How To Plunder The Lottery

by Zoe Pollock

Jonah Lehrer reports on Mohan Srivastava, the man who cracked the code on scratch lottery tickets:

“The lottery corporations all insist that their games are safe because they are vetted by outside companies,” Srivastava says. “Well, they had an outside auditor approve the tic-tac-toe game. They said it couldn’t be broken. But it could.” Fundamentally, he believes that creating impregnable tickets is extremely difficult, if not impossible. “There is nothing random about the lottery,” he says. “In reality, everything about the game has been carefully designed to control payouts and entice the consumer.” Of course, these elaborate design elements mean that the ticket can be undesigned, that the algorithm can be reverse-engineered. The veneer of chance can be peeled away.

The best part is Srivastava did the math and realized he could make more money consulting than gaming the system.