The lottery is one of those illogical traditions that people hold onto, despite the fact that there’s no reason to do so. It’s an extreme example of the way that we tend to blindly follow tradition, often allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of by it.
The most common lottery games are scratch-off tickets, which make up about 65 percent of all state lotteries sales. These are pretty regressive, meaning that they benefit wealthier players more than poorer ones. However, they’re also the least lucrative for state lottery commissions because they have a lower average prize than other games.
Powerball and Mega Millions are the next most popular lottery games, making up about 15 percent of total sales. They have bigger jackpots and get a lot of attention because they’re the biggest draws. But they’re also more regressive than other games because they mostly attract upper-middle class people, who already have enough disposable income to afford the ticket price.
To improve your chances of winning, avoid picking numbers that are close together or associated with a significant date, like birthdays. Harvard statistics professor Mark Glickman recommends selecting random lottery numbers or buying Quick Picks instead of picking a specific sequence that hundreds of other people are choosing, too. And if you can, pool money with friends or coworkers to purchase a larger number of tickets, which will increase your chance of a big win. That’s why office lottery pools are so popular, but you can try creating a lottery pool with neighbors in your apartment building or with members of your social club.