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3973 clicks; posted to Main » on 27 Nov 2012 at 2:40 AM (4 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:    more»

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brantgoose: Odds of winning 1 in 175 million. Cost of ticket \$2.

Step one: buy ALL the tickets (cost: \$350,000,000).

Step two: Win, inevitably.

Step three: Pre-tax profit: \$425,000,000 minus \$350,000,000 in outlay leaves \$75,000,000 in pre-tax profits. Even divided by four, this makes \$18,750,000 each. Pay about 60% in taxes, remaining after-tax profit: \$7,500,000 EACH. A lump sum will be much smaller than this, which is the prize money spread over many smaller payments per year or per month.

Not great but not shabby and, in theory, totally inevitable, a sure thing, safer than houses.

The thing is, that if the prize is big enough, it overwhelms the rather scanty change of winning. As my calculations show, your expectation of winning, even allowing for sharing a winning number with three rivals and even after paying taxes shows an expectaton which makes punting a \$2 you can afford to lose on a lottery ticket. Mind you, when the pot is less than \$350,000,000, your expectation is not a remote chance of winning, but a near certain change of losing money.

It is not always foolish to buy a lottery ticket. Depends on the odds, the price of the ticket, the prize pot and the chances of sharing the prize and how much you can afford to lose. By being a contrarian's contrarian and playing numbers that other people avoid, you increase your chance of not sharing the prize (therefore avoid birthdays and "lucky numbers" like the plague. Also, only play the lottery when the prize monies are bigger than the cost of every ticket. You'll still lose most of the time, but the odds shift heavily depending on how you play and when.

Play when the pot is big enough to give you a positive expectation.
It is better to put all of your gambling money on one drawing. IN A LIFETIME. Ten tickets in the same drawing is a totally different game from ten tickets in ten drawings.
Box your bets (learn how to do this from a gambler).
Understand the odds.
Be a contrarian.
Never ever be ...

FALSE!

If multiple people win (say 4 people, as per your example,) then you don't get to use the \$425 Million to start your calculation. You would instead start with \$425 Million / 4 = ~\$106.25 Million. After you subtract the cost of buying every ticket, you are deep in the red!!

Your calculation only works if you are the only one holding the winning ticket. Even if you have to share with one other person, then you only "win" \$212.5 Million, while paying \$350 Million to buy all the tickets, ending up with a massive net loss.

Now, if the jackpot was truly astronomical (say \$800 million) then you might be able to afford sharing your jackpot with one other person, but when the jackpots get that high, a LOT of people are buying tickets and there is a very good chance you will have a split pot.

/Best way to win is not to buy a ticket. You keep your money.
//I have been known to buy 1 ticket on occasion, reasoning that the "entertainment value" of fantasizing about what I would do with the winnings is worth the \$2. YMMV.
For me, the fun isn't about actually thinking I'm going to win. For the few times a year I buy a ticket or two, I enjoy the wait while I can have fun imagining all the things I might do with the money. Though it's nearly completely impossible that I hold the winning ticket, it's not a 0% chance. So the fun for me is just the enjoyment of playing "what if," while it's still technically possible that my ticket could win.

I don't mind spending \$6 a couple of times a year to enjoy that. But I just see it as \$6 of entertainment.
Last powerball my boss bought around ten tickets (three single tickets and a slip with at least five lottery number codes). He gave me and at least one other coworker one. Neither of them won but today I checked my ticket while at 7/11 and I won a hundred dollars. Bought a ten dollar scratch off with my winnings and won another twenty. It was a good day. I'm not buying more tickets except for one more powerball. I don't want to miss my slim chance of winning.
/Also found out I'm NOT failing one of my classes despite missing two weeks and I got a better paying job today. So yeah, go me?
The Mrs. buys a ticket a few times a year when the pot gets really high. I think its fine as entertainment. If we win I'm buying Fark.com. So I've got that going for me. Which is nice.
Odds of winning 1 in 175 million. Cost of ticket \$2.

Step one: buy ALL the tickets (cost: \$350,000,000).

Step two: Win, inevitably.

Step three: Pre-tax profit: \$425,000,000 minus \$350,000,000 in outlay leaves \$75,000,000 in pre-tax profits. Even divided by four, this makes \$18,750,000 each. Pay about 60% in taxes, remaining after-tax profit: \$7,500,000 EACH. A lump sum will be much smaller than this, which is the prize money spread over many smaller payments per year or per month.

Not great but not shabby and, in theory, totally inevitable, a sure thing, safer than houses.

The thing is, that if the prize is big enough, it overwhelms the rather scanty change of winning. As my calculations show, your expectation of winning, even allowing for sharing a winning number with three rivals and even after paying taxes shows an expectaton which makes punting a \$2 you can afford to lose on a lottery ticket. Mind you, when the pot is less than \$350,000,000, your expectation is not a remote chance of winning, but a near certain change of losing money.

It is not always foolish to buy a lottery ticket. Depends on the odds, the price of the ticket, the prize pot and the chances of sharing the prize and how much you can afford to lose. By being a contrarian's contrarian and playing numbers that other people avoid, you increase your chance of not sharing the prize (therefore avoid birthdays and "lucky numbers" like the plague. Also, only play the lottery when the prize monies are bigger than the cost of every ticket. You'll still lose most of the time, but the odds shift heavily depending on how you play and when.

Play when the pot is big enough to give you a positive expectation.
It is better to put all of your gambling money on one drawing. IN A LIFETIME. Ten tickets in the same drawing is a totally different game from ten tickets in ten drawings.
Box your bets (learn how to do this from a gambler).
Understand the odds.
Be a contrarian.
Never ever bet money you can't afford to lose.
Never take a loss or a win to heart.
Never allow a loss or win to change your strategy or raise irrational expectatons or cause irrational behaviour, such as betting the farm.
Be prepared to act responsibly and carefully if you win. The big mistakes are made by winners more often than by losers of small sums. They forget they owe taxes. They give the money away to fair-weather friends and whores. They blow the lot. They go paranoid and lose all their friends and their loved ones. They spend too much on booze and drugs. And so forth. Being rich is hard and disciplined work.

You will probably be wise to take the smaller lump sum rather than the annual or monthly payments unless you are very young and not good with money. There is many a slip twixt cup and lip.

Don't forget to tip Brantgoose a million or two, especially if you win the whole pot.
Here's my semi-regular "thanks for financing my infrastructure, lottery players" post.
In Canada, there's no tax on lottery winnings....
The powerball website says \$278.3m cash out.

Even after Uncle Obama and AZ take their money, I'd still be left quite happy. I figured a few years ago that I would need only \$30m to live ez all my life. I'll donate a ton too.
Well that does it, I'm not playing. The one thing I learned from fiscal conservatives is that being rich isn't worth it if you have to pay any taxes on it and I am better off getting free stuff like welfare and food stamps.

lindseyp: ExcaliburPrime111: Your calculation only works if you are the only one holding the winning ticket. Even if you have to share with one other person, then you only "win" \$212.5 Million, while paying \$350 Million to buy all the tickets, ending up with a massive net loss.

*ahem*

I can't believe I'm the first to pull you up on this, but how can it be possible for one other person to win if you hold all the tickets?

because when you pick a set of numbers...it doesn't take them out of contention for other people to also pick those same numbers
Wait a tick, it's three dollars for a ticket now? I swear I've only paid two but I haven't bought any for a couple months.

brantgoose: It is not always foolish to buy a lottery ticket. Depends on the odds, the price of the ticket, the prize pot and the chances of sharing the prize and how much you can afford to lose. By being a contrarian's contrarian and playing numbers that other people avoid, you increase your chance of not sharing the prize (therefore avoid birthdays and "lucky numbers" like the plague. Also, only play the lottery when the prize monies are bigger than the cost of every ticket. You'll still lose most of the time, but the odds shift heavily depending on how you play and when.

No, the odds stay the same. The payback for the odds shift heavily depending on how and when you play.

Which is why it's actually almost always "foolish" to buy a ticket. Yes, the odds of you winning stay the same, and with all that money, you might get more...but the odds that you'll have to share it with others increases. That \$300 million jackpot doesn't look so good at \$150 million or \$100 million (though they're both better than the base prize, which is why more people play when it's this big.)

As for the "ZOMG, you have to pay taxes on it!" angle: The base jackpot is usually about \$20 million. The median wage is about \$40,000. If you win, you just made about 10 lifetimes' worth of money. I think you can afford to pay taxes if you win.
 1 vote:
I could buy you all a month of Totalfark if I win. ;-)
 1 vote:

DON.MAC: A friend buys the group ticket for work. He also buys another ticket with the same number. He knows the odds are worthless but he figures explaining why he would get 11/20th while everyone else gets 1/20th is worth the risk.

That's not a friend. Don't trust that dude with anything. That's a horror story waiting to happen.
 1 vote:

SkunkWerks: I wouldn't play the powerball for other reasons, but not for this one.

It's called a Financial Advisor, and I'm pretty sure that if you've got even a quarter of that jackpot coming to you, you'll be in a good place to hire one.

The really hard part is that you really ought to listen to him.

 1 vote:
1. To pander to those being pedantic... when someone says "buy all the tickets" they really mean cover all the numbers.
2. Losses are tax deductible against winnings. If I could cover all the numbers then I could deduct \$349,999,998 of my winnings come tax time.

Now, taking a lump-sum payout would mean that no matter now much I can deduct I've just lost money since the lump sum is 50% of the payout. And if I took the 30 year plan I could only deduct my losses for this year. So basically the jackpot would have to be like \$800+ million before this becomes feasible, again, not counting the possibility of having to share the winnings.
 1 vote:
The lottery has been called a taxation on stupidity. In one sense, this is true. I seen nothing wrong with someone buying a lottery ticket each week. However ... The odds on winning a multi-state lottery are so long that there is never any reason to play more than one set of numbers. The stupidity taxation applies to the morons who play five, 10, 20 sets numbers each week. One set or 20, the odds of winning from a random drawing are exactly the same. I met one such num-nuts at the grocery a few weeks back. He was buying \$50 worth of lottery tickets. He proudly told me he has done this every week for 20 years. I asked him how much he has won and he beamed "\$5000 so far!" I refrained from pointing out to him that he had invested \$52,000 in the venture so far.
 1 vote:

Thunderboy: DON.MAC: People who have attempted this have won at least 3 times that I remember reading about. I don't think any of them ever managed to buy all the tickets but still won so their payoff was better than they had expected.

Well, of course they didn't. I'd be surprised if they bought and processed even 1/100,000th of them for any one drawing.

Some of the early lottery machines would let you enter ranges of two balls 1-2-3-4 (1-39) (1-39) and pay but the problem was you would also buy 1-2-3-4-1-1 which could never win. At least one of the groups had bought the help of a few retailers as well. I seem to remember that a few groups had bought more than 1/4 of all tickets and one may have made it into the 80% range.
 1 vote:

robohobo: So, if one single person were to win, just one winning ticket being sold for this new jackpot, approximately how much would the gov't grab for protection money? Going by lump sum.

You know usually I'm pretty anti tax. But if you come into 250 mil through sheer luck with no effort on your part, ya I have no problem with govt getting 80 90 mil
 1 vote:
My hubby's mom prevented him from winning the lottery once. He played same numbers every week. He was broke one week, asked his mum to buy a ticket for him and he'd pay her back. She refused, his numbers got drawn...

/before we met, if he was rich he probably never would have met/married me
 1 vote:

Neondistraction: when was the last time you heard of a multi-state lottery going broke?

The odds of someone you hire to manage your money cheating you in some way is much higher than a lottery defaulting on the payments of past winners.
I still believe the cash option is the better choice. But the truth is that if you choose to take the annuity option, you will get paid.

The government may end up taking half or more back in taxes, but you will get your payments.
 1 vote:

BigBooper: A quick Google search shows that a group from Australia bought 5.5 million tickets in the Virgina lottery in the early 90's and won the \$27 million dollar jackpot. After that Virgina changed the rules so that something like that could never happen again.

I live in VA and I remember hearing a story about that. Seems they were allowed to connect a laptop to the lottery machine to quickly purchase the required number of tickets (IIRC, they didn't buy all the combinations, just enough to make it likely they would win).

So now they don't let you electronically create tickets, which means it's still possible manually, but much less lucrative after you recruit an army to fill out all the scan sheets.
 1 vote:

Neondistraction: And I would totally take the 30 year payment plan. I would get more in the end than if I took the cash, I'm still fairly young and healthy so I probably won't die before I collect all of it, and by taking the payments I have a guaranteed income for at least 30 years and at the same time limit my ability to blow all of it in a short period of time. In my state that would be a little over \$10 million per year after the feds and state take their first cut. I could live like a king for the next 30 years and beyond with that kind of income. Am I not in my right mind?

================

I wouldn't take the thirty year payment plan. What is the old saying? One in the hand is worth two in the bush. I wouldn't trust this government or any government to hold on to my \$200 mil. and pay me yearly, for 30 years. There is probably some fine print somewhere that says "We reserve the right to change the rules for whatever reason, whenever the fark we want." Take the money give it to a good (or two), reputable financial institution to set up trust funds and you nor any of your children will ever have to work a day in your / their life. I would make it mandatory that they earned an MBA or similar to learn how to handle money (with exceptions for those with learning disabilities and then the money would be handled by a sibling, parent or a third party that can't screw them over). Another saying "give them enough money so they can do what they want, but not enough so they don't have to do anything"
 1 vote:

dofus: brantgoose: Step one: buy ALL the tickets (cost: \$350,000,000)

Step one should be read the rules of the game.

It's not possible to buy ALL the tickets.

It is possible to buy one of every possible number combination. In the past investment groups have done this when the possible combinations were small enough. It's simply a matter of math. Say you have a small state lottery with one a smaller number of combinations. If the jackpot gets large enough, it becomes feasible to buy every possible number combination, and ensure you a winning ticket. Of course you have to calculate the risk of multiple jackpot winners, but if the jackpot is large enough, you still come out ahead if the jackpot is shared a couple ways. Of course there is the problem of buying and keeping track of those tickets.

A quick Google search shows that a group from Australia bought 5.5 million tickets in the Virgina lottery in the early 90's and won the \$27 million dollar jackpot. After that Virgina changed the rules so that something like that could never happen again.

The Powerball game has roughly 175 million possible number combinations, and each ticket costs \$2. So the cost of buying every possible number combination would be \$350 million dollars. The cash option payout is \$278 million. Even if it was physically possible to buy 175 million tickets, you are guranteed to lose money. And it gets even worse when you calculate the odds of the jackpot being split between multiple winners.
 1 vote:

GBB: Yes, the 30 year annuity is the best bet. People who take the lump sum end up spending it like Brewster's Millions, except at the end of the month, there is no bigger payout.

Annuity or not, if your that much of an idiot, you'll find a way to blow things. There are all kinds of people out there who will gladly buy out your annuity.
The annuity option is great if you want to pay as much money in taxes as possible. If you don't trust yourself and really want to control how much money you get per year or month or whatever, set up a blind trust. You can't sell it, you can't borrow against it, and you can set it up to pay you for life vs. 30 years.
 1 vote:

Neondistraction: RDixon: Federal tax on lottery winnings is 25%

State tax varies.

My state is 6.5% so if I won taxes would be 31.5% of the lump sum.

No one in their right mind would take the 30 year payment plan but taxes are the same for it as well.

That's just what the states take off the top. They don't take more because most people take actions to reduce their tax burden and they don't want to have to give a bunch back when the winners take a shiatload of deductions come tax time. I believe whatever you don't deduct gets taxed as though it were income.

And I would totally take the 30 year payment plan. I would get more in the end than if I took the cash, I'm still fairly young and healthy so I probably won't die before I collect all of it, and by taking the payments I have a guaranteed income for at least 30 years and at the same time limit my ability to blow all of it in a short period of time. In my state that would be a little over \$10 million per year after the feds and state take their first cut. I could live like a king for the next 30 years and beyond with that kind of income. Am I not in my right mind?

Waiting for the inevitable "but when you die, no one gets the remaining payments" urban legend.

Yes, the 30 year annuity is the best bet. People who take the lump sum end up spending it like Brewster's Millions, except at the end of the month, there is no bigger payout.

At \$200M estimated jackpot, I figure about \$4M per year after calculating 40% tax (I figure on the higher end). \$4M a year for 30years? Like like winning the lottery every year for 30 years. I can totally live off that and do everything I've ever wanted...in the first year. There will be 29 more!! At \$425M est jackpot, I figure \$8.5M.

But at the introductory \$40M level? That's only 800K a year. That's barely middle class according to Romney.
 1 vote:

Neondistraction: RDixon: Federal tax on lottery winnings is 25%

State tax varies.

My state is 6.5% so if I won taxes would be 31.5% of the lump sum.

No one in their right mind would take the 30 year payment plan but taxes are the same for it as well.

That's just what the states take off the top. They don't take more because most people take actions to reduce their tax burden and they don't want to have to give a bunch back when the winners take a shiatload of deductions come tax time. I believe whatever you don't deduct gets taxed as though it were income.

And I would totally take the 30 year payment plan. I would get more in the end than if I took the cash, I'm still fairly young and healthy so I probably won't die before I collect all of it, and by taking the payments I have a guaranteed income for at least 30 years and at the same time limit my ability to blow all of it in a short period of time. In my state that would be a little over \$10 million per year after the feds and state take their first cut. I could live like a king for the next 30 years and beyond with that kind of income. Am I not in my right mind?

With this kind of money, you don't handle it yourself, you hire someone. Even with a very conservative diversified portfolio (I.E. safe) you would end up much better off taking the cash option. If your worried you would blow the money, set up a trust that pays you a set amount per week.
Of course the biggest reason to take the cash option is that income tax rates are low right now. What do you think is going to happen to those rates over thirty years as the Boomers crush social security and medicare? The guys managing your money can adjust your investments to control your tax burden. The annuity payments on the other hand will be taxed at the highest rate.
 1 vote:
I wouldn't play the powerball for other reasons, but not for this one.

It's called a Financial Advisor, and I'm pretty sure that if you've got even a quarter of that jackpot coming to you, you'll be in a good place to hire one.

The really hard part is that you really ought to listen to him.
 1 vote:

RDixon: Federal tax on lottery winnings is 25%

State tax varies.

My state is 6.5% so if I won taxes would be 31.5% of the lump sum.

No one in their right mind would take the 30 year payment plan but taxes are the same for it as well.

That's just what the states take off the top. They don't take more because most people take actions to reduce their tax burden and they don't want to have to give a bunch back when the winners take a shiatload of deductions come tax time. I believe whatever you don't deduct gets taxed as though it were income.

And I would totally take the 30 year payment plan. I would get more in the end than if I took the cash, I'm still fairly young and healthy so I probably won't die before I collect all of it, and by taking the payments I have a guaranteed income for at least 30 years and at the same time limit my ability to blow all of it in a short period of time. In my state that would be a little over \$10 million per year after the feds and state take their first cut. I could live like a king for the next 30 years and beyond with that kind of income. Am I not in my right mind?
 1 vote:

Debeo Summa Credo: RDixon: Federal tax on lottery winnings is 25%

State tax varies.

My state is 6.5% so if I won taxes would be 31.5% of the lump sum.

No one in their right mind would take the 30 year payment plan but taxes are the same for it as well.

The withholding tax might be 25% but you still have to pay at your marginal rate when you file. (35% for anyone who won a pot like this).

Yep, what is withheld for taxes is not what you will owe when tax time rolls around. And if the winner holds onto the ticket for awhile for planning, as of January 1st the federal cut goes to 39.6%.
Also, the 30 year payment plan is even worse when you consider what tax rates are likely to be in the future. If you take the cash option, you pay the lower rate now, and you can control your investments to reduce your tax burden. If you take the annuity, and tax rates go to 75% or more, you just bend over and pay it.

/yes, taxes are a good thing
//and yes the rich need to pay more
 1 vote:

CowboyUpCowgirlDown: With \$425 million in cash, you could finance the U.S. budget deficit for three hours (not including interest). But just keep printing more money, America: what could go wrong?

 1 vote:

lindseyp: ExcaliburPrime111: Your calculation only works if you are the only one holding the winning ticket. Even if you have to share with one other person, then you only "win" \$212.5 Million, while paying \$350 Million to buy all the tickets, ending up with a massive net loss.

*ahem*

I can't believe I'm the first to pull you up on this, but how can it be possible for one other person to win if you hold all the tickets?

You can't buy all the tickets, you can only buy every possible combination.
This doesn't prevent someone else from also holding the winning combination.
That's not even the dumbest mistake, though...

brantgoose: Step three: Pre-tax profit: \$425,000,000 minus \$350,000,000 in outlay leaves \$75,000,000 in pre-tax profits. Even divided by four, this makes \$18,750,000 each. Pay about 60% in taxes, remaining after-tax profit: \$7,500,000 EACH.

Why are you removing your own costs before taking out the taxes???
The lottery doesn't give a shiat if you spent 350 million dollars on tickets; if you win all \$425 Million, they're going to tax you on THAT amount, NOT on your \$75 Million net profit. The same thing for your "divided by four" numbers -- they're going to split the entire \$425 Million between four people, not the \$75 Million leftover after whatever preposterous amount you spent on tickets.

If you and 4 people win, you get (425 Million / 4) * 0.4 = 42.5 Million, which puts you 307.5 Million in the hole.
If ONLY you win, you get 425 Million * 0.4 = 170 Million which puts you "only" 180 Million in the hole.

There is no scenario in which this is a good idea.
 1 vote:
Once, quite a long time ago, my parents were visiting relatives in a state that didn't participate in the Powerball, during a week when the jackpot was over 200 mill. So, they sent me an e-mail telling me that they all chipped into a pool and I needed to go pick up 75 tickets.

Imagine what it's like to go into the corner gas station/convenience store, go to the ATM and withdraw 80 bucks, then get in line and tell the cashier I needed 75 quick picks. Everybody in the whole store stopped and stared at me, with that awkward "is everything okay, mister?" look on their faces.

/not sure if they believed the explanation
//not one ticket won anything
///CSB
 1 vote:
If I spend \$3 on a ticket, win \$400 million, split it 8 ways, and end up paying \$4,999,996 in taxes, I still come out with a \$1 profit! So, Win! And I do not mind buying two tickets a week, as I would probably spend that money on Coke anyway, so it is all good.
 1 vote:
It's 2.00 and whatever they take in taxes is money you didn't have to begin with.
 1 vote:
I buy when the pot is above \$150M. I figure that's the point where I can't really justify not buying one ticket, if only for the daydreaming and entertainment value. I figure I'm not going to win (in all mathematical likelihood), I may as well not win the big pots.

It's a voluntary tax on being bad at math for a week.
 1 vote:

ambassador_ahab: For me, the fun isn't about actually thinking I'm going to win. For the few times a year I buy a ticket or two, I enjoy the wait while I can have fun imagining all the things I might do with the money. Though it's nearly completely impossible that I hold the winning ticket, it's not a 0% chance. So the fun for me is just the enjoyment of playing "what if," while it's still technically possible that my ticket could win.

I don't mind spending \$6 a couple of times a year to enjoy that. But I just see it as \$6 of entertainment.

It's a fantasy. a couple bucks is a small price to pay for that. Much less than a movie

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