Friday, June 27, 2008

Chances of Being Disappointed by a Game of Chance: 99/100

I am not much of a gambler so when more than one person suggested that I fritter away my hard earned blog paycheck on a minuscule chance to win millions you could feel the breeze caused by my eye roll blowing 3000 miles away in Vegas. I could not be talked into letting it all ride on black or twenty one or a full house and no one suggested gambling on a heart attack at night after night of buffets (though I could easily be talked into any activity that involves unlimited access to king crab legs) but when the suggestion to review scratch offs was raised (credit to G -- don't bother going to his blog, he never writes anything) I thought "Hey! those are cheap and available within 200 feet of my front door and they come in shiny shiny colors!" And so I begin a series of posts reviewing lottery scratch offs.

I am really not at all tempted by the lottery. I have purchased probably 5 scratch offs in my life and ALL of them have been Christmas gifts (perfect for secret santas, stocking stuffers and saying "I trust you to share half of this with me if you win."), in fact before Tuesday I think I was almost a scratch off virgin (like anal, scratching off someone else's card is God's secret loophole, all of the fun of putting penny to cardboard with none of the risk of a screaming baby). For my first official chance at throwing hard earned money down the drain (the drain being the NY State School system) I went all out and bought a $5 card -- Even though I have heard of the existence of $10 cards I consider spending $5 on a piece of cardboard and a very unlikely dream of millions (actually, in this case, just million) crazily extravagant and expect that individual school children will be sending me personal thank you notes for my kind donation ("Dear Brianna, Thank you for purchasing a lottery card, our school has used the money to buy graph paper for Math class where they will hopefully do a better job of teaching statistics than your teachers did -- Love Bobby Sue"). The $1,000,000 prize would be paid out in $50,000 increments over 20 years which sounds kind of lame but then i realized that this would be plenty of money to allow me to quit my job and travel around Thailand like a queen for as long as I liked (or until the global economy made $50,000 chump change in all countries everywhere... so... 2025).

This below review of my first scratch off pretty much takes all of the fun out of gambling. I'm like a kid with the flu on the merry go round. A golden shower in the pool. A pooper at a party. Enjoy.

  • Scratch Off Theme: Ripping off Casual Video Games From 2002
  • Cost: $5
  • Maximum Prize: $1,000,000
  • Odds of Winning Max Prize: 1 in 3,175,200.00
  • Odds of Winning Minimum Prize:($5, aka even money): 1 in 20
  • Level of Fun: (1-10):2
  • Winnings: $0

This scratch off is a bit confusing since it implies you'll be revealing gems when you scratch off the silver crayon coating but in reality you mostly reveal a bunch of numbers which (far as I can tell) mean absolutely nothing. If the numbers mean nothing why use them at all? Why not just label all of the nongem spots with "you lose!" or a picture of someone having their house foreclosed on? Unsurprisingly the lottery also does a lot of work to obscure the reality that you will almost for sure not be winning any money from this card. For example, the card says I have 12 chances to win -- I assume this is because there are 12 places to scratch off. I supposed that I *technically* have 12 chances because there is an instant win option if I reveal a $ symbol ($25 1/100 odds) but since the other wins are all combos you actually have more than 12 chances to win, not that it matters, the odds are still crap. Of course I'm likely the only nerd to ever even visit the odds page.

I really wanted this card to incorporate a true game element so that winning didn't feel completely dependent on chance. I expect that, like with slot machines, the law dictates that lottery games be completely chance based but I'd like to see some effort at masking this reality. When I worked on slot machines we employed a whole mess of smoke and mirrors to make it feel like the player was influencing the outcome of the game when in reality the math decided their winnings ages ago. I admit that this is much easier to accomplish when you have a visual display, a computer and the promise that all of your customers will be swimming in free booze but I'd still like to see the lottery try a little harder to fool me. If anyone knows of a well designed scratch off send the name my way -- I'm committed to reviewing roughly $35 worth of these so if some are more promising then others I'd rather at least throw my money away on creativity.

2 comments: said...

BRIANNA! BAHAHAHA...gasp, SWEETIE, you gotta relax, honey!

amy said...

i like the bingo cards (I think they're $5) or even just the old fashioned $1 cards- get five of them and then if you make any profit- reinvest half.