Lottery Guy

When Is Random Really Random..?

August 1st, 2013   ·   Read 32 Comments...

Random. Credit: torley @ FlickrWhen you’re playing the lottery random matters. Because you want to know that you have a fair chance of winning.

There are an awful lot of people however who don’t believe the lottery is really random, and that they can ‘get an edge’ by analysing results and trying to predict what comes next. Actual proof is about as rare as hen’s teeth… But it’s a fun hobby.

(There is of course a shadier side to this where the sellers of lottery prediction systems may or may not believe… but they’ll make the claim as strongly as possible anyhow to help sell their expensive software…)

So How Random Are Quick Picks?

Random also matters when you want to buy your ticket, and decide to use a quick pick.

It may not matter quite as much as the draw results being random, but you don’t really want to buy a quick pick if it means hundreds of other people all end up with the same numbers as you.

Because that would mean you’ll be sharing your jackpot with all of them!

So the lottery company engineers and maths-types go to great lengths to make sure that your lottery terminal spits out some proper random selections. Because being fair is vital to all lottery companies – it determines how much we trust them, and whether or not we buy a ticket!

They don’t tell us exactly how their specific machines work, but there is a lot more involved than you might think (you can read up on random number generation here). It’s common to use atmospheric noise or radioactive decay to help ensure random stays random.

All of which brings us to today’s lottery question:-

I’m writing to you because I feel as though there is fraud/corruption in regard to practices at the Indiana lottery commission. I’m a disabled Veteran, I’m 54 and in college using my Chapter 31 benefits because of a service connected ptsd/major depression diagnosis and my only income is the stipend I get from the VA.

Last week I bought a quick pick powerball because of the high jackpot (I know it’s a suckers bet but it’s only $2 and someone is going to win), and the numbers generated seem to be to be anything but random, yet the lottery official I have been in contact with, Katie Carlson, is trying to tell me that it is.

The numbers were 04 05 06 07 08 and 10 as the powerball. Numbers that no one in their right minds would choose. It seems to me that it skipped the 9 when choosing the powerball number and so these numbers follow in perfect succession and as likely to win as it would be to find Jimmy Hoffa’s body on the moon.

This suggests to me that the game is rigged as a “random” number generator is highly unlikely to choose successive numbers as they appear on my losing ticket and it suggests to me that human intervention generated what I ended up getting.

It also seems to me that this kind of thing may have been done for no other reason than to pump up the jackpot to get more people to play.

Granted, chances are I would have won nothing, but then I could have won $5, or $50, or $500, or maybe even the jackpot, but as it is I feel like my $2 was stolen for the sole purposes of pumping up the $$$ to get more people to play.

I turned down their offer of free coupons for further plays as there is a principle here. I feel I was purposefully cheated out of my chance to win something, even though the odds are decidedly against me, but it’s still a chance, which is something I did not receive by these anything but “random” numbers as the odds of a “randomizer” choosing successive numbers are likely greater odds than actually winning the jackpot. Therefore I would ask that if there is anyone you can contact for me that can contact me and who could look into this for me I would be greatly appreciative, as would any other unsuspecting Americans that might throw their money away on a chance that isn’t a chance at all.

I feel this constitutes fraud and I would like to yelp my concerns to the highest office available where this is concerned.

Michael

It’s a long question, but basically it boils down to “the quick pick machine gave me a mostly sequential set of numbers, how can that be right?”.

And the short answer is – why wouldn’t it be right.

For the longer explanation you need to ask yourself what random looks like.

What Is Randomly Impossible..?

Is it impossible for the quick pick software to output the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and a 6 as the Powerball?

Random is of course supposed to mean that any combination is possible.

Obviously you can’t get A, B, C, D and E out of the machine – because they aren’t part of the pool of numbers. But 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are.

So if that set of numbers (or any other) could NOT be generated, then surely that would mean there was something wrong with the number generator.

It would be like a loaded dice that would never roll a 6.

But It Doesn’t ‘Look’ Random

Now some peoples intuition can’t help screaming here about how a combination like this would be highly unlikely.

But the fact is, every combination is highly unlikely. Because there are 175,223,510 of them (and yes, that is more than 175 million different possible results for the US Powerball).

Which means there is a 1-in-175,223,510 chance of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and Powerball 6 being selected.

But there is also a 1-in-175,223,510 chance of 13 , 19 , 23, 33, 57 and Powerball 28 coming out too.

The fact is, they are just as ‘highly unlikely’ as each other, or as any other combination.

So why does one result look ‘more random’ than the other?

Simply because our brains like patterns. We’re programmed to see them.

It made the news when Florida picked all consecutive lottery numbers back in 2011. And when there were repeat lottery numbers in one lottery game back in 2009.

But there is no pattern as far as the lottery machine is concerned – they are just 5 or 6 differently numbered balls. Nothing more.

They didn’t even necessarily get picked in that order – because the numbers are sorted numerically before they are printed, to make it easy to check the results.

In Conclusion – Or, It’s Not Rigged!

So in conclusion and back to the question. This does NOT prove that the game is rigged. And in actual fact, it should reassure you that the quick pick’er is working perfectly normally – because it CAN pick combinations such as the one it gave you.

The lottery company were absolutely right to tell you that the numbers you received were totally random, and that there is no cause for concern.

If the internet were ablaze with players all saying they received the same quick pick combinations, then you’d have cause to worry. But it isn’t, and you really don’t.

The Powerball folks really don’t need to fix the game. They make plenty of money by operating a perfectly fair and legal draw, regardless of when the jackpot is won. The odds are so tough that it rolls over most draws simply because there are so many more possible results than tickets sold.

So random can really be truly random, even when it doesn’t look like it.

Have you ever received a completely sequential quick pick ticket? Or one with any other pattern? Do you pick numbers like this or try to avoid them? Let us know in the comments below.

Categories: Lottery Questions

32 Comments so far ↓

  • Paul

    I bought the WinLotto system and it does make sense on randomness. However, I kept getting emails saying that you could play 200 games for 50 bucks in Australia? Well mate if you’re real I live here and there ain’t no Lotto here that you can play 200 games for 50 bucks? 200 games at 25 cents the Professor says or Collard not sure who is real looks like a lot of hogwash? This also looks like a scam? If Collard created this how come the Professor says he has been playing it for more than 12 years? Why is this software coming from Australia? Is it because there is no way to verify the address being “down under”? 24 million people seem to be the best lotto developers in the world compared to Indias 1.3 billion/Chinas 1.5 billion/350 million USA/200 million Indonesia who cannot develop one Lotto software for sale. I think not fishy business these sellers.

    • LG

      Not sure what this has to do with the post above about randomness..?

      But anyway. I think you’re confusing various different people and systems. I don’t know the emails you mean, but it sounds like maybe it’s a syndicate group? Probably best not to shout ‘scam’ until you understand what’s being offered. As far as I know Will doesn’t run a syndicate, so maybe those emails are from someone else. If you send me one I’ll check it out.

      You total lost me on the rest. I don’t know why you think people in Australia can’t write good software, or why you think addresses can’t be verified there..?

  • Saquib

    By the way, in the Fantasy 5 drawing yesterday, numbers were 10, 22, 23, 24, 25. Random is as random does!

  • Jo

    Powerball drawn on 10-4-2014 only one winner in whole of AUSTRALIA $40,000,000.00. Forty million to the winner – must be a relative of Tatts. Second division always has lots of winners so they get less money. There was 36 winners in second division, they got $22,598.20.

    There is always an hour before the draw is drawn. That gives their computer system analyser company that Tatts group owns as a seperate company time to analyse all tickets/numbers prior to each draw so they control who wins. The draw is never open to the public to see or attend live lotto draws. Corrupted, corrupted all Tatts lotto games in Australia.

    • LG

      Hi Jo,

      So your only evidence for the Australian lottery being corrupt is that only 1 person won? For a draw that has odds of 1-in-76 MILLION..?

      Hmm, not compelling evidence :-)

      Tatts make plenty of money running a fair draw. Why would they bother or risk doing anything else? Makes no sense to me.

  • Thrifty

    Lottery quick Picks clustering is the right term. The probability is the same for every combination. Take a look at this winning ticket. http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1210921!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/article-powerball-winners2-1130.jpg

    Yes someone a powerball lottery jackpot with those quick picks clustering. Can you please write an article about lottery Quick Picks Clustering. Thanks.

  • Tony

    The lottery is rigged in Australia. I have visited many newsagents and always chat to the owner/operator about when they last sold a division 1 ticket. They all tell me the same thing, several years ago BEFORE tatts took over from Golden Casket. You only have to look at the numbers that come up to see that it is rigged. Powerball is the biggest rigged followed closely by oz lotto then the mid week draws which constantly repeat the same numbers. You also only have to look at the fact that nearly all the division 1 tickets are sold to people who apparantly reside in the middle of no where. Canberra, wagga wagga etc. There should be a class action law suit against tatts and ask them to prove who these so called winners and check their phone records to see if they have had conversations with tatts management or employees.

    • LG

      Hi Tony

      Much as I love a conspiracy theory – there isn’t really any evidence here at all :-)

      Because even if you’ve visited dozens of newsagents that’s still only a tiny percentage of those selling tickets in all of Australia so it doesn’t really tell you anything. Also bearing in mind how many newsagents there are, how often on average should you expect any particular one to sell a division 1 winning ticket? Every few months, once a year, every 10 years..? Without that information you can’t even begin to judge if anything unusual is happening. And the interesting thing about proper random results is that they can repeat, they can make patterns, they can come out all sequential numbers etc – because if those things could NOT happen then that would not be a random draw. As for winners being in the middle of nowhere, I don’t think Canberra is a good example as it’s Australia’s 8th largest city..!?

      Sorry, I’m just not seeing it :-)

      • Tony

        Pffh is that the best you can do is it? You must be a paid stooge from Tatts to try and articulate a response that has a wafer thin veneer of statistical intellect bound to it… now for some real facts. Population of Canberra 330000… population of Sydney 4.4 million! Nearly 15 times the size! One doesn’t need to visit every newsagent in Sydney to get the necessary insight into where these (so called) winners are located, a simple review of the tatts websites “winners stories ” section shows a the majority of the big jackpot winners reside in tiny country towns like Mildura (population 30 odd thousand), Sunraysia, Wagga. These 3 places alone have had some 6 plus jackpots in recent times! Each place is miniscule when compared to Sydney or Melbourne and would thus sell far fewer tickets. These events defy the law of averages only furthering suspicion. The reason for this is clear. Tatts does it so that if anyone were to investigate these winners they would be hampered by the perceived significant distance required to travel to these remote locations. So this way Tatts riggs the draws, no real winners exist, the anonymity that is given serves Tatts because they dont need to prove the jackpots were paid out. If any real tickets were soold to people in these location the lower socio economic status would create a greater likelihood that these people would lose the ticket anyway. In any event either way, the draws are rigged so as to serve Tatts interest only. From the point of view of the draw you only have to look at a game like Powerball where for the past 6 months you can observe that nearly a quarter of the entire field of balls have either not been drawn or drawn twice at most! Numbers like 33, 28, 29 23 11 16 17 15 12 6… this is Not random! In fact this is clear evidence that the draw is rigged. I have simulated lottery draws and observed that when a number is absent for a long period and then goes from being a cold number to being drawn again that it will enter a period of consecutive or near consecutive redraws. Yet the numbers mentioned above all just disappear again when drawn almost never redrawing only to go back to the same numbers used week in week out.

      • LG

        Tony, from what you’ve just said you clearly don’t understand what random really means. But why let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory!

        Honestly, if you think it’s fixed then don’t play.

  • Judex

    On my Island, people are winning the Jackpots so often, almost every 4 weeks, that I really think they are Champions!

  • Stan

    “No one can possibly win at roulette unless he steals money from the table while the croupier isn’t looking.” – Albert Einstein. The same can be said for lotto. You just can’t beat it as it’s a system designed to beat the players, anyone who tells you different knows very little about mathematics.

  • Mary

    I bought 4 easy pick lotto tickets tonight between Powerball and Mega Millions. Two of my easy picks included the draws 11-12-13-14-15-(15), and then 13-14-15-16-17-(17) =( What are the odds off that? My other two easy picks were numbers in exact increments of tens mixed with 2 sequential numbers 1-2-11-21-31-(10) (only # out of pattern) and 5-15-25-35-54-55-(05) can you calculate the chances of these 4 draws being pulled randomly at the same time? Maybe at least the two draws that were perfect sequences?

    • LG

      Hi Mary,

      Cool, just goes to show what random can do :-)

      The odds of it being those specific combinations are actually exactly the same as them being any other specific combination. The odds of them being something we see as a pattern are higher (because there’s more of those), but still far less than the odds of us not seeing a pattern (because there’s millions more of those!).

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