Can You Improve Your Lottery Odds?

Photo (cc) by Montage Communications

(Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in Money Talks News on July 25, 2012. We sometimes pull it out and dust it off whenever the Powerball swells and the subject of this story, Richard Lustig, starts the interview circuit again.)

Reporters constantly get pitches from all manner of people and companies wanting to be the subject of a news story. They hire publicists who write press releases designed to convince people like us to tell their story and get them publicity – and thus sell more books, apps, or whatever they’re hoping to market.

Over the last several months, I’ve received repeated pitches from a publicist promoting a guy who says he can increase your odds of winning the lottery. Here’s some of the press release I recently received.

PowerBall Drawing Wednesday up to $240 Million; 7 Time Lottery Game Grand Prize Winner has Tip

With the economy continuing to struggle, many people are looking for a miracle to overcome their financial challenges, and playing the lottery just might be safer than playing the stock market right now…especially with this Wednesday’s multi-state Powerball Lottery heading for $240 million, giving U.S. lottery players a new big jackpot to play for! When major media outlets like Good Morning America, CNN, Fox, The New York Post, MSNBC and more want insight on how to increase your chances of winning, they turn to 7 time lottery game grand prize winner Richard Lustig.

Richard will be playing Powerball Wednesday, and his chances to win are better than most. Why? Lustig has developed a method for increasing your chances of winning the lottery that has given him seven lottery game grand prizes and dozens of smaller wins, netting millions in winnings. Richard is outspoken that his method really works, and that “luck has nothing to do with it.”

Really? The lottery is safer than playing the stock market? Network news shows turn to this guy when they want to increase their chances of winning?

I’ve been doing consumer news for more than 20 years, so silly stuff like systems to increase your odds of picking random numbers is nothing new. What’s unusual about this story, however, is that this guy isn’t promoting his product with a late-night infomercial. He’s sending press releases like the one above to real journalists. Even stranger – they’re biting.

In a story called How One Man Became a Serial Lottery Winner, ABC News has both print and video about Lustig. They say stuff like…

After developing the method over the years and selling thousands of copies of his report, Lustig decided to write a 40-page book explaining his formula. The game of chance, or what some call luck, is what Lustig addresses in his book currently ranked #3 on Amazon’s self-help book list.

But did anyone in this network news organization think to read the book or question Lustig’s “formula”? Did they even ask him about the method he “developed over the years”? Apparently not. And while saying in the first paragraph that Lustig has “won the grand prize seven times,” they don’t reveal the only statistic that would make that meaningful: How much money he spent playing.

The number of times anyone wins anything is irrelevant unless you also know the amount they’ve lost. Since Lustig didn’t say and ABC didn’t ask, this story is meaningless.

In Want to Win the Lottery? This Guy Has a System, CNBC hops on the bandwagon…

Lustig didn’t detail much of his system to CNBC – that’s in his book – but he did give a few tips for those who want to rely on more than a little bit of luck: Avoid Quick-Pick lottery cards where the numbers are pre-selected. Buy at least 10 tickets. Play in lottery pools…

So here’s another news network that served up major publicity to some guy claiming to have a system to win the lottery without knowing what his “system” is, or even reading his book. I read the free copy furnished by his publicist – it takes less than 45 minutes. Why didn’t they?

In addition, CNBC prints “tips” like, “avoid Quick-Pick lottery cards” without stopping to think. Whether you pick a number or a machine does, the odds are the same. In lotteries like PowerBall, those odds are up to 1 in 200,000,000. Suggesting you can change those odds is nonsense.

The secrets revealed!

Lustig’s brochure-sized book does offer advice that makes sense. For example, retaining losing lottery tickets to offset potentially taxable wins. This is true in all forms of gambling: You can’t deduct losses, but you can use losses to offset gains, thus reducing your tax liability in the unlikely event you win more than you lose in a given year.

The other sensible thing Lustig’s book suggests is about second-chance drawings. Some lottery games allow you to send in losing tickets as entries for drawings for trips and other prizes. Lustig suggests you do so.

But when it comes to helping you pick random numbers, his logic isn’t logical.

Lustig’s “system” is to always play the same numbers, then stop playing them if they win, because the same numbers never win twice. That’s pretty much it – and it’s wrong. The odds of any set of random numbers coming up again are the same as they were the first time. That’s why they call them random.

Interesting aside: I interviewed a statistics professor for the TV version of this story, and he did have a suggestion for those playing games like Powerball that Lustig didn’t offer. It was to select numbers higher than 31. While that won’t increase your odds of winning, at least if you do win, you’re less likely to split the pot with others. That’s because so many people play their birthdays.

Who’s more foolish: buyers of this book, or network news?

My brief interview with Richard Lustig, done for the video version of this story, devolved into a hostile exchange. As I was trying to explain that his system for picking winning lottery numbers makes no mathematical sense, he shot back with, “What do you think I am, an idiot?”

I responded, “You’re no idiot, Richard – you’re making money selling a $40 book with nonsensical advice. It’s the people who buy it that are idiots.”

In retrospect, however, there’s one group of people who are more foolish than either Richard Lustig or his readers: those in the news business offering legitimacy to people like him while at the same time calling themselves journalists.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
10 Times You’re Right to Be a Cheapskate
10 Times You’re Right to Be a Cheapskate

Clever shoppers can save money without sacrificing quality. Here is how to do it.

7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make
7 Big Purchases You Should Never Make

Sometimes a big-ticket purchase is nothing more than a big waste of money.

How Much of My Social Security Benefit Can My Ex Take From Me?
How Much of My Social Security Benefit Can My Ex Take From Me?

A man wonders if his ex-wife will siphon away his Social Security benefit.

14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare
14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

9 Indestructible Products That Are Worth the Price
9 Indestructible Products That Are Worth the Price

If you’re willing to pay a little more for these products, you may never have to shop for another again.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

This Simple Mistake Might Weaken Your COVID-19 Vaccination
This Simple Mistake Might Weaken Your COVID-19 Vaccination

Avoid doing this before you get vaccinated.

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years
10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider
Taking a Multivitamin? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

A new study has bad news for the millions of Americans who spend money on multivitamins.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic
11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic

Many goods we take for granted have become tough to find in 2021.

9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car
9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car

Thinking of leaving these possessions in a car? Prepare for unexpected consequences.

9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar
9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar can save you a lot of money, but using it like this can cost you.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently
10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently

These habits and characteristics can help put you on the track to success.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021
Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021

More than 700 prescription medications have seen price hikes so far this year. Here’s a look at the worst.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.