Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Playing scratch

There’s been a secret Santa, maybe more than one, busy around the Chelsea Green offices the past week. Every morning we arrive at work to discover some little treat at our desks. The first few mornings it was candy, then yesterday a pencil, and today a “Bah Humbucks” scratch ticket from the Vermont Lottery. I won $10! Sandi asked me if I was going to take the cash or turn my ticket in for more tickets. Being an irredeemable nerd, I decided to calculate the expected return on the game before choosing how to take my winnings. So at least for this particular scratch game, the expected return on a $2 ticket is an average of $1.50215825. Meaning, if you play it over and over, you will win an average of a buck fifty for every two bucks you spend (aka, 75 cents back for each dollar spent). Of course, those winnings come in lumps, so the thrill can be pretty cool and maybe well worth the price of admission. Now historically I’ve been more of a Powerball type player than a scratch player. So now I’m wondering what the expected return is on a Powerball ticket. Let’s mosey on over to their website and see… This is a little tricky, because the grand prize is always changing day to day, and it turns out to have a pretty major effect on your expected return. For example, today’s listed grand prize is $53 million. In that case, the expected return on a $1 ticket is 55.9 cents. (I’m including the odds of winning the grand prize as well as the odds of winning the lesser prizes.) If the grand prize gets up to $100 million, your expected return rises to 88.1 cents. The break even point relative to the Bah Humbucks scratch ticket is when the Powerball grand prize is $80,938,548 — that’s the point at which the scratch ticket is (statistically speaking) worth exactly as much as the Powerball ticket. If the Powerball grand prize falls below that amount, your best bet is the scratch ticket; if Powerball goes over that amount, it is your best bet. But all that is based on the Statistics 101 rule of “an infinite number of plays.” A person can’t play these games an infinite number of times. So the real odds are a little different. And given that the Powerball game sucks in its customers with the promise of an otherwordly huge grand prize (that comes with such impossible odds) yet is very stingy with its lesser prizes, while the scratch has a lower grand prize but is more generous with its lesser prizes… um, this sentence is getting too complicated for me; I’ve gotten lost in my grammar. In other words, Powerball is a sucker’s game. While the overall expected return is roughly equivalent to the scratch, its expected return is heavily tilted towards the grand prize, which, quite simply, you and I are never going to win. The odds of winning the grand prize are 1 in 146,107,962. (The expected return of Powerball excluding the grand prize is a measely 19.7 cents on the dollar; the expected return on the scratch ticket excluding the top prize is still a relatively respectable 73.4 cents on the dollar.) If you bought 10 Powerball tickets every day for 50 years, you’d have bought a total of 182,500 tickets (costing you $182,500). You’re odds of winning the grand prize in all that time would be 1 in 800. That’s not very good. I guess the moral of the story is that I’m a rube just like everyone else who gets impressed with a big shiny thing like a huge Powerball payoff. It’s time for me to start playing scratch. Which brings up another question I’ve had for a long time: how does the lottery compare to buying life insurance? Well, I can’t find useful numbers in my quick Google search, and I really do have other work to do, so we’ll have to leave that question for another time. Stay tuned!


Author Petra Kuenkel: The Art of Leading Collectively

More than ever before, there is a focus on new, collective forms of leadership—and an urgency to get collective change processes underway, all over the world. What’s behind the recent push to move collective leadership to the fore? Whether we find ourselves in societal or organizational change, it requires collective energy and drive to bring […] Read More

Author David Stroh: First Steps to Becoming a Systems Thinker

Systems thinking is often seen as something relegated to scientific and business analysis – economics, resource depletion, and climate. However, Systems Thinking for Social Change focuses on how to use systems thinking to make breakthrough progress on intransigent social problems. We asked author David Stroh how this approach can make an impact, and how readers […] Read More

Use Systems Thinking to Make Lasting Social Change

What can be done when our best intentions create unintended problems—such as temporary shelters increasing homelessness or food aid accelerating starvation?After decades of helping change-makers in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors address tough social problems, systems-thinking expert David Stroh shares the pioneering framework that both demystifies systems thinking and shows how it can lead […] Read More

Recipe: How to Make the Perfect Pancake

When most people think pancakes, they think breakfast. But for Amy Halloran, breakfast is only the start. Halloran, author of The New Bread Basket, is a self-described pancake connoisseur. From a young age, she was entranced by the magic of bubbly batter rising to fluffy cakes on the griddle. Over time, her love of pancakes […] Read More

Inside the Rise of the Local Grains Movement

Our daily bread. Breaking bread together. Bread and butter. These are all common phrases that reflect bread’s foundational role in our diet and in the building of our civilization. The stored energy of grain first allowed our ancestors to shift from nomadic hunting and gathering to building settled communities—even great cities. So why in an […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com