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There must be easier ways to make a living

24 March 2003

Dear Mark,
The other day I played keno with my best 20 lucky numbers. The special bonus was to hit all twenty numbers and win \$30,000, or not catch one number and win close to \$400. Well, my numbers were lucky in the fact that none hit. I want to know what the odds are of picking no numbers and of picking 20. The keno runner was very suprised and called over several people to make sure. My husband said that they must of called the owner at home cause this is such a rare event. Lacy S.

Headlines from the Home Office: "The chutzpa of your favorite casino calling it a "Special Bonus" ticket."

Let's get right to the 'rithmetic, Lacy, compliments of "Blackjack," who is all-knowing in everything earthly and terrestrial. I mention terrestrial here because Blackjack once worked at Area 51, or so I believe he did. He claims he won his lifestyle on the lake at craps, but I'm not sure.

Blackjack says that the chances of hitting twenty out of twenty in keno are 3.5353e+018. By just moving the decimal point 18 spaces to the right, you get 3,535,300,000,000,000,000 or a bit over 3 1/2 quintillion to one. Now some arithmetic wizard thinkin' that he can one-up Blackjack (I doubt any exist) by pointing out that the number appears to be one of those made up of an endlessly repeating sequence, and that therefore the final 3 would be followed by a 5, and should therefore be upped to 4, write it this way: 3,535,400,000,000,000,000. But why stop there? If the number is one of those endlessly repeating sequences, Blackjack says you can write it: 3,535,353,535,353,535,353.

Let's play!

Putting down one bean every three seconds for an eight-hour working day, with a half hour off for lunch and two 15-minute personal breaks, staying at it full-time, i.e. 50 weeks per year, how long would it take you, Lacy, to play 3,535,353,535,353,535,353 games? A trifle over 34 trillion years. How long is the earth expected to remain habitable before the sun goes nova? Three to five billion years.

So if you, Lacy, were a genetically engineered wonder and longevity ran in your clan (The Lost Horizon), and could arrange to take your keno game along and continue play in roughly fourteen thousand different solar systems, as they sequentially come into being, evolve like ours, and go BOOM!, you could complete game number: 3,535,353,535,353,535,353.

That's a tough assignment, however. Assuming could keep on playing while moving from one solar system to another, as one after the other of them used up their life expectancy of 10-15 billion years, and if you didn't tire of the sport prematurely, you would finish just about when our Milky Way super-galaxy begins to run low on expendable minor galaxies.

Good luck, Lacy! Meanwhile, read the fine print on this bottle of Scotch.

 Time used Games played 1 minute 1 1 hour 60 1 day [actual working time] 420 1 week 2,100 1 year [50 working weeks] 105,000 10 years 1,050,000 100 years 10,500,000 1000 years 105,000,000 1 million years 105,000,000,000 1 billion years 105,000,000,000,000 1 trillion years 105,000,000,000,000,000 34 years 3,535,353,535,353,535,353

Oh yeah, Lacy, the odds-to-1 against hitting no numbers out of 20 are 842.38. Not too out of the ordinary, but when the house is only paying you about \$400 clams, probably not worth playing either.

Gambling quote of the week: "We would now like to acknowledge our American friends who account for about 80% of the casinos' attendance. By emptying your pockets, you've helped pay down our debt and ease our taxes. We call that mighty neighborly." The Windsor Star (Canada)

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Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.