Nothing turns an otherwise educated and logical human being into a drooling moron faster than a lottery ticket. The recent Mega Millions jackpot, which reached $640,000,000 before finally being hit, featured 1:179,000,000 odds of winning, which did not stop everybody in the universe from scrambling to buy as many tickets as possible because HEY YA NEVA KNOW DURR HURR HURR.
Well, yes. We do know. We can say, with 99.999999999999% certainty, that we know you will lose. And, as the stories below showcase, even when you think you win, there’s a good chance you’ll have it yanked away almost immediately. They often won’t even leave you enough money for a box of tissues to cry into, or a copy of the latest Adele album to cry along to.
10. Hundred Sounds Like Billion In Danish-Speak
This one is a very recent affirmation that, no matter what, virtually nobody will just up and win obscene gobs of money. Three hundred Danish people were all notified that they were winners of the state lottery, and were being promised anywhere from 1 to 280 billion krones, or 200 million to 50 billion dollars in real money. That’s pretty astronomical, right?
Well, as it turns out, it was also a “human error”. The workers in charge of sending letters out to the winners somehow managed to erase the real prizes and replace them with ridiculous, yet completely made-up, amounts of money.
The real prizes? 200-400 krones apiece. That comes to roughly 50 bucks. To be fair, that’s totally retirement money, if you plan on retiring and then stumbling into an active volcano the very next day.
9. Typing Correct Numbers Is Hard
Unbelievable as it may be, some people still read newspapers. One such couple learned the hard way why their favorite medium will likely be extinct by 2020. Back in the summer of 2011, they woke up to find that the numbers reported in their local paper matched their ticket exactly. They had just won 4 million dollars!
They were also just about to get their dreams brutally crushed! As it turned out, the numbers were wrong. They had matched the numbers with ANOTHER game’s drawing from the day before. A game which, naturally, they did not play. That’s like showing up the day after the Super Bowl, going to a nearby High School football field, and being amazed at the awesome front-row seats you just scored for the Big Game.
8. More People Go With Visa. Just Not YOU
Not every lottery promises bajillions of dollars. Every year, the US Government randomly draws 50,000 or so names from a list of over 15 million applicants, and those people are awarded immigrant visas, allowing them to live and work in the United States totally legally. Good for them, because the normal process involves hundreds of dollars in fees, dozens of inscrutable documents to fill out, and sitting on uncomfortable chairs at the consulate for ungodly amounts of time with nothing to do until they call you up to fill out MORE documents and pay MORE money to continue the unending circle of bureaucracy.
Hope you like uncomfortable chairs, Mr. Immigrant! Last year, the results of the Visa Lottery were invalidated, as a computer glitch ended up selecting approximately 90% of the winners from the first two days of applications (the window to apply is roughly a month). The government declared the results unfair, because if there’s one thing the government is known for, it’s fairness. Nevertheless, the original drawing was declared invalid and had to be re-drawn. Welcome to America…now GET THE F OUT.
7. This is Why You Don’t Trust Mini-Marts With Anything
A group of Brasilians pooled their money together and were astounded to find they had won the big jackpot; 230 million Real. Not real money, Real. That’s what Brasilians call their money. Real. But for the sake of preserving a running gag, the jackpot translates to 30 million in REALLY REAL money.
In Brasil, any store that sells a lottery ticket must register the numbers with the national lottery computer system. And, of course, the store in question did not do that. Unregistered tickets are considered null and void, so no money for anybody. This makes total sense; if players aren’t willing to send large, angry goons to hang around the store as an “insurance” that things are being done properly, then they probably don’t deserve total financial freedom after all.
6. Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Watch Cowboys
Occasionally, the lottery will hold a second-chance drawing, where players can mail in their losing tickets for a chance to win something cool. In this case, Delvin Delamar thought he had won a day with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (Draft Day, no less), AND Cowboys season tickets. Never mind that these were tickets for the 2011 season where the ‘Boys stumbled to a thrilling 8-8 record, and not the early-90s, when they were awesome and regularly won Super Bowls. Free season tickets are always a good deal.
Except when you don’t actually win them. Despite a letter on official Lottery letterhead that said he won, it turns out it was a mistake. When the monkeys in the office were typing up congratulatory letters, someone did a careless copy-and-paste job that sent the YOU WON SEASON TICKETS text from the actual winner’s letter to Delamar’s letter. But the tickets were never intended for him; just the Draft Day hangout. And presumably, access to any and all booze that Jerry Jones had ordered for the night.
To be fair, the Lottery owned up to their error. Kind of. “I hope [Delamar] understands that people do make mistakes, and we stepped up to the plate when we made ours. We do pride ourselves on the integrity and security of our games and what we do here.” In other words, they’re super sorry about being a bunch of Mr. Bungles. They still won’t give Delamar any tickets, but please know they feel just awful about this.
5. Don’t Judge A Million-Dollar Winner By Its Cover
Thomas Noftall was scratching tickets on New Year’s Eve, presumably because nobody wanted to drink with him. But it all became worth it when one of his tickets revealed a $135,000 jackpot. Clear as day, right? Match the fruit/numbers/whatever, win money. No way reality could screw with this one, right?
Why, of course it could. And in the cheapest way possible; the Ontario Lottery Commission claimed that the tickets were “misprinted”, and that the symbols shown did not align with the actual symbols printed underneath, the ones that the computers actually recognize. The ones that the players cannot see, naturally. So even though the lottery dropped the ball here and sent out faulty tickets, no money was rewarded. Because they’re a big company, so you need to be punished for their mistakes.
Unlike all these other stories though, Mr. Noftall didn’t just stew in his own God-awful luck. He raised enough of a stink that the OLC agreed to pay him an undisclosed amount of money, as long as he would admit his ticket was not a winner. Because they’re a big company, and mysteriously paying out a bit of dough is OK as long as they get to be right.
4. “I Defeated Bowzer! Yes! Yes! Yes!” “No, You’re Just Reading The Strategy Guide, You Dink”
Part of the problem a lot of our subjects have is that they believe what they read on the news or in the paper. The only true blue, 100% way to verify that your ticket is correct is to bring it to the lottery commission itself. A man and woman in Rhode Island did just that, taking their winning tickets straight to the authoritative source, where nobody could possibly deflate their dreams with faulty reporting or incorrect writing.
Deflate the commission did, after it was gently pointed out to the “winners” that they did not, in fact, possess winning tickets. They didn’t have tickets, period! What they had was a complimentary printout of the winning numbers that anybody can get from their local store, which just happens to look exactly like a real ticket because the only joy workers get in the lottery industry in from screwing with players’ heads.
At least the woman realized and admitted her mistake; she had mixed up the printout with her actual, losing tickets. The guy, however, was far more insistent that yes DAMMIT, it was a real ticket. He had purchased it and everything, and he wanted his damned money. For his troubles, he was arrested, charged with fraud and, if he was convicted, faced up to ten years in prison. Chutzpah is all well and good but, sometimes, it’s better to just accept your utter failure in life and move on.
3. Rich Uncle Moneybags
Some scratch tickets don’t bother with straight-up number matching. Some ask you to find certain symbols which correspond to jackpots. Stephen McGuire thought he had done just that, after he scratched off a dollar sign and found $100,000 dollars. Time to jump for joy, call the relatives, and then run to the commission and claim your prize, right?
See, here’s the problem with a lot of lottery players, particularly scratch ticket players. They’re so focused on the big numbers at the bottom, they completely forget to read the text at the top. Y’know, the instructions? If Mr. McGuire had read them, he would’ve realized that a stand-alone dollar sign means…ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The only picture that mattered was a bag of money, which he had also scratched off. So he w0n THAT prize: ten bucks. Break out the party hats.
Amazingly enough, not one of the people he showed the ticket to bothered to read the instructions; they were all too excited over seeing that damn big number at the bottom. As one guy put it, “I looked at it and saw a dollar sign and saw a dollar sign in the bag. I took it as if you see a dollar sign you get a bag of money.” Yes, because that’s how the lottery works. They give you a big ol’ bag with “$” on it, and just fill it with money. No way could that ever attract trouble.
2. …And Change The Combination On My Luggage!
Number combos like 1-2-3-4-5 are incredibly popular, even though you’re not supposed to play them. They’re too obvious, the consecutive order makes them almost impossible to be randomly drawn, and even if they DO get drawn, countless players choose those numbers every day, so you’d be sharing your fortune with an entire stadium full of “winners.”
This did not stop one New Jersey woman from leaping for joy when she found her Mega Millions ticket correctly matched 1-2-3-4-5 with the winning draw. Her MegaBall choice of six was wrong, but the second-place prize of $250,000 was certainly nothing to sneeze at.
The stomach-punch here isn’t because several thousand other unoriginal sheep played 1-2-3-4-5 and whittled her share down to nothing. Nope, it’s just that the news station that reported the winning numbers got them wrong. Twice. In one broadcast. Great Quality Control there, guys.
The mistake was so blatant and, let’s face it, stupid, that the woman felt the need to sue the news station for false advertising. Her lawsuit, by the way, describes the act of showing wrong digits more than once as “atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” and that the station went “beyond all possible bounds of decency”. Somehow, it’s not at all shocking that somebody who considers playing 1-2-3-4-5 a great and unique strategy, views the lottery as life-and-death melodrama.
1. A Week Late, A Million Dollars Short
November 19th was the greatest day of Bernard McHugh’s life. After 77 years of largely pointless breathing, he had struck gold with a winning lottery ticket. There were four unclaimed prizes out there, and it appeared that Bernard was one of them. All he had to do was sign the ticket and mail it to the lottery, and one million British pounds would be coming his way.
McHugh’s ticket was indeed for the 19th. However, as it turns out, his “winning” numbers were drawn a week before, and those numbers were tied to the unclaimed money. Not his. In short, Week 1 has a drawing with a bunch of winners. This guy plays Week 1’s numbers in Week 2, gets confused, and believes he won Week 2, even though Week 2’s winning numbers were totally different from both Week 1’s and McHugh’s numbers, which were the same thing only a week apart. Cross-eyed yet? Just remind yourself this poor old man is still poor and old and it’ll all make sense.