Inside The Numbers. Which is Better: Computer or Pick Your Own?

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The Wisconsin Lottery says more than $8 billion dollars in revenue has come through the state since the start of the lottery in 1988. But which method of picking makes more sense? Computer? Or Human?

Of course, the odds are not always the greatest. We'll put the $200 million Powerball drawings that pull in the attention aside for a moment to dissect the more common games.

Let's examine the Badger 5. Five numbers between 1 and 31. Last Wednesday, a winning ticket, sold in Madison, was good for $81,000. The next day, the prize went back to $10,000. And the odds to win? More than 169,000 to 1.

"It's such a small chance of winning anyways," Dr. Carl Schoen, professor of mathematics at UW-Eau Claire, said. Numbers are his life so we had to ask, computer or pick your own? "Do the computer."

From theory to an actual big winner.

Patrick Blodgett of Altoona let the computer pick what turned out to be a $200,000 ticket in a Powerball drawing at the end of last year. Blodgett didn't pick his own numbers and credits his winning to being in the right place, at the right time, for the right ticket.

"I was on my way home and I stopped in," Blodgett said. "The lady ahead of me bought one and I bought the next one for $3."

Not a bad return for Blodgett, who says he buys about $50 worth of lottery tickets a year.

While both a math professor, as well as a player that won a life-changing prize, insist on picking the computer, Dr. Schoen says that if you pick your own numbers, there are some to consider avoiding.

"The more common numbers, 13, 17, 21, may increase the odds that if you do win, you'll split the prize."

The lottery website says that 56% of revenue is paid out in prizes but Dr. Schoen says that once you factor in taxes...

"It's about 29%. You're better off in a casino, playing blackjack or roulette."


15-16-26-35-42 Powerball: 37


Badger 5: