You Are Not Going to Win the Lottery, You FoolS

The Mega Millions jackpot is half a billion dollars. A cool half-billion. You could use that money, eh? Buy your castle and everything. Have you bought your Mega Millions ticket yet? Well, don't.

Here we will pass along to you something that you already know: you are not going to win the lottery. Your lucky numbers are not going to hit. Your quick pick is not going to be special winner. Your investment in lottery tickets is not going to pay off. How can we say this with such confidence? The same reason I can say "you are not sitting next to me right now." Because the chance that we are wrong about this is so infinitesimally small as to be meaningless for all practical purposes.

Envision a beach full of sand. Then we tell you, "Pick up the one grain of sand I'm thinking of, or I will kill you." What would you do? Probably call the police. And rightly so, because you know that your chance of selecting a single correct grain of sand on an entire beach is virtually impossible, and also, who but a crazy person goes around saying things like that, to people? This is what mathematicians call "A metaphor for the lottery." Your chances of hitting the Mega Millions are 176 million to one. That means that you will not hit the Mega Millions.

To put this in perspective, a one-in-a-million chance would be 176 times better than your chance of winning this money. What we want to emphasize here is not that your chances are very small of winning the lottery; we want to emphasize that you, personally, will never win the lottery, ever, so stop throwing your fucking money away. Saying "Hey, Bob Bozo the construction guy in New Jersey won the lottery!" is not a valid argument for you winning the lottery. There are a lot of people in the world. Someone out there will find three diamond rings on the ground in a single day, or be handed a check for $10K by a dying rich man during his final burst of outrageous altruism, or wake up and realize that the last six women he's met in bars have all been clinically diagnosed nymphomaniacs from Romania. But do you, personally, believe that those things will happen to you? No. You know that they won't. We have a name for people who honestly believe that those things will happen to them. "Crazy people," we call them. Because they're unable to grasp the fact that at a certain point, overwhelming odds are the same thing as certainty, as far as your life here in the real world is concerned.

Magical anti-mathematical tips from a lucky guy will not help you win the lottery. (Even real tips from mathematician will only help you achieve a "positive rate of return" over time—a time FAR EXCEEDING YOUR OWN LIFETIME, so forget it.) Your office lottery pool will not help you win the lottery. Sure, some things will improve your odds of winning the lottery. Those odds will still be against you to a comical degree. You will still not win the lottery.

Here in our office, there is a lottery pool. "If you want in on the winnings, come give me 5 bucks before Friday," they say. You know what I say to that? "No," I say. I don't want in on the winnings. More like the losings. I can assure all of you out there: our office lottery pool will not be winning the lottery. Neither will you. And I'll still have five bucks.

Want some lucky numbers? Here: 8, 22, 4, 46, 39, 49. These numbers will not win the lottery.

[Photo: AP]