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The $100 Scratch-Off Lottery Project

How much could he win -- and donate to charity -- with 100 lottery tickets?

By Karen Datko Dec 1, 2009 11:46AM

This guest post comes from J. Money at Budgets are Sexy.


For anyone who missed it, I recently decided to embark on the $100 Scratch-Off Lottery Project. At first it was purely for entertainment, but after generating some buzz on Twitter I decided to donate all my winnings to charity -- specifically Project Hopeful.

Before I get into the results, though, I just want to reiterate that this was for entertainment purposes only. (Aka don't try this out at home, kiddies!) The $100 I spent to buy the lottery tickets came straight out of November's entertainment budget, and I was totally prepared to lose it. While I get a little loosey-goosey at times, all sane people know you're much better off donating money straight to charity than trying to increase your winnings via the lottery. Some just have to learn the hard way.


And now, the results

Well, my friends, the party has ended and I feel hung over. For all the buildup (and hope), the results really blew. I really thought I'd win a lot more than I did. And not because I was feeling extra lucky lately either (which I was) but because I usually win at least every other time when playing on a whim. Like an idiot, I was just hoping it would carry over into this little game of ours. Oops.


But with all adventures in life, there is always something you can take away from it. I'll be getting into that in a bit, but first I thought it would be fun to share some interesting stats from the project (I created a gallery of pictures too):

  • When placed end to end, the 100 tickets reached 400 inches long, or roughly 33 feet.
  • Stacked on top of each other it was about 2 inches thick (1 inch if smooshed).
  • The store clerk wrapped all the tickets in a white paper bag. I found this strange for some reason.
  • The odds of winning is on the back of the tickets: 1 in 4.21.
  • The REAL odds of me winning: 1 in 5 (20 winners, 80 losers -- bleh!)
  • It took me 1 1/2 hours to scratch them all off.
  • Then another five minutes to make sure I didn't miss any.
  • I did them all with my right pointer finger.
  • By the end I had a major headache, followed by weird finger sensations.
  • I was also frustrated, angry, grumpy, and overall just sad.

So, how much did I win? Just $38. It could have been worse, but it could have also been much better. On the plus side, we generated a lot of money to go out to Project Hopeful


Here's how it all breaks down -- winning tickets and generous matches:

  • $1 winners: 12.
  • $2 winners: four.
  • $3 winners: two.
  • $6 winners: two.
  • My total winnings: $38.
  • Add in JerryB's match of $38.
  • Along with Sid's match of $20.
  • And Forest's match of $38.
  • With Michele's match of $38.
  • And RainyDaySaver's of $25.
  • And finally Brad's of $25.

We came up with a grand total of $222 in donations. Not too shabby for a random experiment, eh? I'm still reeling a bit from not hitting at least ONE winning ticket of more than 20 bucks, but I suppose it just wasn't my time.


Takeaway thoughts

When all was said and done, I came away much more enlightened. I wasn't the happiest person to be around when finished, but I did learn from this.


Here is what I wrote minutes after the last ticket was scratched (I wanted to get my feelings down while they were fresh):

  • Sometimes it's more exciting thinking about things than doing them. The idea of all those lottery tickets was awesome! Going to the store and buying them was awesome! The thinking about "what if," the buzz around it, the whole thing was awesome -- right up until the point of scratch time. That's when things started sucking.
  • Gambling brings out the emotions in you. As soon as I began scratching them off I started getting super competitive. And then mad, and then happy, and then sad, and then nervous, and then happy, and then ticked, and then lucky, and then totally embarrassed. Playing the lottery every now and then is one thing, but playing 100 times in a row is a totally different experience. You know the odds are greatly stacked against you, but it still doesn't make you feel any better when you lose 15 or 20 in a row. In fact, it seemed I only won in a row, or lost in a row (with the losing spurts being much longer). Truth be told, it was an emotional roller coaster.
  • Giving back is contagious. I was really happy knowing Project Hopeful would be getting all my winnings, but even more so after some of you decided to play along. While I wish I could have won a lot more for them, it really does go to show what a wonderful community we have here. As soon as one person decided to match, four others hopped right on board and that really touched me quite a bit. Before even scratching we had the opportunity to triple our winnings.
  • There really can be too much of a good thing. The first 30 to 40 tickets flew by like crazy and I enjoyed every last second of it. But the more I went along from that point, the less fun I started to have, and the more chore-like it became. Maybe it would have been better had I hit it big, but I think that's really the exception to the rule. That doesn't mean all the buzz and excitement leading up to it wasn't great -- it was the best part -- but the act itself wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

In summary

We didn't hit the jackpot, friends, but I'd still call the $100 Scratch-Off Project a success. We learned a little, struggled a little, were entertained a lot, and all in all had a great time experimenting. As Mighty Bargain Hunter pointed out recently, the mathematical odds were heavily against me from the start (the more tickets you buy, the more likely you are to come close to the odds that are set forth in the game, which are horrible.)


You won't see me doing this again anytime soon, but I'm glad I can now check it off the list. And what's even better, we donated more than $200 to charity. Not too bad for a crazy experiment.


Related reading at Budgets are Sexy:

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