Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lotto Blues

Some people think of it as the chance of a lifetime and will scrounge up their last cents from meager paychecks to make sure they buy their daily fix. A few people believe that it is just a fun game and will occasionally throw away a dollar for a scratch-off ticket whenever the mood hits them. Other people call it “the poor man’s gamble” and will shake their heads over the media hoopla when the winnings reach an incredibly high number.

I’m talking about the lottery - - a state-run bingo game where proceeds go to help senior citizens, although they never elaborate in the commercials on what type of help it is. I’m writing on the topic because a very talented author wrote a very entertaining book about someone winning it. This got me thinking about my own life and this addicting contest.

Yes, for some of us it can be an addiction, like nicotine or reading the latest poll results for the presidential race. When the clock chimes at the seventh hour, they hurriedly change the tv channel to watch the newest old person who has the honor of picking out the numbers. With eyes glued to the ricocheting small balls, they eagerly listen while hoping to be the lucky person who might get all that moolah, dineros, the all-mighty $, whichever phrase you want to use.

I know of someone who was addicted to the lotto.

I’m not sure when he first got involved in it. I do know that he spent over 30 years believing he could somehow “beat the system” - like it was a rigged parlor game. He carried plastic bags filled with written-down numbers from past lottery games, spanning years, which he would compare by date in search of an obvious pattern. Calenders, old lotto tickets, and scraps of paper showed every possible digit combination as if he was trying to decipher the locks on the local bank vault. At 1:00 in the morning, this man would sit at the kitchen table poring over his notes. Then he would fill out his 10 pink sheets so he could stop by the convenience store after work to purchase his tickets. At the most, I believe he might have won a grand total of $500 over the following years.

I never understood his obsession for the game, especially with his views concerning time and money. This same person wouldn’t shell out one dime to waste on new work gloves and would rather wrap duct tape around the tattered remains of his old pair. He never spent time with his kids. He never bought presents for holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries. To spend any money or effort on such trivial issues such as his family was sheer lunacy in his opinion. This man had to be the stingiest person on the planet, except when it involves the lottery.

I couldn’t begin to tell you how much he spent on tickets. You can try to do the calculations yourself: cost per ticket for 5-10 tickets, per lotto day for 30 years. When you figure out the number, let me know. Then think to yourself.

Was it worth it?

Maybe I’ll ask my father that question. But only if I can get his attention away from his lottery tickets. After 30 years, he has to take a break someday.


  1. "You can try to do the calculations yourself: cost per ticket for 5-10 tickets, per lotto day for 30 years. When you figure out the number, let me know. Then think to yourself."

    Lotto tickets are about 2 dollars a pop right? Let's say he's doing 10 tickets per lott. Lotto is done twice a week (at least in Canada), so that is 40 dollars a week. There are 4 weeks in a month so that's 160/month. There are 12 months in a year so in a year he's spent $1920. Since it's 30 years that racks up a grand total of $57,600 dollars.




  2. Great googly moogly! That is a high number, at least by Canada standards.

    Depending which game you play here, and we have several different ones, there are daily lottos as well as the ones which are held Tuesday through Friday.

  3. You mean every day from Tuesday to Friday depending on game? Wow. I never have any interest in it.

    It is a high number. Having that much money put down on a house...invested...etc, that could set you for quite a long time. You'd be very comforable.

    Can't believe I FIGURED that out. I hate math. But, it's basic so even I can do it!

  4. OMG what a great post!!!
    This would make a great premise for a novel...
    I find it interesting that my father never gambled and rarely bought LOTTO tickets except for a few months- and then won... he never dreamed of winning the lottery...ironic...

  5. Thanks for the kudos, Pat. I was a little worried about how you would feel about the links I set up to your blog and book. I'm not trying to ride any gravy train. I just wanted to post something near and dear (well, maybe not dear) to my heart. And since you were part of the inspiration, I had to slide some due props over to you.

    A premise to a novel? Maybe. But I would probably allow someone else to write it. It still sends shivers down my spine thinking about his obsession. To this very day, you can walk into his house and find a slip of paper or an old notebook with a number combination scrawled over it.

    @Adaora, you're right that such money could go to better uses. But he is a man that needs his lottery - like a fix on an adrenaline high.

    His games are his entertainment, his hobby, his obedient child patiently waiting for his sound wisdom to guide them on his chosen path.

  6. @Michelle- No really, I agree. What is life if you can't enjoy it?

    @Orion - He probably won because he wasn't looking for it. For example: I'm not a gambler at all, I have absolutely no inclination. Yet one time I played CASH FOR LIFE and I won $50 or something? It wasn't millions, but it sure helped pay my lunch @ uni for at least 2 weeks.

  7. Great post! I buy powerball tickets with change I find off the streets. I figure... its not my money! and only 3 times have I deviated from this. They were a birthday, christmas, and just recently when I wasn't sure I could handle showing up to work. I actually didn't get into the 3 regular buys at all. They were no fun. But the others are kind of a game....

    the reason I started buying was I'd always say... I'll get health insurance "when I win the lottery." or, I'll have a retirement account "when I win the lottery." so now... well... I can say it with veracity.

    the odds are non-existent. it really is a poor person's tax. sorry your father got caught up in the mirage!

  8. Chris,

    Things like that happen to some people. The term, moderation, really has to apply to this game (and I stress game.) At least you know what the odds are. My father has deluded himself into thinking that he can somehow bet the odds, as if somone is running the game of chance and he can outsmart them.


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