Friday, December 13, 2013

Crappy Odds Just Got Crappier

by Pa Rock
Rambler and Gambler

I used to play Powerball, faithfully purchasing one ticket for each of the two nights a week that the drawing was held.  Then Arizona brought in the other large national lottery, Mega Millions, and I would occasionally by a ticket for one of the twice-a-week drawings - but I was basically loyal to Powerball.

That loyalty ended last year when I returned from overseas and learned that, in my absence, Powerball had doubled the price of its tickets from one dollar to two.  What an outrage!  The greedy bastards wanted to quickly build enormous jackpots, and the strategy worked.  I quit buying Powerball tickets until one of those crazy jackpots (a half-a-billion dollars or so) would come along - and then I usually bought as part of an office pool.

My loyalty switched to Mega Millions which began boasting that they would never raise the price of their tickets - and they didn't.  But two months ago those greedy bastards did something even dirtier.  They raised the odds.

In order to win the grand prize in Mega Millions, like in Powerball, one must match five numbers from one pool of numbers and then a sixth number from a separate pool of numbers.  Mega Millions had been structured to where the first pool contained numbers one through fifty-six, and the second pool was comprised of numbers one through forty-six.   The odds of winning the big prize was approximately one in 176 million.  Piece of cake.

That was then, but this is now.

Now in order to take home the big Mega Millions prize, participants must match five numbers from a pool of one through seventy-five.  The other pool, the one for the individual number, was lessened to one through fifteen.  One pool was drastically increased while the other was drastically cut.  The net result was that the odds of winning jumped to one in 259 million.  Total winners, including numerous lesser cash prizes. was reduced to two for every three prior to the change.

Mega Millions is making much more money - and jackpots now appear to be on steroids - like their counterparts over at Powerball.  There have no grand prize winners in Mega Millions since the structure was changed in October.

Tonight's Mega Millions prize is $400 million, give or take.  Of course, this is Friday the 13th which might also screw with the odds!

An article in today's Los Angeles Times pointed out that a person's odds of getting struck by lightning are about one in a million, and the odds of being murdered are one in 18,989.  (A bit of sanity in Congress and state legislatures could change the murder odds dramatically and make us much safer, but saving human life is nowhere nearly as important as maintaining political contributions from the gun lobby.)

When I win, I'm investing in lightening rods, attack helicopters, and Congressmen!

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