I've often written on my blog about how poorly the human brain intuitively understands probability. My very basic understanding from statistics courses (and a vague interest) is the reason I don't buy lottery tickets. Yes, your chances of winning a jackpot if you don't play are zero, but your chances of winning if you do play are so close to zero it makes no difference. I might do better wandering around town hoping to find a few million dollars lost in a bag on the street (which has happened, here in Vancouver).
People who know me are tired of my saying that if I ever do buy a lottery ticket, my numbers will be consecutive: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 for the Lotto 6/49, for example. Those are just as likely to be a winning combination as anything else. Here's proof: not just one, but four people in New South Wales, Australia just won a jackpot using the numbers 1 through 10 as their picks, getting more than $2 million Australian each.
I think it was my friend Karen who pointed out that choosing consecutive numbers (or any other set that might be easy to think of, or might have some meaning to people) isn't the smartest strategy. Why? Because, as for those Australians, it's more likely that several players will choose them, and that you'll have to split any winnings you do get. That's because, unlike the numbers that win, many numbers that players pick are non-random. Going with a random set of numbers (the same ones or different ones, whatever) each draw would bring the best likelihood—still trivially small—of keeping it all yourself, or splitting with fewer co-winners. Nevertheless, I'd take $2 million and the good story.
But if I have a few bucks to spend, I'll probably still get myself a burger.