There are as many different ways to pick lottery numbers, as there are lottery players. Some people choose numbers that have special significance to them, like birthdays, former addresses, or license plate numbers, and play them every week. Some people pick whatever pops in their mind at the time and use new numbers every week. Still others let the ticket machine do the picking for them. But what about using numbers you pulled out of a fortune cookie? Does that work as a strategy? As it turns out, it works out very, very well, as 110,000 people discovered after the Powerball draw on March 30, 2005.
Powerball officials were shocked to find out after their March 2005 draw that 110,000 second place winning tickets had been sold. Second place tickets are tickets on which players correctly guess five numbers, but do not guess the Powerball number. Lottery officials were immediately suspicious. According to their odds, a maximum of four or five people should have been second place winners, and now they were faced 110,000 winning tickets. The lottery commission launched an investigation to determine if there was any fraud involved with the winning tickets. When they determined that there did not appear to be any flaw in the system that would have allowed anyone to â€œfixâ€ the numbers, they turned to TV. The popular show â€œLostâ€ had had a lottery story line that week, but the numbers they used did not match the winning numbers. The same went for the soap opera â€œThe Young and the Restless,â€ which had also featured a lottery ticket on one of their shows the same week. Nothing seemed to add up.
Eventually, lottery officials interviewed several winners, who each answered that they have gotten their lottery numbers from fortune cookies. There did not appear to be any other connection between the winners; they lived scattered across the country and did not know each other. Once on the trail of the fortune cookies, lottery officials tracked down the manufacturer of the cookies to a Queens, New York, cookies factory called Wonton Foods. The manufacturer produces four million cookies a day, which it sells under various name brands across the US. They include the same fortune and lucky numbers in thousands of cookies. The fortune cookie manufacturer had randomly selected the numbers by drawing them out of a hat.
The number of winners came close to breaking the bank at Powerball headquarters. Because the winners did not correctly choose the Poweball number (the correct number was 42, and the fortune cookies listed 40 as the sixth number), the winners did not share in the mega jackpot, but rather each were to receive the full second place prize. The prize money they received depended on the amount they bet in the first place, but payouts were between $100,000 and $500,000 each. The Powerball Corporation paid out $19 million in total in the fortune cookie jackpot; they keep $25 million on hand for emergencies, and this payout left them only $6 million in reserve. Had the lottery winners guessed the Powerball correctly, they would have had to split the total jackpot.
The fortune cookie jackpot payout marked the largest number of winning lottery tickets sold for a single jackpot in history. The odds against it happening were astronomical â€" giving lottery players everywhere hope and another reason to keep playing the game. As for Wonton Food, they still include randomly drawn lucky numbers in their fortune cookies, and next time, they hope they help people choose the Powerball correctly as well.
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1 in 195,249,054.00
1 in 5,138,133.00
1 in 723,144.64
1 in 19,030.12
1 in 13,644.24
1 in 359.06
1 in 787.17
1 in 123.48
1 in 61.74
The overall odds of winning a prize are 1 in 35.11.
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