Lottery ‘hacks’: Which are myth and which have merit

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It should come as no surprise that your odds of winning the lottery are incredibly slim — about one in 300 million if you play the Powerball.

That means you’re more likely to die in a plane crash, get struck by lightning or become a self-made billionaire.

Still, seemingly everyone who plays abides by some kind of system or superstition they believe increases their odds.

We investigated some of the most popular lottery “hacks” to find out which have merit, and which are simply myths.

Welcome Food Store on Loretto Road is known as the luckiest lottery store in Jacksonville, and it’s no surprise considering the plethora of winning signs on display.

Store manager Karen Reape has seen some big prizes claimed in her years working behind the counter.

“A million dollars,” said Reape.

Reape told us everybody who plays has their own methods and superstitions they swear increase their odds.

“Some people like odd-numbered tickets. Some people like even-numbered tickets. Some people like to buy their tickets off the lotto machine at certain times of the day. Some people like to scatter all their tickets around. Some people like to buy, say, five in a row on the same roll,” said Reape.

Even Reape admits, she’s got her own system.

“Just on a whim if I’m ringing something up and I see like say, $4.22 come up all day in totals or paperwork or something like that, I might play that number,” said Reape.

Customer Johnny Dunning has a different method though.

He uses the Florida Lottery app, which tells him what prizes are still available on scratch-off games.

“We have our favorite ones we like to look for, but we know which ones still have good big prizes out there. I don’t want to spend my money on stuff that there’s not that many winners left,” said Dunning, and he swears by his system.

“I mean yesterday I went and bought a $20 ticket. It was a winner. I cashed it and left,” said Dunning.

We bought a ticket ourselves at the recommendation of the manager of Jacksonville’s luckiest store.

“Everybody gets excited when the new tickets come out and they want to buy them, but these still have the big prizes left on them,” said Reape.

Karen told us it’s bad luck to use a penny on a scratch-off, so she gave us a lucky quarter to use.

According to the Florida Lottery app, our ticket still had two outstanding jackpots on the game, but despite our best efforts, it was a loser.

Obviously, you can’t base the validity of a system on one ticket, so we went to numbers guru Dr. Michelle DeDeo, who is an associate professor of mathematics at UNF.

“There are no proven ways for increasing your odds,” said DeDeo.

DeDeo explained even buying more tickets doesn’t make any significant impact.

“For every number you’re taking out of the system, you’re taking out one number. So, your odds go from 300 million to 300 million minus one,” said DeDeo.

However, she told us there are some interesting trends that have emerged in the winning drawings throughout the history of the lottery.

“There are ways of using the probabilities for things that have happened in the past to look at what might happen in the future, but again, there’s no guarantees,” said DeDeo.

For example, consecutive numbers like 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 have never won.

“Since it’s never happened, I probably wouldn’t do it,” said DeDeo.

On the other hand, two-thirds of winning drawings have been combinations of even and odd numbers.

The same goes for mixes of large and small numbers.

“If you look for all odd or all even combinations, they were losing 97% of the time,” said DeDeo.

But even putting all of those tips into practice, DeDeo explained your odds don’t actually improve.

“Even though it’s happened in the past, it’s no guarantee of future performance,” said DeDeo.

Unless you have hundreds of millions of dollars on hand to purchase every possible combination of numbers, there’s no strategy that can truly improve your odds in any statistically significant way.

The Florida Lottery doubled down on that point in an emailed statement.

“All Florida Lottery games are games of chance and there is no strategy or method of playing that guarantees a player will win. While purchasing more tickets will increase a player’s odds of winning, each player participating in our games has an equal opportunity to win,” said Florida Lottery Communications Manager Meredyth Hope Norrman.

But Reape can’t help but wonder why some people seem to have luck on their side.

“Some people just have that touch. Sometimes I think it’s just all completely random. Sometimes people will say, ‘Oh, they never win two in a row.’ We had a gentleman today that won five tickets in a row,” said Reape.


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