The Secret Flaw With Scratch-Off Lottery Tickets

What would you do if you discovered a secret flaw in scratch-off lottery tickets that allowed you to determine in advance whether or not a ticket was a winner? A geological statistician in Canada named Mohan Srivastava was just that guy.

Srivastava had been hooked by a different sort of lure—that spooky voice, whispering to him about a flaw in the game. At first, he tried to brush it aside. “Like everyone else, I assumed that the lottery was unbreakable,” he says. “There’s no way there could be a flaw, and there’s no way I just happened to discover the flaw on my walk home.”

And yet, his inner voice refused to pipe down. “I remember telling myself that the Ontario Lottery is a multibillion-dollar-a- year business,” he says. “They must know what they’re doing, right?”

That night, however, he realized that the voice was right: The tic-tac-toe lottery was seriously flawed.

I’ll spoil the surprise for you. Srivastava reckoned that if he spent all day traveling from store to store and spent 45 seconds cracking each card, he could make $600 a day in winnings. Instead, he contacted the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and told them about his discovery, in hopes that they’d hire him to give them statistical advice.

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