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November 27, 2012

BEAM: When luck wasn’t a lady last night

I didn’t win Powerball last weekend, just like most of the people who played. Of course, the odds of hitting the correct numbers to take home the jackpot are 1 in 175,223,510, so I shouldn’t have expected to score the big pay day.

Neither should you. But when there’s even the most remote chance of winning $325 million, people tend to forget about facts and figures and take a gamble on Lady Luck.

Lady Luck must be a foul old gal. Either that or she’s mad at me for watching the roads all the time due to my bad driving. Like some Walmart workers, she must be on strike.

Here I am early Sunday bouncing around the room like a kid on Christmas morning only to discover that Luck has left me a lump of numerical coal. Mind you now, she granted me one matching number; number 22, the first digit of the six needed to win. Nothing stings more than a momentary spot of one digit hope that’s suddenly crushed after hearing five additional irrelevant numbers, none of which the quick pick computer happened to print on your slip. That digital diva known as QP must have Thelma and Louised it with Lady Luck and destroyed my chances at the prize as well.

Perhaps that’s where I failed. Even though 70 to 80 percent of tickets purchased are selected as quick picks, I should have never trusted a computer. Look at HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Or even my ATM that keeps spitting out “insufficient funds” error messages when I need money to buy more lotto tickets. At times, technology just doesn’t seem to work.

I’ve given up on computers randomly choosing my fate. Humans created them after all. Our ingenuity trumps electronics almost every day, except maybe on the weekends when we’re too lazy to care.

So in the spirit of that individuality, I’m going to generate my own numbers. I’ll base them on kids’ birthdays and worthwhile anniversaries and the jersey numbers of my favorite Hoosier basketball players.

According to howtowinthelotteryblog.org, people really shouldn’t choose their numbers this way because it selects only the lower portion of the entire number spectrum. After all, there are 59 balls in the white drum and only 30-ish days in a month. Higher numbers need to be considered too.

In fact, selecting numbers in this manner actually gives you a greater chance of sharing your winnings with some potato farmer in Idaho or a retiree in Florida. Same with using consecutive numbers, having all the numbers end in the same digit and opting for multiples of the same base number; they all produce significantly higher multiple winners. That said, I wouldn’t have too big of a problem taking half of $325 million, would you?

But wait a second. It wouldn’t actually be half. If you win it all and decide to take the cash option rather than the annuity payments, you cut your winnings in half. Reduce that sum by another half due to state and federal taxes.

Thus, if you win Wednesday’s projected highest ever Powerball jackpot of $425 million, you’d only receive around $106.25 million. That’s not too shabby. Think of it this way, actor and producer Tyler Perry earned $105 million last year alone. Your prize would top his yearly earnings, and you wouldn’t even have to wear a dress and a gray wig to do it.

Yet, who’s kidding who? Americans have a greater chance of being struck by lightning (576,000 to 1), becoming an astronaut (13,200,000 to 1) or dating a supermodel (18,000 to 1) than we do of winning the lottery.

Then how does that $2 ticket really sucker you in? Maybe because it gives us a chance to sit and relax and just dream about the “what ifs.” For me, I think of how we’d donate a soccer complex to Southern Indiana United and the ability to start a free youth basketball and theater programs for at-risk youth. Oh, and diamonds, lots of beautiful diamonds weighing down my witchlike fingers.

While our gut tells us not to play such foolishness, our mind sure has fun figuring out how we’d spend our spoils. Sometimes the chance to imagine a life without want is worth a couple bucks. And, to fall back on, there’s always that 1 in 175,223,510 chance that luck might finally be a lady Wednesday night.

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at hoosiermandyblog@gmail.com

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