Thursday, February 01, 2007

Lottery Laughs

I bought a Powerball lottery ticket. I don't do it often, but I thought "what the hey" and got one while I was at the grocery store yesterday.

I missed the live drawing on TV last night. I know they do it in the evening sometime and on ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC, but I have never paid that close attention. I figured I could check to see if I had a winning ticket by going online to check my numbers. And that's what I did today. Turns out I got the Powerball and one other number. Four bucks coming my way. Not bad for a two dollar investment.

While I was on checking out my winning numbers I came across this link to the FAQ section explaining how they calculate the odds of winning. Always curious to learn more I clicked the link and got a whole lot more than an education on odds of winning various prize amounts.

You might expect to have a FAQ section. Most heavily trafficked sites have a similar section. But what you likely would not expect find on is a statement in the FAQ section like this:

It takes two weeks to collect the cash from the stores around the nation. If you go to the lottery to claim your prize after that two weeks, then you can generally have the jackpot money (all cash or the first of the annual payments) hit your bank account the next day - maybe the following day if you come to the lottery office very late in the day. That said, you will have no trouble getting a little credit if you wish to buy something big before the two weeks time. Just mention my name - and that you are the Powerball winner.
This sarcastic wit continues throughout the FAQ section, but to really get the full dose you need to read the Real Letters. Here's a sample:
FROM STEWART N: What do you think about the number 19?

I like it. An odd mix of the smallest number and the largest - together in one package. It speaks to the extremes of the Universe and yet shows how they can be inexorably tied.

It is also unique in that both numbers are formed by a single constant line (using standard type). One line straight; the other curving before coming down to the base line - not so distant cousins - and neither one having a family relation with any other number. The "4" has mutliple stops and abrupt changes in directions with its multiple line formation and the "2", "3", "5", and "7" have their sudden starts and stops.

Although a mere number, as humans, we can't but help to tie it to other numbers by which we judge ourselves. As an age number it is greatly important; the first step from being a "teenager" to becoming a "young adult". In fact, the shapes of the numbers suggest a relationship between youth and age - the straight erect youth next to the bent and wizened old-timer standing together - as if sharing the secrets of life (though "1" will certainly not listen).

I would have to put "19" up there as a major number; a number among numbers. Yes, I definitely like "19".
And then there's this one:
FROM CAROLINA B: Hi, I understand that if you win, and you've bought a powerplay, then your winnings will be multiplied by the powerplay number. BUT, this is what I do not understand. Suppose that I buy a powerplay of 5, but the powerplay number for the week is only 2. Would I still get up to 2 x my normal winnings OR would my powerplay number have to match the powerplay number exactly to win the multiples. Please respond like you're talking to a little child, because in this instance, I need for you to place the info on the lower shelf so I will understand. Many thanks for your time.

Ok, here goes.

Imagine that you are walking through the woods on a nice bright sunny day. The birds are singing and you are chasing a flutterby (that’s really what they used to be called and I like it better than the new name – butterfly) and, all of sudden, you find yourself standing in front a dark cave.

The cave is as dark as your scary closet was when you were a child and you can see nothing at all – even though you squint really hard. You move a litle closer until you can feel the cool air coming the cave and you are suddenly filled with fear. You think that there is a dragon in the cave. Your fear takes over and you run home, as fast as you can, looking behind you every few steps to see if there is a dragon getting closer.

For years, you think about the dragon in the cave. Finally, as you get older and a little braver, you get up enough courage to go into the cave, and you find . . .


There is no dragon. Nothing. It was just an idea that you had somehow. No one else believed there was a dragon. No one else told you there was a dragon. You just thought it up and that thing you just thought up kept you from going into the forest. Sometimes, people think of things that stop them from going somewhere or even from understanding someting. They invent a brick wall that they cannot get by. To move forward or to understand, they must first forget what they "know".

Just like you worrying about picking the correct PowerPlay number. There is no dragon, there is no PowerPlay number that you need to pick. There is nothing to worry about.

You only buy the option and then your ticket says something like “PowerPlay Option: YES”. Just before the Powerball drawing, we draw the multiplier number. There is an equal chance to draw 2X, 3X, 4X, or 5X (and sometimes a 10X). You don’t have to match the PowerPlay number at all. You just multiply your prizes by whatever number we draw.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

I love it. If you ask a silly question, sometimes you deserve a silly answer. It certainly makes you feel better about losing a two dollar investment on a silly lottery ticket.

1 comment:

Sam Meers said...

First, whoever wrote these should have a blog. I'd read it all the time.

Second, congrats to the Powerball management for having the moxie to put this on their site. That is, if they know it's on their site. Ha!

Nice find, Dan.