Lottery is by far the oldest and the most widely known game of chance, having been practiced since antiquity. In its various forms, the lottery preserves a basic structure and technical procedure that makes it the easiest and most popular game of chance: the random draw from an urn of some objects (balls, tickets, lots, plates, slips, etc.) containing predefined symbols (numbers, images, words, etc.), followed by the distribution of prizes for players who made correct predictions regarding this draw, according to some pre-established rules. Particularizing this definition, we find forms of lottery even in the simple procedures of drawing lots or organizing tombolas.
Nowadays, the most prevalent form of lottery is that with randomly selected numbers; winning categories are based on the number of numbers correctly predicted on the playing ticket. The most popular forms of these games are the national and state lotteries.
The early history of the lottery can be traced back to the second millennium B.C. In the Chinese The Book of Songs there is a reference to a game of chance known as “the drawing of wood”, which in context appears to describe the drawing of lots. The first signs of a lottery trace back the Han Dynasty between 205 and 187 B.C., where ancient Keno slips (a form of lottery also practiced nowadays) were discovered. The first known European lottery occurred during the Roman Empire. The earliest record of a public lottery offering tickets for sale is the lottery organized by the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. Proceeds went for repairs to the city of Rome, and the winners were given prizes in the form of valuable articles.
The first recorded lotteries to offer tickets for sale with prizes in the form of money were held in the Low Countries during the period 1443–1449, and their funds were used for town fortifications. In the 17th century, it was quite common in the Netherlands to organize lotteries to collect money for the poor; the prizes were paintings. The Dutch were the first to shift the lottery to solely monetary prizes and to base prizes on odds (roughly about 1 in 4 tickets winning a prize). Even the English word lottery stems from the Dutch word loterij, which is derived from the Dutch noun lot meaning fate.The first known lottery in France was created by King Francis I in or around 1505. After that first attempt, lotteries were forbidden for two centuries. They reappeared at the end of the 17th century, as a “public lottery” for the Paris municipality. Lotteries then became one of the most important resources for religious congregations in the 18th century.
In England, the first recorded official lottery was chartered by Queen Elizabeth I and drawn in 1569. This lottery was designed to raise money for public reparations within the Kingdom. The English State Lottery ran from 1694 until 1826. Many private lotteries were held as well.Lotteries in colonial America played a significant part in the financing of both private and public ventures. It has been recorded that more than two hundred lotteries were sanctioned between 1744 and 1776, contributing heavily toward financing roads, libraries, churches, colleges, canals, bridges, and other public and private endeavors. In the 1740s, Princeton and Columbia Universities had their beginnings financed by lotteries. Toward the end of the 19th century, a large majority of state constitutions banned lotteries; however, many have reappeared and developed since 1964.
The popularity of this game comes not only from its history, but also from other technical and psychological elements related to its rules and progress. One important reason for the game’s popularity is its transparency. All of its components are visible: the urn from which the balls are drawn, the shuffling device, the numbers on the played ticket; there are no opponents to read their intentions, no dealer managing the game, and no strategies to influence the course of the game. Participants just choose the numbers to play, buy the ticket, and wait at home for the draw (which usually is broadcast in the media), this being a commodity that isn’t seen in casino games.
The multitude of variations of the game at local, national, and international levels, due to various sets of rules, allows the players to choose a lottery matrix by either objective or subjective criteria. The complete freedom of choice manifests in the options to choose, combine, and play any number of simple or compound lines.
Another feature which makes the lottery popular is its consistency. The allocation of pre-established fixed percentages from the sales to the prizes represents a guarantee and a stability element that differentiates lottery from other games of chance in which the possible winnings depend exclusively on the played (betted) stakes.
The regularity of the game (usually weekly in state and national lotteries) represents another element of stability for the lottery companies, as well for the players, who are forced to respect that interval, with the effect of reducing the risk of addiction. Studies show that this unwanted phenomenon has the lowest rate among lottery players. Of course, the rate of addictive behavior might change with the expansion of private and online lotteries, which offer additional opportunities for playing the lottery.
But the most important element contributing to the public’s fascination with lottery games is the amount of the prizes, especially for the highest winning category. The possibility (physically real, mathematically too improbable) of getting “the big hit” – winning the big prize – provides a motivation with complex psychological roots that often overlooks the practical aspects, such as the investments in lottery tickets and the mathematical aspects of the game, especially the winning probabilities.
We face here a contradiction in the behavior of most lottery players. While lottery offers the highest amounts of winnings, it also offers the lowest winning probabilities. Players take into account those high amounts of winning, but not those low winning probabilities, and paradoxically, they persevere instead of quitting. And this happens with both categories of players: those who don’t know the basic mathematics of lottery matrices and experience a long series of games without success, and those who do know the mathematical probabilities of the game and have the same experience of consecutive failures.
It has been proven mathematically that in ideal conditions of randomness, no long-term regular winning is possible for players of games of chance; therefore, gambling is not a good way to make a living. Most gamblers accept this premise, but still work on strategies in hopes of multiple wins over the long run.
In the case of lottery, most players are interested in the isolated winnings, because their experience and/or mathematical knowledge strengthens their intuitive belief that in the long-run, the game cannot bring them regular positive results. Rather, a single win can vanquish the previous cumulative losses, and moreover, can make them rich overnight, when, theoretically, they will stop playing. The permanent hunt for this “hit” provides the primary motivation for perseverance in the lottery game.
By its simplicity, the lottery is not predisposed to objective strategies. The only game strategy is that of choosing a lottery matrix, the financial management of the player, and choosing the numbers and the combinations of numbers to play, taking into account various parameters, among which there is also risk. Moreover, any strategy must include the personal criteria of the player (time terms, amounts at disposal, the accepted level of risk, etc.), which automatically turns it into a subjective one. Regardless of the chosen options and playing strategies, the players will be always interested in the amount of that risk, and this means probability.
This is not a lottery strategy book, because an optimum strategy does not exist. Only the choice of the lottery matrices and the combinations to play exist. What does exist, however, is a collection of numerical probabilities and mathematical parameters specific to each lottery matrix, and those are generated by the mathematical model of these games of chance.
The mathematical approach of this book is mainly oriented toward generalities; thus, all formulas were obtained by using a group of variables covering all possible lottery matrices.
A large number of numerical results returned by these formulas have been listed in tables and cover the most popular lottery matrices in the world. The examples refer most frequently to the 6/49 lottery, which is the most widespread matrix.
The mathematical and probability models of lottery provide information that players should know before they launch into a long- run play. This information, along with its mechanism and the possibilities it offers, is part of the entire ensemble of the lottery game. On the basis of these data, decisions can be made, decisions that might also change the customary play.
The structure and content of the major chapters follow.