Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lottery Tickets

I dedicate this post to Anna. May you never actually begin gambling.

This is kind of a continuation from yesterday's post. Another thing that guy brought up in his talk was the absurdity of gambling. Many people gamble because of the hope or wish they will actually win. But you won't win. People think they'll win because they only see winners of the lottery on TV. No TV channel interviews all the losers. In fact, if they did interview all the losers and showed a 30 second clip about each one, it would take over 9 CONTINUOUS YEARS to play all those clips. Imagine listening to "Yeah, I lost. I thought I would win didn't happen," over and over again. And then at the very end there would be one clip of one person saying, "And I won!" That would be pretty disheartening, right?

Not convinced yet? OK, think about this: let's say you gathered up a gazillion pennies and drew a little dot on the back of one one of them with a Sharpie marker, and then lined them up along the highway from Los Angeles to New York. You are more likely to drive along the highway, stop at a random point, and pick up the penny with the dot on it than win the lottery.

Still not convinced? OK, think about this. Let's say that there are only ten lottery tickets. You have a 1-in-10 chance of winning. You have to pay $1 to play, and if you win, you get $10. Pretty good odds, right? OK, now imagine a really fat, rich man owned all the tickets already and was willing to sell you one of his tickets. You might be less likely to buy one now because you are pretty sure he's going to win anyway. After all, he has a 9-in-10 chance of winning and you only have a 1-in-10 chance of winning. The problem is that we still have a 1-in-10 chance of winning in each circumstance! It shouldn't matter to us if one guy owned all the tickets or if a million people owned the other tickets. But it does matter to us. I guess you should think of the world as just one big rich person. If the odds are 1-in-1,000,000 that you would win the lottery, the odds that the fat, rich person will win is 999,999 in a 1,000,000.

But all of this doesn't matter to people who gamble. Gambling is an addiction. When you gamble, you brain releases serotonin to make you happy because you are thinking about winning. That drug in your brain makes you happy. You don't need to win for you to feel happy. The problem is that you get sad when you find put that you've lost. And how to you get happy again? Buy another ticket, get another hit of serotonin, get sad when you lose, and on and on.

1 comment:

Greg Lewis said...

Did the rich man with 10 tickets HAVE to be fat?