State Lotteries: For the Pros and the Poor
By Arnold Snyder
(From Blackjack Forum, September 1987)
© 1987 Arnold Snyder
[Note from Arnold Snyder: There is such a thing as a professional lottery player, but there are only a handful on the Earth, and they have bankrolls the size of Warren Buffett's, because that's what it to survive the variance if you go seriously after lottery jackpots. To understand how professional gamblers beat lotteries, see below.
But this article is also a response to the emails I get every month from people who, it is clear to me, have a gambling problem, and are using card counting or poker or the lottery as an excuse to feed this addiction.]
It’s time once again for my more or less annual sermon addressing the compulsive gamblers among my readership. Since you really can’t help yourselves, since you must place your money into action, I’m more than willing to help you delude yourselves into believing that flushing your bank accounts down the casino toilets is intelligent, socially relevant, and a truly religious experience. And I charge very little for my consulting services.
Since the State of California institutionalized their usurious lottery a couple of years ago (50% house edge, like lotteries everywhere), the Golden State has been unwittingly providing me with an invaluable education in the lowdown, sleazy tactics of pushers who supply gambling addicts with an excuse for indulging in their drug of choice. A recent front-page article in the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that nearly half of the lottery tickets sold in my beloved home state are being purchased by the same small percentage of buyers, who incidentally happen to reside in the depressed big city ghettos, with little education and poverty-level incomes.
An official spokesperson for the lottery commission stated that these high volume ticket buyers fall into two classifications — “compulsive gamblers” and “professional gamblers.”
I like that. Professional lottery players. That there is no logical approach to obtaining an advantage at this game that does not require a bankroll of $100 million+ does not stop the state from announcing on the front page of the daily papers that certain individuals whom demographics would lead us to categorize as poor and uneducated, are in fact a new breed of urban professional. Perhaps, it won’t be long before our states universities begin offering classes like Big Spin 101, so that some of the more educated among us, who don’t currently buy lottery tickets, can obtain a Bachelor of Lotto degree.
Real Professional Lottery Players
It's true that professional lottery players do, in fact, exist. They operate by finding lotteries whose jackpot payouts have surpassed the odds against winning, due to no players having hit the jackpot on numerous previous games. These international teams, as mentioned, generally maintain $100 million bankrolls, because they must purchase all of the combinations of numbers for the next game in order to assure themselves a win.
Even then, they often lose money, as they frequently have to share the win with other lucky player(s). If you are not maintaining a $100 million bankroll, and purchasing all number combos in lotteries with positive expectations only, you are not a professional lottery player. These teams, by the way, have been banned in some states and countries.
Frankly, I doubt that the more educated citizens of this state (or any state) will buy that “professional gambler” concept when it comes to lotteries. That’s why I’m here. Since professional blackjack players really do exist, this game provides a natural excuse for the intelligent compulsive gambler. It doesn’t matter that you’re constantly over betting your bankroll as you steam to recoup your never-ending losses. You’re a card counter! The few! The proud! The broke!
“What If Your Numbers Came Up Without You?” This warning screams at us from hundreds of Lotto billboards plastered along the state’s highways. Of course, the lottery officials didn’t invent this slogan. Bookies and numbers runners have been using it on ignorant suckers for decades. Sure, everyone’s got “lucky numbers.” God assigns them at birth. Once you’ve figured out yours, you’re a fool if you don’t bet on them.
Does it violate the constitutional dictum that separates church and state for the state to foster unfounded superstitious nonsense in order to con its more gullible citizens into wagering on a state run “game” that assures the state a 50% advantage over the players?
Of course not. No respectable organized religion would adhere to faith in lucky numbers. It’s only the uneducated dolts who buy this concept in the first place. And they don’t know the constitution from constipation. They’re already signing over their social security checks to glittering televangelists who promise prosperity with salvation. So, why shouldn’t they toss a few of those superstitious bucks towards the state of California?
Are you too intelligent to buy that? Yet you’re still a compulsive gambler? That’s why I’m here. It doesn’t matter how educated or intellectually aware you are, if you’re a compulsive gambler, you’re superstitious. Card counting again provides the perfect thinking man’s cover. Now you can attribute your hot streaks and cold streaks to “the count,” or “standard deviation,” or “expected negative fluctuation,” or scores of other built-in, intelligent-sounding concepts. Ignore the fact that your mortgage is about to be foreclosed upon. Hit the tables! You’re another Ken Uston! A culture hero! David vs. Goliath! Just don’t mention to anyone that you’re wearing your lucky shirt. . . .
Besides, gambling is socially relevant. All of the California lotto tickets are imprinted with catchy little phrases like, “It’s a good feeling for a lot of good reasons,” and “Our schools win too!” (I’m serious!) You’re gambling directly contributes to the welfare of the underprivileged. Think of it as a donation to needy children.
Blackjack is even more socially relevant than any lottery. Look at how the Atlantic City casinos have lived up to their promise and given that city a new lease on life. Prior to the casino presence, the whole town was a depressing, hopeless slum. Now, it’s a depressing slum with casinos! And no longer hopeless! Now, when the unemployed slum dwellers need money, they don’t just wallow in self-pity. There are well-heeled drunks just around the corner, waiting to be rolled! And the illicit drug market has boomed! Suddenly there are tourists who can afford cocaine!
No longer are we blackjack gurus simply competing with mathematicians and computer programmers with Xerox machines as we attempt to tap into that lucrative compulsive gambling market. Now we’re competing with state governments all across this land, as lotteries take over the country!
I’m not going to sit still for this lottery scam! Blackjack is a far more intelligent way to waste your money and feed your addiction. It provides solid excuses for every embarrassing binge, all backed up by impressive scholarly research.
Lottery players are fools! Amateurs! Superstitious and ignorant cretins!
As a card counter, you’ll never be categorized with those lowlifes! Sure you’re a gambler, a risk taker, a man of action! Sure, you’re a compulsive gambler! Go ahead, admit it! The important thing is that you’re not an amateur. You’re a professional compulsive gambler. And that makes all the difference in the world. ♠
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