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Lotto fever tempered by reality of the odds
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When the California Lottery first came out, I was one who would regularly buy tickets. The get-rich possibilities drove me to the store.

I quickly grew disillusioned that I was not even going to win, even in a small way.

I've only known one person who ever won the Lotto and that was my late grandfather. I remember his excitement in having to drive to Stockton to pick up his $3,000-plus payment.

My mother called me last week to ask if I bought my tickets, seeing how the Mega Millions Jackpot was at $640 million.

I scoffed at the notion. You see, I can't get past the horrible odds of winning. My chance of winning - yours too - would have been one in 176 million.

The same people who scoff at the reality of those slims odds somehow don't want to pay attention to more sobering odds. The odds that you will die from an asteroid impact, for example, is 1 in 700,000. That's much much better odds of happening, yet that's likely not going to happen. Nobody I know goes around secretly wishing to be clobbered by a floating heavenly body but they place a lot of hope in striking it rich in a lottery where the odds are horrifically small.

If you think about such astronomical odds, it's almost depressing to think any one of us would ever have a chance of winning - a fighting chance, anyway. Millions set themselves up for the big let-down.

It would probably be just like covering the state of Texas with white ping pong balls, planting one red one in the sea and finding it while blind folded. Get the picture? Ain't happening folks.

Even more depressing to know that someone from some major population center will normally win. That leaves Ceres out cold.

It's also rather disconcerting to know the better odds of things happening are the bad things. For example, check out these odds of death based on category. The odds of an American dying from heart disease is 1-in-5; due to cancer, 1:5; by stroke, 1:23; by accidental injury, 1:36; in a car crash, 1:100; by suicide 1:121; by falling down, 1:246; and by firearm assault, 1:325; by an air travel accident, 1:20,000; and dying in an earthquake, 1:131,890.

Even the weird deaths - such as the one in 615,488 odds of dying in a fireworks accident - are much better than the 1:176 million odds of winning a big lottery.

Honestly, winning it big might be a good problem to have in that you'd have to develop ways to spending that obscene amount of money. But I also see a huge life-changing issue with keeping friends and family who would expect a large windfall from you and becoming an enemy if you didn't share your newfound wealth in the ways they expected.

I don't discount the hope that $10 worth of lotto tickets could give someone. That kind of hope may be worth the price of throwing money down a rat hole. But far too many people pin their hopes on such odds instead of doing practical things that would make them rich. You'd have better odds of making money flipping houses and probably feel better about yourself.

That's where Americans should put their effort, not a false sense of hope in lotto windfalls. Just remember the odds, that's all I'm saying.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at