Playing the Numbers


We got Chinese food last night from a neighborhood joint. Scarfing my fortune cookie, I briefly looked at the message and the lottery number and thought about buying a ticket (I haven’t bought one in a while; buying one usually gives rise to full-on Walter Mitty reveries surrounding all the generous things I’ll do with the dough. Kind of a mind game to show the universe’s lottery-controlling powers that I’m worthy of a jackpot).

In any case, I haven’t gone out to buy a ticket. But this morning, there’s a great story in The New York Times today about a bunch of people who bought tickets in the Powerball lottery using their fortune-cookie numbers and won:

"Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs Powerball, said on Monday that the panic began at 11:30 p.m. March 30 when he got a call from a worried staff member.

"The second-place winners were due $100,000 to $500,000 each, depending on how much they had bet, so paying all 110 meant almost $19 million in unexpected payouts, Mr. Strutt said. (The lottery keeps a $25 million reserve for odd situations.)

" ‘We didn’t sleep a lot that night,’ Mr. Strutt said. ‘Is there someone trying to cheat the system?’ …

… Then the winners started arriving at lottery offices.

" ‘Our first winner came in and said it was a fortune cookie,’ said Rebecca Paul, chief executive of the Tennessee Lottery. ‘The second winner came in and said it was a fortune cookie. The third winner came in and said it was a fortune cookie.’ "

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