I was in line at a convenience store the other day waiting f-o-r-e-v-e-r behind this woman that was having some sort of problem. Apparently, the little kiosk they have for state lottery ticket generation wasn’t working correctly. After several minutes, the guy behind the counter told her that he guessed it was broken, but if she was interested, someone had earlier had some lottery tickets printed out that he realized only afterward that he didn’t have the money to buy. That was initially fine with the woman, but after looking at the tickets she said “I don’t want these.”
“Can I ask why not?” The clerk asked.
“I don’t like the numbers.”
At this point, a guy behind her chimed in. I couldn’t tell if he was presumptuous or if they were in there together, but he said, “You don’t like the numbers? What does it matter?”
“Well,” she explained, “on this ticket they’re in order. 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36. Who picks those numbers? What are the odds that the numbers will be sequential?”
“Good point,” the guy said.
Of course, she’s completely right. What are the odds that they would be sequential? The answer is that the odds are the same as any other six numbers that she might pick, unless they do something special with the number generation for the lottery that I don’t know about. If I had a kid with me, I would use that to illustrate that if the notion of six consecutive numbers seems six steps beyond unlikely, that’s why you shouldn’t play the lottery because there is no way to pick any series of numbers that is any more likely to occur. Then, of course, I would probably launch into a tirade about the evils of a state-run lottery system. At which point they would roll their eyes and probably ignore the more useful information that came before my jump on my high horse.