John Franklin bought a lottery ticket. He wished he could hit the jackpot on the Saturday night after Thanksgiving.
He knew he might win three hundred million dollars with a single two-dollar ticket. Would John double his chances to win if he bought two tickets? No.
A quick look at odds shows he would have one chance in three hundred million to win. If he bought two, it’s two in three hundred million to win the Powerball or Mega Millions. Pretty small odds. What if he bought a hundred and fifty million tickets? Then his odds are two to one that he would win. That’s about the same thing as flipping a penny and betting everything on that single flip of the coin. Would you do that with your hundred and fifty million dollars? If you had that much money, would you need to?
Look at the penny. If you bet five dollars on a flip and you lost. What are your chances that the next time, if you call the same side, that you will win? It’s still fifty-fifty. Yes, over an infinite number of flips, it will be half heads and half tails. But nothing says it can not be heads seven times in a row. Happens all the time in Vegas on red and black on the roulette wheel. If you doubled your bet after each loss of $5, on the seventh bet, you are gambling $740 that you will win and only break even. What kind of odds is that?
Back to the lottery. Perhaps John is not dissuaded by the odds. So why? Maybe it’s fun for just a two-dollar ticket. The fun of saying, I have a horse in this race and WISH I could win. There are a lot of others running, but if you don’t have a horse, you certainly have zero chances to win.
John did pull off a miracle and win. He hit the big one. His Thanksgiving wishes come true. Would John’s life change? Would yours? You bet your life it would. John’s life did change, after living through what he thought was a heart attack that Saturday night. He and his family were ecstatic. John quit his job the next day. He could buy almost anything he wanted on credit. Merchants were more than happy to extend it based on confirmation of John’s win. New car for him, wife and grown kids. Trips, luxury, and money is no object. That’s the life, huh?
Let’s visit with John two years later. He is miserable. John says to a reporter, “It was great for a while to have all that money. But my wife and I had to get unlisted phone numbers to keep friends from calling and asking for money for a great investment, or for a worthy cause, or their dying relative that could be cured with a costly radical new drug or procedure. I gave money at first. You can’t imagine the anger when I finally said ‘No’ to them. It was terrible. Soon I had no friends. My kids hated me when I finally started saying ‘No’ to them as well. My new friends were shallow money-friends.”
John shook his bowed head he now held between his hands. “You can’t imagine the burden that comes with a ten million dollar mansion in Florida and the staff to keep it going. Rip-off property managers. The insurance, taxes, and salaries of everyone. My Yacht captain keeping my ship in ready to run condition month after month. Now triple that for my other two places around the states and the private jet plane to get there.”
John drew up a deep breath and exhaled as if he was glad to get it all off his chest. “My wife left me months ago and went back home to live with her parents in another state. Course she took half of what we had in the way of property and liquids left in the bank. Heck, she could afford the very best lawyer, and I ended up paying for him.”
He looked at the reporter and said with a hollow stare in dark eye sockets, “So you ask me what it’s like to win the lottery? Not all it’s cracked up to be. I’ll be broke soon, and the bills may keep coming out of nowhere. To get any peace at all, I need to sell everything I own for a fraction of the price, but I still can’t be happy.”
“Everything that meant anything is gone. The life I had that I thought was hard. I had friends, family, and good times. Never again will I have a Saturday afternoon cookout with beer, friends and a game on the portable TV.”
John drew one last huge cleansing breath and said, “Everything that ever brought me true joy is gone. Winning the lottery was not my dream wish come true. It was my worst nightmare.”