Friday, February 4, 2011

Making Your Stocking Stuffer Work for You

Wired Magazine presents the story of a smart Canadian who figured out the code to some scratcher tickets.

The trick itself is ridiculously simple. (Srivastava would later teach it to his 8-year-old daughter.) Each ticket contained eight tic-tac-toe boards, and each space on those boards—72 in all—contained an exposed number from 1 to 39. As a result, some of these numbers were repeated multiple times. Perhaps the number 17 was repeated three times, and the number 38 was repeated twice. And a few numbers appeared only once on the entire card. Srivastava’s startling insight was that he could separate the winning tickets from the losing tickets by looking at the number of times each of the digits occurred on the tic-tac-toe boards. In other words, he didn’t look at the ticket as a sequence of 72 random digits. Instead, he categorized each number according to its frequency, counting how many times a given number showed up on a given ticket. “The numbers themselves couldn’t have been more meaningless,” he says. “But whether or not they were repeated told me nearly everything I needed to know.” Srivastava was looking for singletons, numbers that appear only a single time on the visible tic-tac-toe boards. He realized that the singletons were almost always repeated under the latex coating. If three singletons appeared in a row on one of the eight boards, that ticket was probably a winner.
The irony here is that after he calculated how much time it would take him to gather and scratch enough tickets to make more than he was making as a geological statistician, he decided it wasn't worth the effort.

This means that a man who know he can win doesn't even think scratchers are a good deal, and yet there are millions of people know they won't win who spend hard-earned cash on them daily. But none of those people are geological statisticians I guess.

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