If You Had The 'Secret' To Winning The Lottery, Would You Patent It?

from the economically-challenging-questions dept

Okay, so this story is bizarre enough by itself, but there's an odd twist at the end. A husband and wife who held four separate winning lottery tickets claims to have figured out a secret formula for winning the lottery. That seems highly unlikely, of course. There is no formula that can predict totally independent numbers. The four winning tickets all used the same numbers, so there's no proof that the couple did anything other than get lucky by having the same number they played four different times hit.

However, their lawyer is claiming that the couple is "exploring patent protection." Want to see a sign of how ridiculous the patent situation has become? If you had figured out the (non-existent) secret to winning the lottery, would you use it to (a) keep winning the lottery or (b) patent it? It's only in these bizarre times that a couple would even think that (b) would be the more profitable option. Of course, if there really were some secret to predicting independent numbers that the couple had figured out, wouldn't you think that any lottery commission would immediately change how their lottery worked the second that patent was published?


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  1.  
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    Nick Stamoulis, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 11:26am

    Wow.

    Just, wow.

    Only in America!

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 11:29am

    Makes sense!

    Option B makes perfect sense!
    That would mean they could sue any lottery winner for infringing on their patent. The person won the lottery, so that would be the proof, and they are now flush with cash and would want to settle out of court, no?

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 11:36am

    Patent it and allow it subject to review? Bah!

    Selling it as a late-night infomercial would be better.

     

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  4.  
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    Greg, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 11:36am

    Re: Makes sense!

    Agreed

     

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  5.  
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    Haywood, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 11:39am

    If you had won the lottery 4 times

    How greedy would you have to be to try to make more?
    Once even at the starter amount would keep a conservative person for the rest of their lives, with a fair amount to pass on to their heirs.

     

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  6.  
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    eleete, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 11:47am

    Great Demonstration

    It may be greed, however, it's a great demonstration of how one sided patents can be. There is a system in place that allows these people to possibly receive a patent to hoard money. Not much different than many others that are granted these days. Hopefully this is demonstrated through the courts to congress so they see the error of their ways. One thing is sure, the attorney is guaranteed make money. Looks like he hit the lottery too.

     

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  7.  
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    Evil Mike, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 11:55am

    Win the Lotto?

    Wanna know how to make thousands of dollars off of ignorant suckers? Just send me $29.99 plus $14.95 shipping and handling and I'll send you my fool-proof kit, with complete instructions today? (/sarcasm)

    Sound familiar? I know a scam when I smell one--and these people are full of it.

     

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  8.  
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    Michael Kohne, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 11:59am

    Ways to win...

    There are only 3 ways to win the lottery, none particularly good to patent:

    1) Get lucky. There's too much prior art to patent this one.

    2) Find, via analysis of public information, a flaw in the lottery's random number generation. Not good to patent because once you release details, THEY'LL FIX IT.

    3) Create, thought illegal tampering, a flaw in the the lottery's random number generation. Not good to patent because once you release details, THEY'LL ARREST YOU.

    So no, this won't go anywhere. And one more set of morons show their true colors in public.

    What else is new?

     

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  9.  
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    Ima Fish, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:01pm

    This is nothing but a scam. They'll sell their plan on how to win the lottery and claim that the process is "patent pending" to prove how valid it is. The ignorant masses have no idea that "patent pending" means absolutely nothing.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:01pm

    People look at the possibility of patent protection all the time, whether for something groundbreaking or incredibly trivial. This does not mean that an application will ever be prepared because many things are clearly outside the scope of patent law.

    In this case, and given the mathematical impossibility of accurately predicting random numbers, this couple will almost certainly be told that their "secret method" is not patentable because of its lack of "utility".

    BTW, the attorney mentioned in the article is not one familiar with IP law, otherwise his comment would never have been made.

     

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  11.  
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    UI, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:04pm

    Sad state of affairs

    Patents are like money – the more there are the less value they have. This kind of nonsense belittles any real advancements.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous of Course, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:12pm

    Maybe Yes, Maybe No

    It's difficult to generate random numbers.
    If I remember correctly the winner has been
    keeping a record of the numbers for about four
    years. Maybe he found a flaw in the process
    used to generate random numbers by the lottery
    folks? His wife said they bought a lot of tickets
    over the years so he's not claiming to be able
    to predict THE numbe. Only that he can improve
    his odds.

    If I was running a lottery I'd use one of the
    radioactive decay generators, or maybe the
    lava lamps www.lavarnd.org or perhaps a noisey
    diode. Nothing that depended on code.

    I'm betting it was dumb luck and some lawyer
    is trying to profit from the winner though
    a clever angle.

     

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  13.  
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    Fushta, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Great Demonstration

    One thing is sure, the attorney is guaranteed make money. Looks like he hit the lottery too.

    I was thinking the same thing. The couple is so rich now (supposedly) that the lawyer is cashing in on their stupidity. Unless, they patent the idea, then license it to other idiots.

    Remember, the lottery is a tax on the poor.

     

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  14.  
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    Mayor of Kentonville, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:20pm

    Crazy Talk

    So they are patenting the principle of being "lucky" sounds like a way for karma to take a second look.

     

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  15.  
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    Ryan, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    actually

    it's pretty smart. If they successfully get a patent on "randomly choosing numbers that match those drawn by the lottery" they can effectively sue every future winner.

     

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  16.  
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    AdamR, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    All they did was buy four tickets with the same numbers and each ticket paid 350k. Ok what's the big deal here?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:29pm

    What kind of a country is this?

    Sasquatch, lottery prediction, intelligent design!!

    It is really surprising that this country has so much scientific progress with so many stupid people around.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:30pm

    They "wheeled" a set of numbers, not rocket science

    Years ago I played the lottery using a wheeled set of numbers, playing many combinations of a smaller set of picks. This explains why they had 4 winning tickets in that lottery. They didn't have all of the winning numbers, but enough to get some decent prize money. This is prior art and not patentable. You can get lottery wheels online for free.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Maybe Yes, Maybe No

    those still depend on code. Also, they are still pseudo-random. many people state that there really is no such thing as a truely random.

    you can develop a method of generating a sufficiently random number with nearly any pseudo-random number generator. also then any flaws could be changed as easily as typing a single character differently.

     

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  20.  
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    jonnyq, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:46pm

    I've often referred to the love of patents as the "lottery mentality". By "lottery mentality", this is what I mean.

    Some people believe that the true method of success is to find a windfall for little work. People write songs on the hopes of writing the one song that sells millions. People patent products on the idea that a slightly novel addition to an existing idea should win them millions. People sue at the drop of the hat thinking that they really /deserve/ millions of dollars because they spill hot coffee on themselves, or because their children are exposed to a boob. People applaud the success of those who win on reality shows. I've even heard people refer to this as the "American dream". They think that winning the lottery, winning a game show, or getting rich off of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer /is/ the American dream.

    So, it comes as no surprise surprise to me that someone with the "lottery mentality" would try to patent a method for winning the lottery...

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous of Course, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Re: Maybe Yes, Maybe No

    I should not have lumped the lava lamps
    and radioactive decay device together.

    As I understand it the lava lamps are
    used to seed a pseudo random generator.
    Which does overcome a significant problem.

    The radioactive decay type random number
    generator generator that I'm familiar with
    does not seed a pseudo random generator.
    The time between clicks is a random number.

     

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  22.  
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    Emerson, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:53pm

    Re: Ways to win...

    I'm not sure about the state where you play the lottery, but in my state (and in multi-state Powerball) there is no random number generator. They use numbered balls, and they're floating around in a container with forced air jumbling the balls around. At the proper time, a ball-sized opening is opened, and one of the balls pops into the opening, totally at random.

    So that leaves pretty much #1.

     

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  23.  
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    Norm, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 12:55pm

    I know of a case not unlike this.

    A company in Maine which makes Water Cooled Loads (you would attach a transmitter to it where the antenna goes while working on transmitter) refused to patent the mathematical formula it used in building the unique device. There were some other companies who would blatantly copy their design, but still the company would not patent their product and thus reveal their formula.

     

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  24.  
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    Ashwin, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 1:02pm

    Nice arg

    What an astute argument! Kudos to this line of analysis.

     

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  25.  
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    Overcast, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 1:10pm

    Would be a dumb idea, if you did in fact patent it, and it really worked; which I can't see it really working...

    The states would change the lottery overnight, making any work you've done a big fat null.

     

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  26.  
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    Nasch, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Ways to win...

    There's another way, sort of a variation on 1 but better:

    4) Wait until expected returns (jackpot * odds of winning) are greater than the cost of a ticket. Preferably a lot higher. Then buy as many tickets as you can, like thousands. No guarantee of winning, but in the long run you'll come out ahead. 4a)When choosing numbers, choose round numbers like 10 and 25, because fewer people play those.

     

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  27.  
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    Stute, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 1:31pm

    Question...

    I wonder if their formula is too keep betting the same numbers and buy lots of tickets...

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 1:53pm

    Re: Re: Ways to win...

    The expected returns of lotteries rarely equal or become greater than the expected losses. That's lottery principle #1. It could potentially be possible in variable prize lotteries, like Powerball, but only when the jackpot is $150M+. Also, it doesn't matter if you choose round numbers. The odds of winning have nothing to do with what numbers everyone chooses. Although choosing "common" numbers may lead to prize sharing..I'd worry about winning the jackpot myself first before considering someone else winning with the same numbers.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Re: Great Demonstration

    Actually, the lottery is a tax on bad math.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 2:04pm

    Re:

    Exposed to a boob? You mean Clinton?

     

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  31.  
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    Thom, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 2:07pm

    for some

    the lottery may be a tax on bad math. For others the lottery is very cheap entertainment. Some people spend tens, hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on a a few moments to a few hours of entertainment. Others spend a couple dollars on powerball tickets every now and then and spend hours to days giddily dreaming of what they'd do with that money should they win. If the latter group understand the odds and get as much entertainment from their expenditure as the former then why is their choice any worse?

     

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  32.  
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    Paul Warnes, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 2:09pm

    The patent is so they can claim "Patent Pending" on their late night infomercial. Nothing says it works like I filled out an application.

     

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  33.  
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    mike, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 2:36pm

    clueless

    These are the kind of people to vote for Obama....

     

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  34.  
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    John Proffitt, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 2:45pm

    It's too late...

    I think someone already has a patent on "Stupidity." They'd best prepare to be sued.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 3:43pm

    Secret process for picking winning lottery numbers:

    1) Go to package store, buy PBR
    2) Get free entry form from local package store
    3) Drink PBR
    4) Circle numbers on form according to your birthday, anniversary date, and today's date.
    5) Pay $1 and enter form
    6) Drink PBR
    7) Realize that your lottery ticket cost you $3.99 and the humiliation of drinking PBR
    8) Hope that the numbers on this weeks lottery match your birthday, anniversary, or the date you drank PBR.
    9) Repeat until your birthday comes up in lottery numbers.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 3:45pm

    Re: Re: Great Demonstration

    "Remember, the lottery is a tax on the poor."

    No it isn't. It's a tax on the mathematically challenged.

     

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  37.  
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    The Mighty Buzzard, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 3:50pm

    Re: Re: Great Demonstration

    Remember, the lottery is a tax on the stupid.

    There, fixed that for you.

     

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  38.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 5:02pm

    The Macrovision Approach

    They could do a similar thing to what Macrovision did: not only patent their technique, but also get patents on all the ways they can think of to bypass that technique. Then when the lottery commission tries to change the way the numbers are drawn to defeat the number-predicting technique, they can sue.

     

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  39.  
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    Dan, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 6:50pm

    Re: If you had won the lottery 4 times

    Prize money gets split between all of the winning tickets. Just because they won four times doesn't mean they get more money.

     

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  40.  
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    Danny (profile), Aug 25th, 2008 @ 7:54pm

    mentalism

    Uri Geller is *this close* to applying for a patent on spoon bending.

     

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  41.  
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    AdamR, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 8:08pm

    To #39

    Not true games like Pick 4 or 5, pay out a flat amount. From time to time they limit the payout or lockout out certain numbers. In New York they limited 0911 after people went bought a ton of tickets with that combo on the anni.

     

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  42.  
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    Pseudonym, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 8:12pm

    Re: They

    That was my first thought, too.

    For those who are curious, "wheeling" is using combinatorial covering to play multiple tickets (or "lines" as they're apparently called in lottery-speak) in such a way that it probabilistically minimises your worst-case losses.

    Let's suppose, for sake of argument, that there are exactly 50 million possible combinations, and you decide you are going to buy exactly 50 million tickets. The optimal strategy is to buy 50 million distinct tickets, because then you would be guaranteed to win. The key point is that there is an optimal strategy (and in this case, it's unique); if maximising your chances if winning is what's important, all other strategies are worse.

    "Wheeling" works on the same idea, only with fewer tickets. You might, for example, buy enough tickets so that all pairs of numbers are covered by at least one ticket (hence the term "combinatorial cover"). This guarantees that no matter what numbers are drawn, you are guaranteed to have at least two correct.

    Note that wheeling is not a "way to win the lottery". Rather, it's a method for turning average-case behaviour into worst-case behaviour. You will never do worse than some bound that's limited only by the amount of money you're willing to spend. (Which is, of course, less than the amount of money you're likely to win, but such is life.)

    Incidentally, the problem of designing (or even counting) minimal combinatorial covers is an open mathematical problem. If they've solved it, they should write it up; there's a PhD in combinatorics with their names on it.

     

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  43.  
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    Dooley, Aug 25th, 2008 @ 10:12pm

    I liked comment #2

    Too true:
    Option B makes perfect sense!
    That would mean they could sue any lottery winner for infringing on their patent. The person won the lottery, so that would be the proof, and they are now flush with cash and would want to settle out of court, no?

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 3:18am

    Re: Re:

    If I got exposed to Clinton's boob, I would expect compensation too.

     

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  45.  
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    Xan, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 10:34am

    Here is an idea...

    I am going to patent "How to lose the lottery" then charge everyone in the world a royalty whenever they don't win anything. =D

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    Re:

    Ding, ftw!


    They got lucky (god knows how many tickets they bought. Presumably these were 4 independent, large-scale $million+ lotteries and not 4 tix for the same one when their numbers hit) and, when people jokingly kept saying, "What's your secret?" they decided to "invent" one and informertialbookize it.


    You'd be surprised what late-nite informertials get away with before they get stopped with a slap on the wrist (and usually altered and continued anyway.)


    I recall that long-haired muscle trainer blonde guy selling his own pasta maker, picking up a box of store-bought pasta and saying, "You don't know what's in this. Look! Niacin. Riboflavin. What is this stuff?!?!?"

     

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  47.  
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    james, Sep 3rd, 2008 @ 10:46pm

    rigged lottery games

    so your saying that the lottery is rigged?

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2008 @ 3:05pm

    your all assholes!!

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2008 @ 7:02am

    Re: If you had won the lottery 4 times

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2008 @ 7:03am

    Re: If you had won the lottery 4 times

     

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  51.  
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    Fidel Garcia, Jan 23rd, 2009 @ 12:43pm

    if you had the secret.....

    Why should i share the secret ?

     

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  52.  
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    Brandon, Feb 11th, 2009 @ 12:51pm

    Re: actually

    Not really, they couldn't. It would come down to language, and the word random isn't how I choose my numbers. I have a system of choosing numbers that have significance to me, not mere randomness, so that patent on "[randomly] choosing numbers that match those drawn by the lottery" would have no affect.

     

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  53.  
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    leslie, Mar 8th, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    leslie

    give numbers that you could win

     

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  54.  
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    kevin cookk, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 1:35pm

    auto mega power ball picker

    I have the system that is a guarantee with patent pending (the multi state lottery lawyer in georgia do not want to see or talk to me anymore about my method. they know it will change the odds of the mega and power ball games, which they would not be able to alter the games makeing my product useless. They know it makes those games more player friendly. I am trying to market it to all the lotto retailer at this time. Which could make lotto retailer win more of the jackpots and other profits from my product.How do I get a book deal or infomercial on this 100% guarantee product money back if it doesn't work no joke. Can an attorney or anyone in this field reply to my phone 562-260-0454 or email if can help me get this product to the players.9 because the lottery don't want it out i have the system. Please help me help the players.

     

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  55.  
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    Reggie, May 8th, 2009 @ 9:27am

    Re: rigged lottery games

    Think about This for a moment,before every draw there is enough time for the lotto people to run the computers to see what numbers HAVE NOT been played,(probably takes about less than a minute with there main computer)then they have different ball sets with powdered metal dust in them,and they pick the numbered balls that Don't have powder in them,and they turn on a magnet under the ball table that holds the balls down at the bottom of the ball machine,and the numbers that weren't picked go to the top(no powder in them)(watch one of the draws sometime you'll see most of the balls dance around toward the bottom of the machine)..I say all lottery games are fixed......

     

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  56.  
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    Richard Vanderhurst, May 9th, 2009 @ 12:01am

    It's cool.. winning in lotto for more than 4 times... I guess they're just lucky. :D

     

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  57.  
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    Alice, May 12th, 2009 @ 10:01pm

    lottery

    You fools only proven way to win lotteries is sheer luck there is no proven technique as some people think so i say to anyone who plays lottery games "Good Luck" may someday may you be lucky enough to win.

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 12th, 2009 @ 10:09pm

    Re: lottery

    Your right do you think if someone had a sure fire way to win the lottery that it would be patent DUH i don't think so becuse if it were patent they would never win a big lottery again becuse everyone would be winning and they would only get a very small amouunt.

     

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  59.  
    identicon
    Angel, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 10:03pm

    Re: Ways to win...

    fuuuuny!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60.  
    identicon
    Derek Hines, Jul 24th, 2011 @ 6:15pm

    Re: A Lottery System That Works!

    Hey I have found a system that actually works. There are things that are scams online but what I use is far from it.

     

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  61.  
    identicon
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    How to win lottery

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    lottery spell that help my life

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    identicon
    Miguel Florentino, Jul 30th, 2013 @ 6:10pm

    real tips

    I am Miguel Florentino from New Mexico do not follow the tips all the lottery winner tell you they use cause it a big lie, cause the secret is spiritual voodoo. I was introduced to this spiritual voodoo priest called Dr. Soula and i was told he can help win the lottery I never believe it cause the distance where he satay is very far, He is from Africa and i see no reason to believe that this really but my friend out of alot of debt i still have to do it so as to pay back and sort out bills. I contacted him and he assure me just three days i but a ticket from a shop and played after he has cast a spell on the number i sent him. I was in my house when i was watching the result and my name was among winners i have been doing this for years and i never won but Dr. Soula prove it to me the voodoo works. I won $30,000 but the problem i have was that you can only use the spell once if not i would have order another spell to play for millions. This is the secret to success do not be deceive by online tips drsoula_b@live.com is the only answer you need

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  64.  
    identicon
    park, Aug 9th, 2013 @ 9:09pm

    SECRET RO WIN LOTTERY IS HERE

    I am Jane Park i do not think this is right or a good place for me to say this for sure i need to say it cause i made my promise that i will make this temple known once i win. I played the euromiliion lottery after i a get a post on the internet from Aleem Igbal who won the 22million that there is a temple where i can also be a millionaire at first i thought aleem was crazy but until i get my own 1m from the help of drsoula_b@live.com i never doubted voodoo but a strong believer, Term and condition are applied.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  65.  
    identicon
    LOVE, Aug 20th, 2013 @ 10:21am

    Hello my name is Cecilia from USA, My life is back!!! After 8 years of marriage, my husband left me and left me with our three kids. I felt like my life was about to end, and was falling apart. I contacted you and after I explained you my problem. In just 3 days, my husband came back to us and show me and my kids much love and apologize for all the pain he have bring to the family. We solved our issues, and we are even happier than before you are the best spell caster Dr ogun i really appreciate the love spell you castes for me to get the man i ever loved back to my life i will keep sharing more testimonies to people about your good work Thank you once again at (oguntemple@gmail.com). in case you are in any problem you can contact this man for help he is always there in his temple to help you solve your problem Contact Email is oguntemple@gmail.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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