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Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code: (& how Gov'ts conspire to get your money!)

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posted on Feb, 9 2011 @ 12:35 PM

Is the apparent randomness of the scratch ticket just a facade, a mathematical lie?

Mohan Srivastava, a geological statistician living in Toronto, was working in his office in June 2003, waiting for some files to download onto his computer, when he discovered a couple of old lottery tickets buried under some paper on his desk. The tickets were cheap scratchers—a gag gift from his squash partner—and Srivastava found himself wondering if any of them were winners. He fished a coin out of a drawer and began scratching off the latex coating. “The first was a loser, and I felt pretty smug,” Srivastava says. “I thought, ‘This is exactly why I never play these dumb games.’”

The second ticket was a tic-tac-toe game. Its design was straightforward: On the right were eight tic-tac-toe boards, dense with different numbers. On the left was a box headlined “Your Numbers,” covered with a scratchable latex coating. The goal was to scrape off the latex and compare the numbers under it to the digits on the boards. If three of “Your Numbers” appeared on a board in a straight line, you’d won. Srivastava matched up each of his numbers with the digits on the boards, and much to his surprise, the ticket had a tic-tac-toe. Srivastava had won $3. “This is the smallest amount you can win, but I can’t tell you how excited it made me,” he says. “I felt like the king of the world.”

Delighted, he decided to take a lunchtime walk to the gas station to cash in his ticket. “On my way, 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.”

As a trained statistician with degrees from MIT and Stanford University, Srivastava was intrigued by the technical problem posed by the lottery ticket. In fact, it reminded him a lot of his day job, which involves consulting for mining and oil companies. A typical assignment for Srivastava goes like this: A mining company has multiple samples from a potential gold mine. Each sample gives a different estimate of the amount of mineral underground. “My job is to make sense of those results,” he says. “The numbers might seem random, as if the gold has just been scattered, but they’re actually not random at all. There are fundamental geologic forces that created those numbers. If I know the forces, I can decipher the samples. I can figure out how much gold is underground.”

Srivastava realized that the same logic could be applied to the lottery. The apparent randomness of the scratch ticket was just a facade, a mathematical lie. And this meant that the lottery system might actually be solvable, just like those mining samples. “At the time, I had no intention of cracking the tickets,” he says. He was just curious about the algorithm that produced the numbers. Walking back from the gas station with the chips and coffee he’d bought with his winnings, he turned the problem over in his mind. By the time he reached the office, he was confident that he knew how the software might work, how it could precisely control the number of winners while still appearing random. “It wasn’t that hard,” Srivastava says. “I do the same kind of math all day long.”


You'll have to go to the main article to read this mans story. What a mind... I can tell you that.

Another fine example how Man can win over Computers. I can't wait to see what the counter measures are when they get a going over by this guy.

I would think the Lottery system people would want to hire this guy as a pre-tester etc.

I know you all have done these skratch offs. Thinking ..... whatever your dream was. Suckers. All of us.

I won $500.00 one time and thought I was big time. They got their money back and some before I stopped. No more-unless people give them to me as gifts etc.

See what you think about them after reading this one.

edit on 2/9/2011 by anon72 because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 9 2011 @ 12:48 PM
I'm so fascinated by people who can work so well with numbers. I'm terrible at math that is not basic. For some reason, no matter how hard I tried and thought I was right, I hardly ever got my math homework (and therefore tests) correct.

I got almost perfect on both grammar and literature aspects of my...whatever those big test that you could get up to a 32 on in high school...but got only the minimum accepted number that most colleges take on the math and science portion.

Kudos to anyone that can work with numbers!

posted on Feb, 9 2011 @ 01:46 PM
reply to post by angrymomma

I agree with you. Numbers people can freak me out. I wasn't really good with math until later in life. Now I love it. Makes me think kids home work is actually for parents as a refresher course thing.

This guy is amazing. But, even so, there is someone, somewhere better than him. They just tend to be a bit crazy acting etc.

posted on Feb, 9 2011 @ 02:50 PM
reply to post by anon72

Yeah, if you throw too many numbers at me too fast my brain kinda.....stops and can't comprehend.

posted on Feb, 9 2011 @ 02:57 PM
Of course its not completely random.
I work in the lottery industry. I will not say where for security reasons but I have a very clear insight into the production of scratchoff lottery tickets.
There is a team of "programers" that produce each run of tickets. These programers utilize a proprietary computer system that is completly internal to the company and the users have no network access to the open internet. It cannot be "hacked" from the outside.
Every State decides what the level of prize payoffs will be for a particular game and the ratio of winning tickets. The printer then uses its program to produce each run of tickets based on that ratio. Then that run of tickets is sent to the presses and the printing process begins. The run of tickets is randomized to mix up where each winning combination is located in the run. Once the tickets are printed they are sent to the State to be distributed to the retailers. That distribution is random since the ticket rolls are simply pulled out of a box and sent out. There is no obvious way to look at a roll of tickets and determine where a winning ticket is located. That being said each ticket and roll have bar codes and the roll is not valid until its code is activated by the retailer. Thats why when people steal rolls of tickets they are worthless. Once that ticket roll is reported stolen the system is updated to disqualify every ticket remaining on that roll.
This is why those of us who work in the industry are not allowed to play the games or win the payouts.
So yes this individual has "cracked" the logic behind the distribution of winining combinations however since he cannot use this information to only purchase winning tickets it is of little use to him.

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