You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Lottery odds: To win, you’d have to be a loser

Just how much do you have to spend to get lucky?

The answer: a lot.

That’s the question The Palm Beach Post posed to two mathematicians and a statistician after identifying extraordinary Florida Lottery winners.

Skip Garibaldi, a professor at Emory University and associate director of the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics at UCLA, analyzed the top 10 most prolific winners found by The Post.

Jeffrey Rosenthal, a University of Toronto professor and the author of Struck By Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities, looked at four. He was instrumental in uncovering clerks winning too often in Ontario.

They took different paths to reach their conclusions, both using some pretty complicated math. They looked at each of the winners’ tickets, the odds of winning that ticket and how much it costs to buy one ticket.

In the end, they arrived at the same conclusion: Except for one case, it’s probably not going to happen.

Rosenthal looked at how many tickets someone would have to buy to match the winnings of the top four winners.

He found they would have to buy between 630 and 1,050 tickets every day during their respective winning periods to merely have a 1 percent chance of winning so often.

His conclusion: Even if somebody wanted to buy so many tickets, itself a Herculean feat, they still wouldn’t win as often as they did.

Garibaldi calculated the absolute minimum the top 10 winners would have to spend to have even a minuscule chance of winning so often — a 1-in-20-trillion chance, the same chance as choosing one star out of 50 Milky Way-sized galaxies, then having your friend pick the same star.

Garibaldi wouldn’t go as far as to call it impossible. He put it this way:

“It’s possible, it’s just utterly implausible,” he said. “Quantum mechanics tells us all sorts of insane, unimaginable things could happen. Your desk could suddenly turn into a talking goose. There’s a calculable probability that that could happen. But it’s never going to happen.”

He consulted with Philip B. Stark, professor and chairman of the Department of Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Assuming the winners invested every penny of their wins into buying more tickets, nine of the 10 would have lost a minimum of between $200,000 and $2.4 million, depending on the winner.

That’s right — assuming they played the game like everyone else, they all would have been big losers.

“Some of the gamblers definitely appear to have won too many times … unless they have some tremendous bankroll that could fund so much playing,” Garibaldi said. “Maybe their dad has the copyright on ‘Happy Birthday’ or something.”

One winner, a Miami woman, could have actually made money playing.

Garibaldi’s analysis was generous for the winners, too. He didn’t include their $1 and $2 scratch-off wins, most of which have very long odds.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

More millenials live with parents in S. Florida than anywhere else
More millenials live with parents in S. Florida than anywhere else

A new study suggests that millennials in South Florida live with their parents at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country. >> Read more trending news  The study conducted by Abodo found that 44.8 percent of millennials in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area still live with their parents. That’s the highest percentage...
Man whose parents locked him away for 2 years wants them to stay in prison
Man whose parents locked him away for 2 years wants them to stay in prison

For two years, Mitch Comer’s mother and stepfather, Sheila Comer and Paul Comer, kept him locked inside a bedroom in his family’s rental home in Georgia. He was shut off from the outside world and even his two younger sisters until September 2012. By then, Comer, who was 18 at the time, was loaded on a bus and sent to Los Angeles with...
Inmate accused of plotting murders of sexual assault victims
Inmate accused of plotting murders of sexual assault victims

An inmate in a Pennsylvania jail the Allegheny County Jail is accused of plotting the murders of five juveniles who accused him of sexual assault. Michael Scherbanic, 29, a prisoner in the Allegheny County Jail and is now charged with 27 new criminal counts, including solicitation to commit criminal homicide.  >> Read more trending news...
NEW: Man resembling sexual predator seen near Jensen Beach park
NEW: Man resembling sexual predator seen near Jensen Beach park

A person resembling a violent sexual predator recently released from prison was spotted Wednesday near a Jensen Beach park, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said. An anonymous caller reported that 65-year-old Ernest Eugene Reigh was near Indian Riverside Park, off Sewall’s Point Road about two miles north of the Hutchinson Island Causeway...
Dalia Dippolito lawyers seek contempt charge against prosecutors
Dalia Dippolito lawyers seek contempt charge against prosecutors

Less than a week after the judge issued a gag order against lawyers in Dalia Dippolito’s upcoming murder solicitation retrial, her attorneys are asking him to hold prosecutors in contempt for allowing Boynton Beach Police to keep a viral video from the case on the department’s YouTube page. Defense attorney Greg Rosenfeld on Tuesday filed...
More Stories