It is not easy to disprove superstitions without first learning why coincidences or lucky numbers occur in the lottery.
Someone sent me an email and said this:
My Uncle won the lottery several times (no jackpot, though) in the ’90s, and he claimed that luck plays an important role. I don’t know, but I am trying my lucky numbers in the lottery, yet it seems that I am not as lucky as my Uncle. Surprisingly we hear the news of players winning the jackpot twice or even more. Can you explain why sometimes the lottery favors few players?
I would agree if someone claimed that he had won the lottery because of luck. That’s because in a random event where you don’t know what’s going to happen next and you win, what else can you call that but “luck” indeed.
However, striking luck twice or several times is said to be unusual in a sense. Even if the odds of winning the lottery are seemingly improbable, some people achieve a continuous winning streak. For example, a man won the Illinois lottery twice.1,2
Every once in awhile, we hear unusual stories of lucky lotto players such as the Colorado man who won the Powerball jackpot twice on the same day.3
Such an occurrence happened not just once. A Newark man and a woman in Virginia experienced this too on different occasions.4,5
So why do all these happen in a truly random, fair, and unbiased lottery game?
The answer is the law of truly large numbers or LTLN. Being lucky can be ascribed to randomness. When many people pooled their bets together to have fun at the lottery, someone at one point had to be lucky.
And although improbable, someone who got lucky yesterday might be the same person who may get lucky again tomorrow. That may sound extremely unusual, but mathematicians don’t look at it that way. The law of truly large numbers takes effect in a random event, whether we like it or not.
The law of truly large numbers states that given abundant opportunities (hence the term truly large numbers), even unusual events and strange coincidences are expected to occur.
Mathematicians will be surprised if we don’t see unusual stories like these in the news.6, 7,8
This particular law in mathematics applies to lotteries and all extraordinary events and coincidences in every aspect of life.
In the lottery, this mathematical law can be observed very quickly.
First, many countries worldwide operate lottery games. All these draws happening worldwide quickly add up to already abundant opportunities. At any given time, an unexpected and unusual story can happen at any place around the world.
History has proven that the vast amount of lottery draws taking place every day allows for such unnatural occurrences to exist.
From the perspective of lucky people, the inverse can happen too. These unusual events are NOT always pleasant news.
For example, in 1980, Maureen Wilcox bought tickets for the Massachusetts State Lottery and the Rhode Island Lottery. Both tickets had the winning numbers. Unfortunately, her ticket for the Rhode Island Lottery matched the Massachusetts Lottery winning combination, and vice versa.
Wilcox’s story takes away: do not play two different lotteries at the same time on the same day.
Interestingly, some events can be so bizarre and fascinating that one would think such seemingly improbable things aren’t real.
For example, mathematicians use the same law to explain why we hear stories of lotto players who have won using tarot cards. Or a pet owner got his winning numbers from his pet chicken, who accidentally walked on a calculator.
Likewise, the same law answers why a Loughton man’s vivid lottery dream came true.9, 10,11,12
If you hear a story about a palm reader or a paranormal psychic who helped someone win the lottery, don’t be surprised at all. However, please don’t believe that palm-reading, psychic reading, and other supernatural tools work as a strategy to win the lottery.
The unusual lottery winning stories you hear in the news does not affirm the effectiveness of their methods. These supernatural beliefs don’t apply to any random game, let alone the lottery.13
The law of truly large numbers is truly fascinating and adds color to our everyday lives. These are the stories that the mainstream media likes to cover and sometimes exaggerate.
In September of 2009, the Bulgarian national lottery was shaken after the same six numbers (4, 15, 23, 24, 35, and 42) were drawn in two consecutive draws. This event created a media storm and led the Bulgarian authorities to order an immediate investigation.
Should we be surprised by this incident? True, it’s freakishly unusual and improbable, but it can happen according to the law of truly large numbers.14
David J. Hand, an emeritus professor of mathematics and senior research investigator at Imperial College London, said this:15