How to Win the Lottery

The lottery is a game in which you pay for a ticket, choose numbers, and hope that they match those randomly spit out by machines. The prize might be money or goods. More often it’s a shot at the big prizes offered by professional sports leagues or public charities.

Lotteries have a long history. They were common in the Roman Empire—Nero was a fan—and attested to throughout the Bible, where casting lots is used for everything from selecting a king to determining who will receive Jesus’ garments after his Crucifixion. But they really took off in colonial America, despite Protestants’ strict proscription on gambling. Lotteries helped finance roads, canals, and bridges, and also churches, colleges, and libraries.

But there’s more to winning the lottery than choosing the right numbers and buying the tickets at the best time of day. It’s about knowing the odds and understanding how to play the game wisely, says Harvard statistics professor Mark Glickman. In this episode of the podcast, we discuss his advice on how to play the lottery—from picking random numbers to playing Quick Picks and purchasing multiple tickets.

And if you want to increase your chances of winning, try to play a lottery with fewer numbers. That way, there will be fewer combinations, and you’ll have more opportunities to select the winning number. Look for “singletons,” or digits that appear only once, on the outside of the numbers. A group of singletons will signal a winner 60-90% of the time.