A Statistician Solves a Scratch Lottery Code

A Canadian geological statistician came to the realization that the numbers on some scratch lottery cards could not be random.  “It wasn’t that hard,” Srivastava says. “I do the same kind of math all day long.”
"... I start looking at the tic-tac-toe game, and I begin to wonder how they make these things,” Srivastava says. “The tickets are clearly mass-produced, which means there must be some computer program that lays down the numbers. Of course, it would be really nice if the computer could just spit out random digits. But that’s not possible, since the lottery corporation needs to control the number of winning tickets. The game can’t be truly random. Instead, it has to generate the illusion of randomness while actually being carefully determined.”

He discovered that the numbers on the card before scratching provided information about the numbers underneath the latex. Specifically, he found that "singletons" - numbers present only once on a card - were likely to indicate the location of a successful scratch. After cracking the code, he calculated that he could win about $600/day if he spent full-time buying and scratching cards.  Instead, he took his information to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

A sample card is shown at left.  Details of his logic and calculations are explained at the Wired link.


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Alejo, the story of the Texas woman you mentioned is discussed at the Wired link in the Neatorama post...

"And then there’s Joan Ginther, who has won more than $1 million from the Texas Lottery on four different occasions. She bought two of the winners from..."

And the reasons why Mr. Srivastava told the Lottery about his discovery ("why on Earth did he do that?") are also explained in detail at the Wired link.

Neatorama posts are in general not meant to be comprehensive storehouses of information; we want people to go to the primary link sources to read more information in depth.

That's why we include "link" at the bottom of every post.
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A Texas woman has won the million-dollar lottery FOUR times, using scratch tickets like the one in the story:


By the way, she graduated from Stanford University, and taught math for 10 years. Obviously it's not just luck. She clearly has figured out weaknesses in the design of the scratch tickets, just like the Canadian statistician in the story here. The difference is that she kept the money, unlike the statistician who TOLD THE LOTTERY ABOUT HIS DISCOVERY (why on Earth did he do that?).

People who figure out weaknesses in casino games, even if they aren't cheating, are soon expelled from the casino. Lotteries are more tolerant.
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