Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Be happy you didn't win the Mega Millions lottery

   
"The Lottery," by William Hogarth (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
  

     Friday, 4:30 p.m., stand up, coat on, hat too, quick glance at the desk before I flick off the lights and head for the train.
     There, something I hadn't noticed: a folded piece of paper: "I (HEART) MY AWESOME COLLEAGUES," A red heart. My own heart sank, I open the paper. A note of thanks from a coworker. And a lottery ticket to the Mega Millions $1 billion drawing that night.
     My first instinct was to give it back. The lottery is stupid.
     But I hesitated. What if the ticket I handed back won? Just my luck. Besides, what would I say to her: "Don't drag me down into your fantasy world?"
     What if I won? The first of an army of concerns waved its hand: my responsibility toward this co-worker. Well, I'd of course do the decent thing. I'll give her, umm, a million dollars.         That seems fair.
     No, actually, it's not fair. Not if you do the math. A million dollars is 1/10 of 1 percent of $1 billion. Giving her $1 million in gratitude for my $1 billion windfall would be the same as rewarding somebody who returns a dropped $20 bill with a tip of two pennies. The ratio is the same.
     See, you enter the lottery world and, "I'll give my coworker a million dollars" becomes ill-considered cheapness.
     I tried not to think about it. That night, at dinner, recounting the day, I mentioned the burden of this lottery ticket dropping into my lap.
     "Oh good!" my wife bubbled. "I meant to buy a ticket!"
     My mouth opened closed a few times, goldfish-like.
     Ah heck, why not? We fell to fantasizing about the money, or trying to.  The boys would be ruined, I observed. Why study hard, forge a career, with hundreds of millions of dollars waiting? If we gave them a share, they'd squander it. But if we held it back, they'd hate us.      My colleague would hate me if I didn't give her enough, and my relatives would hate me if I did.
     See? You're supposedly paying for the chance to dream, but it's more like paying for new worries.
     Coverage of the lottery is the media at its worst. I didn't win Friday's drawing. Nobody did, though good luck finding stories that pause from panting "Rollover!" to note that it means had you bought every single ticket sold you'd have still lost. We ignore that not only does the vast majority lose, but that winning is vastly also overrated.

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14 comments:

  1. At times of weakness when I feel the lottery's pull, I remind myself that my odds of buying a winning ticket are practically equal to my odds of finding a winning ticket lying on the sidewalk. This provides a cost-free way to indulge the fantasy, while encouraging me to be attentive to the real world around me.

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  2. suppose one starts off happy? winning would allow me to PAY for all three of my sons college educations! if they hate me for that whats that say about them? I'm making sure they graduate debt free. id go to college myself maybe.

    and id have health insurance, pay off my credit card, actually entertain the idea of retirement , take a vacation, pay off my car, escape the landlord, buy that double eagle I've always coveted, buy some land and farm til I was broke again.

    might temper my surliness . who knows

    still have never bought a lottery ticket. too frightened

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  3. I wouldn't give you a wooden nickel for that study! The one thing all that money does is get you the ability to have no worries about money.
    That's the number one thing people worry about.

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    1. Clark: Is it futile to try to point out the illogic of your thinking? Set aside the subject of money. Pretend we're talking cattle. You have one cow. Now, do you imagine if I gave you a herd of 1,000 cows your worries about cattle would a) increase; b) decrease? (Hint: It's "a"). It's the same with money.

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    2. Wrong Neil!
      Having all that money frees you from the question, do I have enough to pay for my housing & enough so i can eat?
      You're lucky enough to have a job that pays you enough for those things.
      Not all of us do!

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    3. At first blush, it seems you make a good point. HOWEVER, very few people, asked what they would do if they win the lottery ,say, "Pay the rent." And if you can't pay your rent WITHOUT the lottery, then you really shouldn't play at all. I think you're trying to veil something in practicality that really doesn't deserve it. If paying for food is a struggle, then playing the lottery is particularly stupid.

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    4. I've never had the urge to buy a lottery ticket, mostly because the chances of winning the big prize are infinitesimal. Finding the winning combination is like finding a single grain of sand on a vast beach. Players always say "You can't win if you don't play." What a crock. You have far better chances of being killed by a shark or hit by lightning. Dozens of times better.

      I got gambling out of my system early. I played poker in my teens, seldom won, and soon discovered that I didn't like losing (I already knew the feeling--thanks to the Cubs). I did like playing the ponies, but that's an acquired skill that takes some horse sense and plenty of capital. And yes, you can buy a thrill. Going to the track also gives you the excitement of the horserace itself. It's like a six-month-long baseball pennant race--condensed into two minutes.

      Every ticket bought by those millions of hopefuls merely increases the already-microscopic odds and makes somebody else that much richer. It's like rolling up your money and smoking it...or throwing it down a sewer. Not that I haven't actually won. My wife's family likes to give away tickets as Christmas gifts. I think we may have won as much as five dollars once.

      "Be proud you don't play"...don't need the lottery to say that, because I don't play on anti-social media, either. No Farcebook, no Tweeter, no nothing. Just messageboards and blogs that require complete sentences, and correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Sites like this one. I'm old school and proud.

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    5. At second blush, I still make a great point.
      When the winners are asked what they're going to do with the money, they always mentions their dreams first. All but a few know to pay the rent or mortgage off comes first.
      And $2 for a dream won't destroy your ability to eat!

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    6. Personally, I think my dreams (meaning my aspirations) are worth more than $2 or $2 billion for that matter.

      john

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  4. If I had a cow who then ran away I would have lost all my cows. If I had a thousand cows and one disappeared..... No need to finish that sentence. Of course if I had 999 cows feeding them would be a problem, while feeding myself would be taken care of. I suspect that after the windfall studies are not a true cross section, that unhappy outcomes are more publicized. The successful parties avoid the publicity that harries many new millionaires and are unreported. Whatever, a one or two dollar ticket is a cheap thrill, like a win ticket at Arlington or a slot pull at a casino. Also better spent than on cigarettes and booze.

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  5. I think you do find plenty of people that do blow their winnings. Much like some athletes that blow generational wealth. As for giving your benefactor some of the winnings, you don't owe her anything. But a nice person would give something. How ever you should base your giving on how much you get after taxes. How is winning the lottery any different from inheriting money. You didn't do anything to earn either. Trump was wealthy by the time he was 8. He was not taught any responsibility at all. Most wealthy people don't really like to talk about their money. I forget the name of the documentary, but one of the Johnson & Johnson heirs interviewed other rich kids. His father did not want them to do it. It seems like later in life none of them were lay abouts. They all had a job. Ivanka was interviewed in the movie. I don't know that she came off all that well.

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  6. Slots...meh...feh. No attraction for me. I like to play video poker, but it's easy to become entranced by the game and you can blow your money really fast, especially if the machine lets you win a little. The very first time I played the game, upon my first visit to a local casino, I drew a pair of deuces. Since I already held another pair of deuces, the machine went nuts. Bells jangled, lights flashed, there was noise, and my holdings multiplied substantially. What a rush!

    Of course, my winnings soon began to dwindle, which is what the machine is programmed to do to a player after that initial rush. I snapped out of my trance. Woke up, wised up, walked away, cashed out, and caught a train home. Those winnings were needed for bills. Continuing to play would have pissed it all away and put me in the hole. That's how the system is designed to work. You get hooked, and then you get taken for a ride.

    On my way out, I passed folks who were playing the hundred-buck poker machines. Yeah, I saw some people who were cleaning up, but the looks on most of their faces told me I was doing the right thing. No thanks. Bye-bye...

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    1. So you don't believe in random number generators, Grizz? The bells and whistles are meant to attract other players to the machines, the payouts don't matter in the long run for the house. If there were no winners, no one would play. Good that you didn't give it all back. I left a quarter slot in South Tahoe with several hundred dollars in coins, pleased with myself and entertained by the fight for the seat I'd vacated.

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    2. I can't remember what kind of video poker machine I was playing on that winter Saturday after the holidays...our casino had only been here for about six months and I waited for all the hoo-ha to die down. It was probably a nickel-and-dime one, quite literally. I deliberatly chose a machine in a corner, next to a wall, so it would be a "quiet" spot--if such a thing even exists in that atmosphere.

      I was a virgin and a newbie. Had never been to any type of casino, not even while passing through Vegas, where I do remember playing a slot at a truck stop at 3 AM. I probably won about $150 on those four deuces. The bells and the lights and the whistles attracted no attention whatsoever...everyone else was too involved with their own "action" to notice a nickel-ante geezer and his wife. Nobody looked around or came toward us. That was okay with me. I'd gotten too hooked on the game itself.

      So I kept on playing...and started losing. If my wife hadn't nudged me and suggested that I cash out, I'd have probably lost it all. Nobody took my "lucky" seat. In fact, there were a lot of other empty seats around me. The buzz and the activity centered around the more expensive machines with their higher payouts. That's where the crowds and the high-rollers were.

      I've always felt that if you can't affored to lose, you can't afford to play, and you shouldn't be there. I've been back once or twice since my virginal visit. It's just a twenty-minute train ride away, but I have no interest in going. Plenty of other and more interesting ways to piss away what little money I still have.

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