Tuesday, March 6, 2007

And I Would Buy a Polar Bear Cub

I’ve never played the lotto before. I’m the type of guy who sees the value in the money he has earned and looks too sensibly upon a game of pure chance to waste it. That is why I only gamble on games at which I can have an advantage. When my friends Scott, Len and I went down to New Orleans to save the world, on our off time we frequented the casino. Rebuilding a entire community’s faith in God and humanity was toilsome work and what better way to relax than with 8 strangers sitting around a oval table in an chilled, impossibly well-lit room taking each other’s money until the early hours of the morning while moderately unattractive waitresses brought you free drinks? None. So that’s what we did.

The games were long and for the most part we broke even or lost very little, likely because we cheated. (This is where the “advantage” comes in.) Plus we each drank between seven and ten free scotches a piece, which only added to our winnings. We also made a ton of friends who, if you asked them today, would say that we were loud and obnoxious and they hated us for the insulting nicknames we called them to their faces, but that’s just how we got along.

Prior to all that, about three years ago when I realized that there was almost no point in “trying” at work, I came to the stark realization that at my office I had one true friend, and that was boredom. And I hated her. (“Her” because I imagine boredom being really bitchy, like the type of girl who would send back a glass of water because it was too cold, then blame it on you because “you should have known that the ice would do that.”)

I tried all sorts of things to distract myself from boredom, but there are only so many crossword puzzles you can do and emails you can send. So then I turned to online stock trading. And let me tell you, if you’re thinking of becoming a gambling addict and you don’t have an online brokerage account, you are missing out! You just pick a stock, buy it and then keep on hitting refresh and watch how much money it makes you. It’s like one long horse race only you are listening to iTunes at your desk and not sitting next to old men at the OTB who smell like gravy.

Yes, in a world where so little is guaranteed, I had managed to throw so much away in the pursuit of adrenaline and the big score. And then came Mega Millions.

$370,000,000. So many zeroes you have to count while you write it. “Thirty-seven, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2 . . .” A lump-sum payout of roughly half would land you a staggering $185,000,000. You could never invest a dime and spend $3,000,000 a year without running out before dying of excitement. The prospect is mesmerizing. I can’t even go into what I would do with it all because before I know it my imagination has transported me to a place from which I can’t escape and I am riding through a 10,000 square foot New York penthouse on the back of my genetically produced unicorn. Then it all comes crashing down as I realize, once again, how it won’t happen.

An article on the Mega Millions jackpot quoted Barrie Green, one hopelessly addicted gambler from Oakland, as saying, "I realize I don't have a chance, but nobody's got a chance. So the way I look at it, I have a 50-50 chance – either I win it or someone else wins it." Barrie, who has as much trouble with spelling as he does with math, couldn’t be more wrong.

The chance of winning is 1 in 175,711,536. With the population of all the participating states combined totaling a mere 157,857,237, every single person (including little gambling addicted babies) could buy a ticket and still no one could win. And while the Mega Millions site itself will show you that there is truth to the notion that certain number combinations would fare better than others (in the past 177 drawings, the number 19 has come up six times while the number 36 has come up twenty-four times) I still have to believe that the only way to win is to be lucky – to be divined upon with a fortunate sequence of relative’s birthdays, anniversaries and high school football jersey numbers. There’s no advantage in the lotto besides believing that you have an advantage.

Still, I think this one will be too big for me to pass it up. I’ve put together some numbers that feel good, and if all goes well I won’t be at work tomorrow. Not because I quit, but because I bought the firm and fired myself so I could accept a lucrative severance package. And this site will get a hell of a professional redesign, and some professional writers and some paid readers, I’ll ride off into the sunset on my unicorn, never to be bored again.