The Lottery, Hiring Gamblers and Games of Chance
April 2, 2015 11:52 AM   Subscribe

I've noticed, in the last few months, a new disclaimer added to the old disclaimer at end of commercials for the lottery. The old disclaimer says for entertainment purposes only. The new disclaimer says something like the lottery is not to be used for investment purposes. That made me wonder if people ever hire professional gamblers to play and win on their behalf. Does that happen, and if it does, how would it work?
posted by CollectiveMind to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My fiancee's family owns a convenience store in a town with few...strike that, no prospects. Something like a solid 70% of their sales are lottery based, almost exclusively the elderly and folks who live below the poverty level, often spending what I consider to be large sums of money. Interestingly it's almost never the large jackpots, usually scratch-offs. Any of the folks who talk to the staff discuss how they absolutely know they're going to win big any day and will be able to retire/buy that car/move/whatever. I SUSPECT this is what your disclaimer is speaking to, and it's also a shitty, over-the-heads-of-the-intended-targets way to give a disclaimer that will absolutely be ignored.
posted by TomMelee at 12:07 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

It definitely happens in professional poker. Here's one article. Googling "poker players investors" turns up a bunch more, including sites for players looking for investors (and investors looking for players).
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 12:07 PM on April 2, 2015

This is from way back in history: How Voltaire Made a Fortune Rigging the Lottery, which is maybe a little different, but pretty clever.
posted by epersonae at 12:08 PM on April 2, 2015

When the lottery gets up to really, really big amounts, it can sometimes be profitable for a group of investors to buy up pretty much all of the possible combinations and be guaranteed that at least one of the tickets will be a big winner.
posted by Gosha_Dog at 12:09 PM on April 2, 2015

It's called bankrolling. It's a terrible idea and can lead to a lot of sketchy behaviors on all fronts, but pretty prevalent in sports betting. Casinos will also bankroll gamblers, giving them more and more money to keep them gambling - which really is an investment that pays off for them almost always.
posted by banannafish at 12:09 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's a little more complicated than just buying up numbers when the jackpot gets high enough. For the big games (powerball, mega millions, etc.), it's not a profitable strategy.

But there are some smaller state games that can (and have been) exploited due to quirky roll-over jackpots and distributions of certain prizes.
posted by paulcole at 12:14 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

There are also various stories of people discovering biases in the lottery that give them an above average chance of winning. A story about MIT students doing this. The article that mentions them getting investors is here. Another story about a professor who discovered a flaw in the lottery, suggests that the mob may use this as a money-laundering strategy.

Of course, these individuals were outliers who found a flaw in the system. "Investing" in the lottery is not generally going to work out so well.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 12:16 PM on April 2, 2015

You can also just flat-out invest in the lottery. This happened once in Virginia (they also ended up winning). These are exploiting a flaw in the system as matildatakesovertheworld mentions, but that doesn't mean the flaws don't exist.
posted by saeculorum at 1:39 PM on April 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Happened here along lines that paulcole mentioned. They changed the rules to stop it, but folklore has it that the players did well.
posted by GeeEmm at 2:15 PM on April 2, 2015

Just to be clear: Nobody has ever hired a professional gambler to play the lottery on their behalf. There is no skill advantage possible at the lottery. What people have done is bought massive amounts of tickets when the odds of winning was worth the price of millions of tickets. This is due to lottery designer error. Basically the lottery is saying, with that disclaimer: if you take advantage of our mistake, we will refuse to pay you anyway, so don't try.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:06 PM on April 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Guys, stop. You can't beat a lottery. You can't "make it profitable" in a reliable, repeatable way. No such state exists. If it did, then every investor everywhere would invest all the money in the world, every single time.

What you see here in these attempts to buy up massive amounts of tickets is merely managing upside and downside risk to a point where it's palatable to risk your stake. You could still lose. This is not "profitable" behavior over time. It's ... just ... gambling.

It's like betting on every horse in the race, which guarantees a win, and occasionally a big one, but over time, you're empty.

On the other hand, staking a poker player, which is partially a game of skill, can be profitable over the long term, given a steady stream of opposing players.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:46 PM on April 2, 2015

Response by poster: I misspoke. What I meant to ask was, in other areas of gambling, like keno, blackjack, poker, roulette, etc, do people ever hire professional gamblers to play THOSE games for them? The Lottery in a backhanded way, tells people the lottery isn't to be used for investment purposes. But do people ever invest in a gambler to gamble to win on their behalf?
posted by CollectiveMind at 6:56 PM on April 2, 2015

In poker, yes. Horse racing and sports betting, too. But games of pure chance where there is a house edge built right in? No.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:12 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

There is a whole murky world of stakers and horses in professional poker. In tournament poker, I'd guess close to half of the field is at least partially bankrolled by backers.
posted by Lame_username at 7:47 PM on April 2, 2015

A friend of mine was on a card-counting blackjack team that would go into casinos with a bankroll provided by investors. This kind of team play has since mostly been foiled by automatic shufflers and facial recognition software.
posted by drapatz at 9:49 PM on April 2, 2015

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