Day: February 7, 2011

Statistician Stays with Day Job, despite Cracking the Lottery

A pair of scratch-off lottery tickets found in a pile of papers on his desk started Mohan Srivastsava to musing. The lottery is purported to be random, but of course it is not — it is carefully controlled. For Srivastsava, a trained statistician with degrees from MIT and Stanford University, this "randomness" reminded him of his day job in which he consults for mining and oil companies. There must be a pattern, and forces such as likelihood come into play. The basic principals behind risk analysis and statistical analysis revealed secrets of the lotto. Jonah Lehrer wrote a fascinating article featuring Srivastsava’s story, called "Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code" in Wired Magazine.

Despite cracking the tic-tac-toe lottery tickets, Srivastsava decided to stay with his job as a consultant. He explained: “I’d have to travel from store to store and spend 45 seconds cracking each card. I estimated that I could expect to make about $600 a day. That’s not bad. But to be honest, I make more as a consultant, and I find consulting to be a lot more interesting than scratch lottery tickets.”

Lehrer’s article outlines evidence that others have cracked lotteries for much bigger payouts, but they have yet to reveal their secrets.