The Truth About Winning the Lottery

In 2021 alone, Americans spent upward of $100 billion on lottery tickets, making the game the most popular form of gambling in the country. State governments promote their lotteries as a way to raise revenue, and that’s true—but it’s also worth asking how meaningful those revenues are in the context of overall state budgets and whether the trade-offs to people losing money is really fair.

Lotteries have a long and troubled history. They first popped up in 15th-century Burgundy and Flanders as towns and cities sought to raise money to fortify their defenses or help the poor. The modern state-run lottery evolved in the immediate postwar period, when states saw them as a way to expand their social safety nets without imposing onerous taxes on middle and working classes.

As the number of states embracing lotteries grew, so did their profits. A typical scenario involved the state passing a law establishing its own monopoly; hiring a public corporation or agency to run it; starting operations with a modest number of relatively simple games; and then, due to pressure from state officials for additional revenue, rapidly expanding the size and complexity of the lottery. By the end of this era, the average ticket price was more than twice what it is today, and lotteries had become a powerful force in American society.

A few years ago, a Romanian-born mathematician named Stefan Mandel shared his secret to winning the lottery: buy tickets that cover all possible combinations. That’s a strategy known as “full coverage,” and it can make the odds of winning significantly better. But there’s a caveat: the cost of purchasing all those tickets can be prohibitively expensive. That’s why it’s important to seek out less-popular lotteries that have lower jackpots and higher odds of winning.

Once you’ve won the lottery, it’s a good idea to hire a crack team of lawyers and financial advisers to manage your newfound wealth. That’s because most states don’t let winners keep their name private and they’re likely to be inundated with offers from vultures and distant relations eager to take advantage of their sudden wealth. It’s also a good idea to follow personal finance 101 and pay off debt, set up savings for retirement and college tuition and diversify your investments.

But it’s hard to deny that there’s a strong inextricable human impulse to gamble, especially when the stakes are high. That’s why so many people play the lottery, even though they know it’s an addictive form of gambling with a slim chance of winning. But just because we know the odds are against us doesn’t mean we can’t try to beat them. And there are plenty of stories to prove it. Here are nine expert tips for winning the lottery.