We dropped 1 million yen (approximately US$8,300) on 5,000 Japan National Lottery scratch-off tickets to see if buying in bulk translates to bigger wins.

Surrounded by family, stuffed to the gills with great food, and the work woes of the year forgotten; the warm feelings and euphoria of the holidays can lead to some bad decisions. (Okay, the strong eggnog buzz may also have a lot to do with it, too.) Some will end up making good on ludicrous New Year’s resolutions (“This year, I’m finally going to abandon my wife and kids like I always dreamed!”), while others might decide to take a gamble on the National Lottery with a bit more money than is reasonable or even sane.

For example, some might consider putting down about US$8,300 to buy 5,000 scratch-off lottery tickets. And you can bet that’s what we did!


Specifically, our Japanese writer, Yoshio – whose wife is, apparently, remarkably understanding – skipped off to the local Takara Kuji lottery vendor, perhaps with dreams of buying twin gold-plated Ferraris swirling in his head, to present the shocked staff with a massive wad of 10,000 yen bills.



Perhaps unsurprisingly, the staff were all too happy to take Yoshio’s money – even taking a moment to fan out the huge stack of bills and salivate over it – and quickly stuffed two huge bags full of scratch-off tickets for Yoshio to take back to RocketNews home base. The exchange was a spectacle, to say the least, and ended up attracting a bunch of incredulous onlookers and even a news crew, all of whom looked at Yoshio like he’d gone off his meds.



The thinking (what little of it took place, anyway) was that buying in bulk would maximize our chances of a big jackpot, while, even with the worst of luck, the all-but-guaranteed smaller payouts – a few dollars here, a hundred there – would hopefully let us break even.

Back at headquarters, Yoshio and team broke out calculators and checked out the stats provided by the National Lottery to roughly calculate our odds. In all, the Lottery was offering a national total of: 

25 Rank-1 cards with a jackpot of 1 million yen. Looking at stats provided by the National Lottery, Yoshio calculated we’d have a 1 in 20 chance at scratching off a winner here.

50 Rank-2 cards with a jackpot of 100,000 yen. We calculated a 1 in 10 chance of one of these being somewhere in our ridiculous pile.

100 Rank-3 cards with a jackpot of 50,000 yen (US$500). We figured we had a 1 in 5 chance of having one of these.

With the number of cards issued for lower ranks jumping much higher, we figured we were almost guaranteed to have:

About 28 Rank-4 cards worth 1,000 yen each.

500 Rank-5 cards worth 200 yen each.

And, probably about 25 special Christmas Jackpot cards worth 10,000 yen each. 


At this point, Yoshio and crew were starting to feel pretty confident (and a lot less stupid about this harebrained scheme). After all, those seem like pretty good odds at snagging a big winner and, even with the worst possible luck, the statistics bore out that we’d at least recoup about 378,000 yen (US$ 3,500) of our initial 1 million investment. Well, technically, in terms of probability, there was a non-zero chance of every single one of the 5,000 cards being goose egg losers worth less than the paper they were printed on, but no one had the heart to tell old Yoshio that.


So, how’d this dumb experiment actually pan out? Well, fast forward through five whole friggin’ days of scratching off lotto tickets, and…

We wound up with 24 Christmas Jackpot winners for a 240,000 yen total.

486 Rank-5 200 yen cards (14 fewer than we anticipated) for 97,200 yen.

28 Rank-4 1,000 yen cards worth a total 28,000 yen. Exactly as we calculated! Are we wizards, or what?

Even without a big winner, we’d made back 365,200 yen of our initial cost – a 36% return. Not exactly a wise investment, but certainly we had at least a couple of those big-sum jackpots on our hands, right?

If nothing else we can press these scratch-off shavings into a big diamond or something


Yeah, about that…


Nada. Not even a one. 

At the end of this grand, stupid experiment, we were still 634,800 yen in the hole.

At least Yoshio’s wife managed to put a positive spin on it, proclaiming to a dejected Yoshio: “You won 3,500 bucks! What are you gonna buy with it?!”

We suppose it’s good to have a glass-half-full kind of attitude at times like this.

Images: RocketNews24
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