How to Win the Lottery


Whether we’re talking about winning units in a subsidized housing block or landing a spot at a top public school, a lottery is just an arrangement that gives some people a better chance than others of getting what they want. But there’s also a more purely financial kind of lottery, in which paying participants select groups of numbers or symbols to win prizes if their selections match those that are randomly spit out by machines.

In early America, lotteries were often tangled up with the slave trade and even enslaved human beings, but they were nonetheless popular: conservative Protestants endorsed them and they played an important role in funding churches and civil works projects. Many of the country’s finest universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, were partially financed by them, and the Continental Congress held multiple lotteries to help fund the Revolutionary War.

Most state lotteries sell tickets through a hierarchy of sales agents, who collect money paid for the tickets and deposit it with the lottery organization for subsequent shuffling and possible selection in the drawing. Some modern lotteries use computers to record and store each bettor’s ticket information and then create combinations of numbers or symbols that will be eligible for prizes.

If you’re buying a ticket, don’t choose your own numbers; that’s a surefire way to lose, says Richard Lustig, the author of “How to Win the Lottery.” He suggests avoiding clusters of numbers and numbers that end with the same digit. He also advises avoiding numbers that are frequently picked by other players, as they tend to repeat.