WIRED reports how a geological statistician figured out how to beat a scratch-off lottery ticket game, discovering a simple trick hidden in the numbers that let him pick winners 90% of the time before scratching the tickets at all. What’s more is that the exploit he stumbled across can be repeated again and again against so-called “extended play” or “baited hook” tickets, spreadsheet-like scratch-offs featuring rows and rows of numbers and near-miss combinations.
In the first game he cracked, called “Tic Tac Toe,” you are supposed to scratch off two rows of numbers and if any of them appeared in a straight line on one of the tic-tac-toe boards, you won. The numbers were from 1-39 and there were 72 cells.
But he found a pattern within the grid.
If one of the tic-tac-toe boards contained a line of numbers where each of the numbers only appeared once on the whole card, then it was a winner. Without scratching the ticket he was able to pick whether it was a winner or not.
Here’s where it gets really tricky: all the stores he bought the tickets from would let him buy a bunch, look them over, and exchange any tickets for new tickets as long as they were unscratched. So you could use this exploit to make sure you only bought tickets with a much higher probability of winning and game the system.
While the specific brand of tickets he first cracked have been pulled from the market and his findings have been reported to various lottery commissions, repeated experiments he’s done have shown that using variations on the “singleton” and “frequency” trick he can increase his payout rate from 30% of the time to 60%.
However, since most of these tickets give out at $2, $4, $6, and $20 amounts, you really have to ask yourself if pursuing employment as a scratcher-offer of tickets is really the best use of your time.