Lotto roulette

So Kath wrote about playing the lotto, and why she does it. I started to write a reply which turned out to be insanely long, so long that it deserves republishing here.

I’ve never understood why people seem to get a thrill from buying a lotto ticket and imagining what they will do if they win. See, the thing is, imagination is free. You don’t actually need to buy the ticket to indulge in the “what would I do if I won lotto” game.

You could imagine that you found a ticket. You could imagine that some mysterious distant relative you’ve never heard of has carked it and you’ve inherited their estate. You could imagine charlie and the chocolate factory is real, and you’ve just laid your hands on the golden ticket.

None of this costs you anything.

And obviously you know how improbable it is to win, but you convince yourself otherwise. So quoting numbers isn’t going to win you over, but maybe visualizing it will. So here goes…

Google tells me the odds of winning oz lotto are 8,145,060 to 1. Let’s imagine these odds on a roulette table.


Let’s assume our roulette ball is 1cm wide. So it needs to fall into a slot that is at least 1cm wide. And there needs to be 8,145,060 slots. So that makes a roulette wheel with a circumference of at least 81 km. The good ol’ 2 pi R formula tells us that would make the wheel about 26km across.

This is way bigger than the biggest circular thing I can think of, the Arecibo radio observatory. Take a look at this picture of it.

Arecibo Radio Observatory

Imagine playing roulette on that baby, hoping your ball will fall into the 1cm wide slot on the edge with your number on it.

That radio telescope is only 305 metres wide. The imaginary “lotto” roulette wheel is 26km wide; 86 times bigger! It might take you an hour of driving around it just to see who won, if you were doing 80km/hr! Assuming you can even spot a 1cm wide roulette ball at that speed!

Wow it was fun working that out and imagining it. And it cost me nothing! In conclusion, I am a total nerd and you should not buy lotto tickets.


8 thoughts on “Lotto roulette

  1. I think you are assuming with only one set of numbers … but the average ticket has like 12 sets of numbers on it.
    But yeah i agree with you. I think ive only bought a lottery ticket twice.

  2. Oh and to put people off the most, I usually just tell them to play the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
    They say, “That’ll never win!”
    Then you just dont say anything and they figure out the rest for themselves.

  3. *sigh*, DanielK, you and Ryan are obviously right, but….

    …BUT there’s still that little kid inside of me who thinks, “Maybe this is MY time to win,” and I potter into the newsagent’s, browse through a few magazines and buy the smallest and cheapest quickpick thingy for Saturday night and then do my grocery shopping whilst daydreaming about what I’d do with the winnings. There’s absolutely no logic to it and I realise that any pretensions I have to intelligence, common sense or reality are blown every time – about once a month – I buy a stupid ticket.

    Tell me though, do you buy raffle tickets?

  4. I never buy lotto tickets. Sometimes I might get pressed into buying charity raffle tickets, but I’d rather just give the money.

    And don’t worry too much about your irrational behaviour Kath, we all do silly things despite knowing better. I am a master procrastinator, even when I know it will come back to bite me, even when I know something will be easy to do now, but a lot of work later. Damn human brain.

  5. I look upon a lottery ticket as simply the purchase of a period of fantasy. It’s like a small scrap of paper idol at which I can worship and make believe. Yes, it would cost nothing to do the same thing without buying a ticket, but by buying the ticket I can pretend all the better.
    It’s like turning up at a costume party and telling everyone to IMAGINE you in a Borat mankini. I know I’m not Borat. I know I’m not a lottery winner. But that little scrap of material (ticket OR mankini) just helps me pretend a little bit better.

  6. *sigh* it was only a week ago I bought the last lotto ticket and I bought another one (for Saturday night) today.

    I like your costume party idea, Franzy. I was chatting on the phone to Dad who recently went to a reunion shindig of high school teachers. For some reason – as if catching up with crumbling old biology boffins woudln’t be difficult enough – they made it a fancy dress party.

    Dad saw an ex-colleague he was never a great fan of, and sidled up to her. She was wearing a brown, baggy outfit and it hadn’t been obvious to anyone he’d asked what she was supposed to be
    “Hey Marg, what’s that outfit supposed to be?”
    “Oh I’m a walnut” (??)
    Dad thought for a moment before saying, “Oh. I thought you were a bag of shit.”

    Mum got on the other phone (in the lounge room) and in a tight voice confirmed that every word of his story was true.

  7. Found you on the web! Mwahahahaha!

    Sobering numbers, but: buying a lottery ticket means you have a chance, however small. So you at least have some reality to base your dreams on. I reckon that chance is many times greater than winning without buying a ticket at all. Imagining winning without buying a ticket is like imagining I’m, like, going to go to, like, Jupiter: I can envisage no realistic potential steps leading to it happening. (Not that it wouldn’t be awesome)

    That said, I don’t buy lottery tickets, I prefer to spend the money on food which is more immediately gratifying. Mmmm… food…

    About time you wrote another post? 🙂

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