Tigard man's odds estimator helps scratch lotto fever
Despite having purchased Oregon Lottery Mega Millions and Powerball tickets in the past, Tigard resident Pierce Lamb had never bought a Scratch-it ticket until recently.
"The main reason I had never bought one is I had never known. I mean, what would give me a reason to pick one over the other?" Lamb said. "When you walk in the store and there's 20 in there, I don't know which one to pick."
Still, the Tigard resident, who is a senior web developer by day, thought he might be able to figure out what the best odds at any given time to determine what prizes could still be won — thus providing more of an incentive to purchase a ticket.
And he did just that, launching his website, bestoregonscratchits.com, in December.
Lamb works his mathematical magic by taking information from the Oregon Lottery, which prints the percentage of tickets sold regularly, and using it to recalculate how many total tickets are left in circulation. He does that by going online and "scraping" the information related to Scratch-it tickets provided by the Oregon Lottery each day.
"For each one, they have a different set of odds when it first goes out," Lamb said. "Say for the top prize, it's one in 500,000. From that data, I can make a pretty good approximation that the amount of tickets that were initially printed out is 500,000."
The lottery also publishes which prizes have been won over time, so Lamb knows what top prizes are still out there, he said.
Not surprisingly, what Lamb has found is that of the estimated 50 Scratch-it games out there, most people are interested in those that pay out with larger cash prizes.
"For me, I play the lottery for entertainment, and I hope that's why other people are playing too," Lamb said. "I don't think they should look at these recalculated odds and think, 'This is definitely going to change my chance at winning something.'"
While he's sure there's likely stories out there that his website hasn't been beneficial, so far, he's only received only positive emails or responses on Reddit.
"I got a few where people have been like, 'Yeah, I went out this weekend and bought $100 worth of this Scratch-it based on the site, and I'm $75 up,'" Lamb said. "They've won $175."
He added, "I've seen probably, I don't know, maybe five or six different compliments like that."
How has the Oregon Lottery responded to Lamb's website?
Lamb acknowledged that the state agency has contacted him. But he said all they have asked is that he change some of the phrasing on his site to make it clear it's not affiliated with the Oregon Lottery.
"They're ultimately happy, because I'm driving people to probably buy more Scratch-its, driving more traffic to their website," he said.
A Tigard resident since 2017, Lamb grew up in Wilsonville and graduated from Wilsonville High School. He attended Oregon State University but graduated from Reed College, where he majored in philosophy. He's in the process of obtaining a master's degree in computer science from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
For the future, Lamb wants to get to a place where someone can log on and see how Scratch-it odds have changed over the last six months for a particular game, as well as to find out when and where a prize was won, along with what the odds were at the time.
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