Every time a lottery offers a jackpot prize worth hundreds of millions of dollars, we rush to buy tickets in hopes that we will win such a life-changing prize. We may find ourselves buying quite a number of tickets. After all, the more lines we play, the better our chances of winning. As the lottery draw approaches, our excitement grows. We may choose to sit down and watch the draw live, seeing each of the numbers as they are selected. Will our numbers match? Will we win the jackpot?

When Powerball awarded a record-breaking jackpot of $1.58 billion in January 2016, even people who had never previously played the lottery purchased tickets. The lottery jackpot craze repeated itself in August 2017, when Powerball awarded a $758.7 million jackpot. As we heard the stories of the winners of these astronomical prizes, we couldn’t help but feel a bit jealous of their good fortune.

We know that the odds of our winning the lottery jackpot are quite low. How is it, then, that we continue to purchase tickets even when we realistically have no chance of winning?

Even if we don’t win the jackpot, there is a possibility we could end up ‘winning the lottery’. Powerball offers a $1 million second division prize, an amount that would be doubled if we were to include the Power Play option in our ticket. Of course, we would have to match the five main numbers in the Powerball draw to win that prize. The odds of doing that are not in our favour.

The odds of winning prizes in some of the smaller lotteries are much better. Even though we’re envious of the Powerball winners, we could instead play lotteries that are easier to win. While the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1:292,201,338, the odds of winning the jackpot when playing the Swiss Lotto are 1:31,474,716. The odds of winning the Irish Lotto jackpot are even better: 1 in 10,737,573.

Perhaps we should lower our expectations when playing the lottery. Winners of the largest jackpots are targeted by the media and not always favourably. Most jackpot winners are unable to claim their prizes anonymously, unless they work with lawyers to set up a legal entity, such as a blind trust, to hide their identity. Becoming a lottery celebrity may give winners their 15 minutes of fame, but surprisingly, a majority of lottery winners eventually end up going bankrupt.

We need to take care to play the lottery responsibly. If we intend to play regularly, we should set aside a weekly budget for tickets. We should not spend more than we can afford, no matter how high the lottery jackpot might be.

Playing the lottery is a form of entertainment. The excitement of taking a chance on winning, the fantasy of living the life of our dreams, and the anticipation of seeing the results of the lottery draw, all keep us purchasing tickets week after week. If we see this as something fun to do, we will be able to stay happy when we play the lottery.

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