If you think about it, progressive poker machines and national lotteries have a lot in common. They both offer a chance to win a big, life-altering prize, each is much more likely to pay out a small prize than a big one, and there’s absolutely no real strategy that will ever help you win.
So the real question is, what’s better – to buy a ticket for a billion dollar lottery, or play pub pokies online?
It’s been proven that massive lottery jackpots draw huge crowds to the ticket lines. When the US Powerball jackpot rose to a record-breaking $1.586 billion in January 2016, ticket sales hit an all-time high, with every participant dreaming of how they might spend that money if they won.
But jackpots don’t usually get that big. Or, at least, they didn’t used to. Most people thought it was just a fluke when the Powerball topped the billion dollar prize mark, but academic statistician and author of numerous top-selling mathematician and statistics books, Salil Mehta, disagrees.
Because the Lottery Needed Worse Odds…
In a recent blog post entitled ‘A Loser’s Lottery‘, Mehta described the arguably deceitful tactics of national lottery organizations. For example, an alteration in the Powerball’s formula last October decreased the odds of winning the big prize from what was already unimaginably high at 175-million to 1, to an even more unattainable 192-million to 1.
Yes, as the weeks go by, and the prizes grow larger, and more people – including masses who never buy lottery tickets under normal circumstances – run out to spend their money on the lottery, someone will eventually win. But statistically speaking, the odds of winning a billion jackpot – or any jackpot, for that matter – especially when so many people are throwing their money at it, just don’t make sense.
“One should remember that the only objective for the Lottery, anywhere in the world, is not to make you rich,” wrote Mehta, a former director of research and analytics for the US Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, as well as the federally mandated Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (yeah, he knows his stuff!).
“Contrary to their advertisements, the objective is not to show you a good time nor satisfy your dreams. Wasting your money is never a good time. The lottery’s only objective is to maximize the funds you pay for educational activities,” he said.
Paying Taxes Has Never Been So Fun!
One could easily think of buying a lottery ticket as paying extra taxes. Think about it. What would you do if the government came along and said:
“Hey, would you like to pay us a few extra notes each week in taxes? We could really use the money. And for being so generous, we’ll enter you into a big raffle drawing that you have a 1-in-192,000,000 chance of winning!”
Would you take those odds? Or, would you rather stay home, crack open a brew and play pub pokies online, where you have a much higher chance of winning some money?
Comparing The Odds
According to the New York Times, less than 4% of all Powerball ticket purchasers win any prize at all, with the vast majority of those being just $4 wins (a ticket costs $2). That puts the house edge at a whopping 96+%! That means for every $1 you put into it, you can expect a return of almost $0.04.
When you play pub pokies online, the average house edge is just 4%, sometimes less. So for every $1 you wager, you can expect a return of $0.96 or more. With just a little luck, these online pokies can actually bring a profit. Furthermore, the odds of releasing a huge progressive jackpot are much more favorable than winning the lottery.
It’s relatively easy to calculate the odds of winning a poker machine’s jackpot. All you need to know is the number of reels on the game, the number of symbols that can appear on those reels, and how to use a calculator. For example, if the game has 5 reels and 15 different symbols, the equation is:
15 x 15 x 15 x 15 x 15 = 759,375
We’ve multiplied the number of the symbols over and over again, for as many reels as there are on the poker machine (5). The result is a player’s odds of releasing the jackpot, which in this case would be 1-in-759,375. As long as those odds are, it sounds a lot more reasonable than the Powerball’s 1-in-192,000,000.
Even if we up the number of symbols to 20 (most pokies don’t have that many), your odds would still be much greater at 1-in-3,200,000.
With information like this, I think it’s pretty clear what I’ll spend the rest of my gambling days doing. No more lottery tickets for me. I’ll happily play pub pokies online – responsibly, of course – knowing that I’ve made the right decision in terms of potential payoffs.
And besides, you can’t deny a session on the poker machines is a whole lot more entertaining than the few seconds you might spend watching the lottery numbers come up on the telly.