Posts Tagged ‘lottery odds’

Want bad odds? Play the lottery

Monday, May 17th, 2010

I like playing blackjack. I think it’s a fun game and I play it in the hopes of winning money, but knowing that I am more likely to lose money. I am okay with that. However, some people give me a hard time about it, saying that gambling is “throwing money away” and that it’s a “waste of money.”

The first question I normally counter with is, “Don’t most hobbies cost money? Doesn’t a night out normally cost something?” Even if I lose money at the blackjack table, I am always responsible with my bankroll, so I never lose a large amount. Therefore, when I lose I simply consider it the cost of a fun night. Going to Disney isn’t cheap, either. Neither is going to a movie or baseball game. However, I never hear people talk about those activities as throwing your money away. Why? At least when I play blackjack I have a chance to break even or sometimes even make money. I guarantee you that you will never make money by taking the family to Disney.

Maybe people see it differently because gambling can cause you to lose lots of money, much more than you would lose doing most activities. It’s true that some people have lost their house, car and more by gambling their money away. However, doesn’t that come down to personal responsibility? You can blow a lot of money at Disney, too, if you decide to buy stuff at the souvenir shop, pay for a nice, sit-down meal instead of hot dogs, and stay in the resort overnight. If you can’t afford to spend all of that money, you need to have the responsibility to say no.

Being responsible with your money is just as possible in a casino. You may not be able to control whether you win or lose money on a hand (though you do have some control, luck is involved as well), but you can control how much money you bet. If you are responsible when playing blackjack, you should never lose a lot of money. I always plan how much money I will bet ahead of time and set that aside, not increasing my bankroll no matter what happens in the casino. Yes, folks, being fiscally responsible is possible when playing blackjack (even online blackjack).

Some people still won’t see my side of the argument and are simply against blackjack because it is gambling. Usually at that point I ask if they play the lottery. The answer is yes more often than you might think.

It is absurd to be against gambling while playing in the state lottery (and that includes the governments). After all, the lottery has the worst odds of all. In most 6-ball state lotteries, the chances of winning the jackpot are between 1 in 14 million and 1 in 16 million. Doesn’t sound too good, does it? Some people try to increase their odds by buying many lottery tickets at a time (which would be “throwing their money away”). How well does that work? Well, if you buy 50 lottery tickets every week, the odds say you will win the jackpot approximately once every 5,000 years. Most people don’t live that long.

Okay, so we know that hitting the jackpot isn’t likely with the lottery, but you can win smaller amounts of money, too. You might be wondering what the house edge is for the lottery. It’s 50%. Of all of the money paid into the lottery for the tickets, only half of it is ever paid out. The rest is used for other purposes. That is half of the money gone right away and you’re still going against all of the other ticket-buyers for the other half. To put things in perspective, double-zero roulette has a house edge of 5.26% and baccarat has a 1.24% house edge on bets on the player. Blackjack has even better odds. You can reduce the house edge to 0.5% if you follow perfect basic strategy. So which game would you rather play, the one with a 0.5% house edge or the game with the 50% house edge?