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Why I ALWAYS buy in at the office lottery pool

I have never bought lottery tickets on my own. But if there’s a pool going on at the office, I’m there. I’ll run to my car and dig for change under my car seat if I have to.

Why do I do this?

Consider – there are 4 basic scenarios:

1. You participate – the pool loses.
2. You participate – the pool wins.
3. You don’t participate – the pool loses.
4. You don’t participate – the pool wins.

In Scenario 1: the most you will lose is your contribution ($1 or $2 or $5). Scenario 2 is the big one, of course – depending on how much you win, that can be financial freedom right there (or at least enough for a down payment or a year’s worth of Roth IRA contributions).

In Scenario 3:  you don’t lose anything. You get to keep your dollar for tomorrow’s lunch, or whatever. But Scenario 4… Scenario 4 is the WORST possible scenario of them all. It’s the reason why I buy in lottery pools – not because I think I’ll win, but to protect myself against the horror that is Scenario 4.

I understand that the chance of the office pool winning is small. Very, very, very small. Close to impossible, even. But I’m not talking about probability here – I’m talking about being the only person who did not participate in the lottery and now has to watch all his/her coworkers jubilantly cash their million-dollar payouts.

I most happily and willingly pay my dollar or two to insure against that scenario from coming true.

Do you always buy in at the office lotto pool?

  • Jessie - I don’t participate in the office lotto pool – and so far, so good. No one has one lol.

    It sure would be tragic if they did!ReplyCancel

  • JustBeth - Many years ago, there was a lottery pool in our department. The two youngest employees (Bob and I) declined. They won $20, which was less than they paid for the tickets. Bob pointed out that while they each got $3-something, he and I had the full $5. (I don’t recall the exact numbers.)

    Unlike you, my fear of scenario 1 is greater than my fear of scenario 4.ReplyCancel

  • eemusings - LOL! Great post. We don’t have an office pool but I would def. take part. Except that I never carry cash. I’d have to start keeping change in my wallet 😛ReplyCancel

  • Saki - The only one I have participated in was a office lotery/saving, where we put in about $5 a week. At the end of the year we “won” about $1,000 between us :)ReplyCancel

  • StackingCash - IMHO this is the best speculative investment you can make. I wish I could join a lottery pool but living in Las Vegas there are no lotteries. So just think of it as a very speculative investment that would be life changing, not throwing money away. If anything, you are contributing to what the lottery is supposed to aid, which is typically schools. I wish you the best of luck on winning though!ReplyCancel

  • Scott K. - At my workplace, they each spend $2 a week on a lottery pool. Alternatively, you could put that same money towards a IRA or similar and with compounding interest at 8%, you would have nearly $20,000 after 35 years.
    I think for most people, that $1 or $2 a week buys some wishful thinking about what it’d be like to have millions.ReplyCancel

  • Bruno - I have been in an office pool for almost 5 yrs and really think its the collectors way of saving for his kids college fund!!!ReplyCancel

  • Dave Spencer - Worth considering are also the second-order outcomes. For example, if your direct supervisor is in the pool and you are not, what message are you sending that manager? What about vice-versa?

    How about your immediate peers? Is the ability to partake in the water-cooler daydreaming (and the networking that comes with it) worth the dollar or two a week?

    I’ve never worked in an office where we had a lottery pool, but I have been in offices with football pools, and my rationale behind participating was more along these lines than any hope of winning (or fear of seeing others win).ReplyCancel

  • Todd - the act of you choosing to participate changes the outcome of the event. if you choose not to play and the pool wins, you haven’t lost anything since if you had played, the pool would have lost. they should be thanking you for holding onto your dollar.ReplyCancel

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  • Meg - I would participate if my office had a lottery pool, but moreso in order to act like and be considered “part of the team” (and only if people I like and/or my superiors also participate). This is why I agree to buy in on other pools, like fantasy football and the NCAA bracket contest as well – I never do that stuff outside of work.

    Feeling left out if others win doesn’t bother me too much, because you could extend that logic infinitely – somebody is always winning the lottery, and you are continually being “left out” if you never buy a ticket.ReplyCancel

  • CanadianSaver - I participate too, because I’m too scared that option #4 will happen and I’ll be the only one left working there after they all get rich!!ReplyCancel

  • Shannon - We have a pool that costs $2/week to participate, although some weeks we don’t have to kick in due to winnings from previous tickets.

    I usually don’t buy lottery tickets (maybe 3-4 times a year on my own), $2 isn’t a lot of money and buys some fun daydreams when the jackpot is big, figuring out what my share would be if we won and then what I’d do with it.ReplyCancel

  • Adam - One guy at my office runs a pool once the lottery goes above a certain amount (usually $50-100 million). That way, it doesn’t happen too frequently (so we’re not all wasting our money), and everyone gets a nice chunk of change out of it (not like $4/person).

    The group I’m with is a very math-based/statistically-based group, so the collector always jokes that he gets nervous when he sees us playing the lotto. And we all know the odds, but scenario #4 is just too hard to contemplate.

    We think about it like hedge funds: For the $1 bet, versus usually around a $200-300k upside, it’s a pretty damn good hedge.ReplyCancel

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  • Marisol - I used to at my old job. I didn’t want to be the sucka who didn’t participate but was at work the next day when they hit it big.ReplyCancel

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