At no time last week did I have any delusion that Saturday might possibly be my first day as a mega millionaire. I knew that my life would not change because I did not buy a ticket for the drawing. For two reasons…
First, I live in Florida, one of the eight states that does not participate in Mega Millions. So if I had wanted to buy a ticket, I’d have had to drive about 25 miles north to Georgia. That would have cost about four dollars in gas for a one dollar ticket. “Logic” would have insisted that I buy more than one ticket because of the gas cost. So for me, it was not “just a dollar” for a chance to win over $650 million.
The second, and real reason, I did not buy a ticket is that I didn’t like the math. When the Florida Lotto began, the probability of winning the jackpot was a mere 14 million to one. Now, with the addition of four numbers to the pool, the probability is about 23 million to one. Those odds are very favorable compared to winning Mega Millions: 176 million to one. And as it turned out, only three folks, out of tens (if not hundreds) of millions won the jackpot. And I doubt that most of those who did not win lost “just a dollar.”
It amazes me that folks who say they would never go to a casino and “gamble” because that’d be throwing their money away have no problem throwing their money away in a lottery. The fact is that you can have a much better chance of winning in a casino game of pure chance, such as roulette, than in a lottery. The red/black and odd/even bet has about a 50 percent probability of winning.
And you can put the odds in your favor by betting any two of the three “block of 12 numbers” (vertically or horizontally). Even on a wheel with zero and double zero, you have about a 63 percent probability that the ball will rest on one of the two blocks of twelve numbers. If you bet $100 on each block, and you win on one of the blocks, you will lose $100 on one block and win $200 on the other block for a net profit of $100. I’ll take a 63% probability of winning over 176 million to one against me every day.
But I do not play roulette. For me, “gaming” is not about the money. It’s about…well, the game. I play poker for the satisfaction of matching wits against other players and coming out on top. But there has to be some money at stake because otherwise the play is distorted.
There’s too many folks who’ll go “all in” every time if they’re just pushing worthless “play” chips they can keep on getting until they finally get lucky and win. Especially since they can’t hear the rest of us laughing at them and calling them “donkey.” For that reason, playing poker “for fun” isn’t.
In May 2007, I deposited $150 into one of the major online poker sites. I played hundreds (almost 575 according to my records) of tournaments at between $1.10 and $5.50 buy ins. When the feds shut the site down in April of last year, I had $200 in my account, for a profit of $50. That $50 profit is not a lot of money. But what it represents to me is more important: that over four years, I won more than I lost; that I played better than the others who lost their money to me.
Even when I lost, as long as I played well, I didn’t mind because the “entertainment” value was well worth it. And that’s what gaming is really all about – entertainment. I don’t know too many other types of entertainment where you can finish with more money than when you began.
Going to a show? At the end of the show, you’re not getting your money back and certainly not walking out with more than you paid for the tickets. Gaming has that “dual” aspect: entertainment and potential profit.
But a lottery is just about the money, despite ads attempting to portray it as “entertainment.” I see nothing “entertaining” about selecting some numbers. There may be a very slight entertainment value to scratching off some numbers on a ticket. I am not as easily entertained.
For me, nothing approaches the exuberance of showing the winning hand to someone I outwitted into betting big against me. Or the feeling of satisfaction when I win a tournament after taking all the chips of the other final player.
The smallest pot I’ve won is $2.25 (50 cent single table tournament;); the largest pot was almost $175 in a “cash” game in Biloxi when I had the best full house against two other full houses. I enjoyed winning $2.25 more than $175 because the $2.25 was a tournament and I defeated nine other players over about an hour.
The $175 was a single hand which lasted less than five minutes and was pretty much a “no brainer” for me since I started with pocket Queens, the flop gave me three Queens and the other cards were lower than a Queen. The hardest part in winning the $175 was making sure I didn’t bet too high to cause the other two players to fold.
Folks who want to play the lottery will get no reproach from me. It’s their money and their choice.
As for me, to rephrase a historical Amercian response of defiance: “Hundreds for poker, but not one dollar for the lottery!”