Dessert Yields Cookie Crumbs and a Six Figure Windfall
One of the America’s greatest lottery stories involves fortune cookies and perhaps the strangest anomaly of lottery results ever.
The game was American Powerball. The date was March 30, 2005. The draw itself went off just as any other would. But when the winners were counted, something seemed very amiss.
One hundred and ten players somehow manage to beat the 3 million to 1 odds of winning the second prize.
“We didn’t get a lot of sleep that night. Is somebody trying to cheat the system?” recalls Chuck Strutt, the executive director of the Multi-State Lottery association at the time.
The panic began on 11:30pm on the night of the draw when Strutt took a late night call from a worried staffer. From state after state the tally of winners kept rising as results came in.
It didn’t make sense. Based on the number of tickets in play, there should have been only 4 or 5 winners from a statistical point of view. Something wasn’t adding up and lottery officials immediately suspected fraud.
Each of the second-place winners were due $100,000 or $500,000 depending on whether ticket holders had spent the extra dollar at purchase for the Power Play option.
Eighty nine winners were due $100,000. Twenty one were due $500,000.
Lottery officials looked for lottery numbers in popular culture. Hundreds of people had played the combination of numbers from the television show Lost. There was a Powerball ticket that appeared on the soap opera, “The Young and the Restless.” But these did not match the one-in-three-million combination of 22, 28, 32, 33, 39.
The winning numbers did not make a commonly played pattern on the lottery grid such as a cross or a diagonal.
The vast geography of the winners was curious. Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, U.S. Virgin Islands, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, and Wisconsin all produced at least one winner.
Also curious was that nearly all of the winning tickets selected “40” as the Powerball number (instead of the winning Powerball number 42).
Officials were baffled.
The Cookie Crumbles
The answer was only found out when the winners started showing up to claim their prize.
“Our first winner came in and said it was a fortune cookie,” said Rebecca Paul, chief executive of the Tennessee Lottery. “The second winner came in and said it was a fortune cookie. The third winner came in and said it was a fortune cookie.”
Stunned lottery officials heard time and again from the second-place winners that they’d gotten their numbers a fortune cookie.
Investigators visited dozens of Chinese restaurants, take-outs and buffets. Then they called fortune cookie distributors and learned that many different brands of fortune cookies come from the same Long Island City factory, which is owned by Wonton Food and churns out four million a day.
“That’s ours,” said Derrick Wong, of Wonton Food, when shown a picture of a winner’s cookie slip containing the numbers 22, 28, 32, 33, 39, 40. That’s very nice, 110 people won the lottery from the numbers.”
Amid the 110 winners of the second prize – there was a single winner of the $25 Million jackpot that matched all 5 main numbers AND the Powerball on March 30th, 2005.
There were no cookies involved in the selection of those winning numbers however. That ticket was a machine-generated Quick Pick.
The Fortune Cookie Strategy
Is it possible that lightning strike again with another wash of fortune cookie winners? Never say never.
The American Powerball jackpot presently sits at $400 Million. Numerous times we’ve watched the jackpot climb to over a billion dollars. Is playing numbers found in a fortune cookie a good play strategy?
There are a few takeaways lottery enthusiasts can derive from the “fortune cookie incident” described above.
For a game like American Powerball where prizes outside of the jackpot are fixed, it doesn’t really matter if there are lots of winners on the same draw… with one notable exception!
Had the fortune cookie predicted the correct powerball number… 110 winners would have had to SHARE the jackpot.
From a strategy point of view, the illustration here is to try and avoid commonly played number combinations. This includes sequential numbers, numbers that appear within the same row on a grid, and the numbers 7 and 11 which are very popular. Jackpots wins are bigger when they aren’t shared amongst multiple tickets.
Of course, the only way to win a lottery jackpot is to be in the game!
International players outside of the US can participate by playing at a reputable website such as Lotto Express.
Whether you are playing numbers special to you, from a fortune cookie or generated by a computer on your behalf – Good Luck!