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Posted: Tuesday, Apr 09,2019 | Time: 11:42 am | Edited by: The Lottery Lab Staff

We have all opened a fortune cookie to discover a series of six “lucky” numbers on the back of the paper. Believe it or not, those numbers may actually help you win. There is a report published by FiveThirtyEight which calculates the amount of money a person could have won if they’d played the numbers offered by the fortune cookies in Powerball over the last 20 years. You’d be shocked to discover that the difference from randomly selected numbers amounts to \$2.7 million in favor of fortune cookies!

To be precise, if a player had used numbers offered by fortune cookies, they could have had a net profit of about \$172,101 after the cost of purchasing tickets.  That’s enough to cover the expenses of three years of schooling at Harvard University.

The first question that the researchers had to answer was: How many fortunes does the cookie manufacturer actually distribute.  To conduct this analysis, FiveThirtyEight bought 1,035 fortune cookies from an internet wholesaler and started “crunching” the numbers. Out of the1035 cookies, they found 635  unique fortunes (the rest were duplicates). After eliminating the duplicative fortunes, they compared the first letter of every fortune to the average distribution of the first letters in English sentences, finding that the fortunes covered around 54% of that distribution. That percentage indicated that the cookie maker distributes somewhere around 1,200 to 1,600 unique fortunes.  This helped the researchers create a “decent sample.”

Out of the 1035 original cookies, 556 of them had unique combinations of the six number series. That is, in some cases cookies with different fortunes had the same “lucky” numbers.  Since Powerball is a 6-ball lottery, the researchers assumed that the predictions were specific to that game. After comparing the past results of the Powerball lottery, researchers found that they would have won a total of \$4.4 million using these number. To do that, you would have to buy \$4.2 million worth of lottery tickets.  When you subtract this (and  the cost of the fortune cookies) from the winnings, researchers had a total profit of \$172,101.

This sounds exciting but this is just a fun calculation from a “decent sample”.  There is no guarantee that the results are repeatable.  Plus for an investment that is literally a gamble, the rate of return is only 4.1%.  Risking \$4.2 million to gain \$170,000 doesn’t seem like the safest way to spend your money. Moreover, there is one more issue.

To what extent are the numbers printed on the fortune cookie slips random?  Is it possible that those numbers were put on the slips AFTER the lottery results were drawn? Of course, fortune cookies don’t have a date printed on them so it is impossible to know whether the numbers printed on the slips are actually predictions or just the results of the lottery. There is a chance that those numbers could have been added in response to past games. That would mean that there is no point in playing the same set of numbers that made someone else a winner. Any single set of numbers in Powerball has a chance of being drawn once every 2,809,628 years and we’re sure you can’t wait that long!

So, bet on the Powerball conservatively.  Use tools like the hot-cold picks or other available advanced tools on The Lottery Lab to make your own predictions rather than counting on fortune cookies or fortune tellers. Enjoy the lottery and always be ready to win!