’t guarantee you happiness. In fact, you’re just as likely to find yourself in the middle of a shady business deal or even a criminal investigation as you are to become a multimillionaire. There have been numerous examples of people who’ve lost it all: Abraham Shakespeare, who won $31 million and was found dead in 2010 hidden under a concrete slab; Jeffrey Dampier, who was kidnapped after winning $20 million; and Urooj Khan, who killed himself with cyanide after winning a comparatively modest $1 million. And that’s not to mention the scores of others who’ve simply disappeared after a big win. So before you go all out and start buying up a bunch of lottery tickets, consider whether you’re really ready for the lifestyle change that would come with it. If not, you might be better off sticking to your favorite online poker site. NerdWallet’s writers write on a variety of topics, but this article was written by the Consumer Financial Services team. You can keep up with their work by visiting the My NerdWallet Settings page and following them on Twitter. NerdWallet is an independently owned, for-profit website that helps consumers make smart decisions about their money. Read our Disclosure Policy. 2019 NerdWallet, All rights reserved. Terms of Use.