The casting of lots to make decisions and determine fates has a long record in human history, including several instances in the Bible. But the lottery, as a way to distribute material prizes, is considerably more recent. The first modern state lotteries were introduced in the United States in 1964, and since then spending on lottery tickets has exploded, especially when large jackpots are involved.

In fact, lottery players spend $80 Billion per year! That’s a lot of money that could be used to build an emergency fund or pay off credit card debt. Instead, many people use it to try to beat the odds and win big. But how can you improve your chances of winning? Harvard Statistician Mark Glickman has some advice for you!

Glickman says that when choosing your numbers to play, avoid picking significant dates or sequences like birthdays and ages. He says those number patterns are more likely to be replicated and that will reduce your chance of winning. Instead, he recommends buying Quick Picks or selecting random numbers.

Another thing to keep in mind when playing the lottery is that most of the money outside your winnings goes back to the state. The state uses this money in different ways, from supporting groups and support centers for gambling addiction or recovery to enhancing the general fund that can address things like roadwork, bridgework, police force, and so on. Many of the states also put some of this money into a special fund for social programs for the elderly.