Expats do not need a super computer to tell them they will not win the $2.6 million Gordo lottery Sunday.
But two math professors at Tecnológico de Costa Rica showed that the probability of winning could be computed easily.
The two are Giovanni Sanabria Brenes and Félix Núñez Vanegas. Both have master’s degrees in math.
They pointed out in a release from the Cartago-based university that the chances of winning for a person holding one ticket is one in 100,000. That’s 0.001 percent.
This is not higher math.
In other words, the professors said, to expect to win the lottery a person would have to see the drawing repeated 100,000 times.
The lottery consists of a three-digit series and a two-digit number. The number has 100 possibilities from 00 to 99. Having the correct number of the Gordo winner also pays off. Of course the probability of having the correct series number is one in 1,000, from 000 to 999.
The professors probably do not want to throw cold water on the hopes of those who would play the Christmas lottery. Regardless of what they say, most of the country will be in front of the television Sunday night watching the slow, meticulous drawing by the Junta de Protección Social, a government agency.
The news release also sought to dispel myths. Some players believe that lower numbers are most likely to be winners. Others say that numbers may repeat from a previous year.
Both ideas are false, the men said, noting that each number has an equal probability of being selected.
The Junta workers use three baskets of the type seen in casinos. One basket, the larger one, produces the series, and a smaller basket produces the number based on the 100 balls inside. Yet a smaller basket produces the prize, and there are many in addition to the big Gordo.
Full tickets are 70,000 colons or about $133 dollars. Most Costa Ricans purchase fractions that are ripped off the full ticket. If they win, the prize is proportionally smaller.
The professors note that more tickets or fractions with different numbers enhance the chances of winning. They computed the probability of winning for a person with 15 fractions of different tickets at 0.015 percent.
The Gordo drawing is followed closely, and the Spanish-language media will be filled with stories of where the winning tickets were purchased and sometimes who won. Naturally a lot of winners keep their names secret.
One fact is certain, and that is that the Junta will clean up. The excess income after expenses and prizes goes to various social organizations.