It depends on what type of ticket the guy bought. If both people bought what
we call a "quick pick" where the machine assigns numbers for you, and they
bought the same number of tickets, then his position in line would have
affected his results. The machine doesn't know who is buying the tickets- it
prints out one ticket with random numbers, then it prints out another ticket
with random numbers. Whatever person got the second ticket got the winning
numbers. It could have just as easily been the opposite- where the ticket with
the winning numbers went to the person that cut in line ahead of him. If the
person had not cut in line in front of him, the winning ticket might have gone
to someone in line behind him.
The randomness is that before the winning numbers are drawn, both tickets have
the exact same odds of winning so it doesn't matter which ticket you receive.
And a person's position in line is a part of the randomness that plays into
this. If you drive to work one day and a rock hits your windshield you could
think "if only I had driven earlier, or later, or taken a different road...",
but if you had taken a different road you might have been hit by a truck. You
never know and you will never know because you can't take it back and do it a
different way to check for a different outcome.
The same with the decks of cards- the first deck of cards produces a certain
card, which goes to the first person in line. The second deck produces a
certain card, which goes to the next person in line. Each person has the same
odds of receiving a specific card as the other person. Or the card that each
person receives has the same odds of being the one drawn from a new deck by the
It is only after the numbers or cards are drawn that their significance might
> No April foolery stuff here, but scratch your head about this. . .
> The news media is making a big deal about the lottery winner who
> stepped out of line to get a candy bar and then someone stepped in
> liine ahead of him. The insinuation is that had the guy not cut in
> line, the candy bar guy would not have won. I believe this is a false
> concept mathematically because every play of the lottery is random. I
> believe that the media is leading people astray in the mathematical
> reasoning behind this situation. It does make for good stories about
> not cutting in line and being a good citizen, but I don't believe the
> math supports the media story.
> To me this is like stepping to the counter, a new deck of cards is
> opened, shuffled, and I get to pick a card. When the guy behind me
> has his turn, a new deck is opened, shuffled and a card given to him.
> There's no connection between my number and his. Or my place in line,
> or the day of the week or . . . anything. We just want to organize "random."
> My wife says I'm wrong. LOL What do you say?
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