Bulgaria lottery repeats winning numbers, and winners abound


Despite odds of 4.2 million to one against it, the Bulgarian national lottery drew the numbers 4, 15, 23, 24, 35, and 42 on two consecutive draws. And more curious than that: either many people in Bulgaria are not mathematicians and believe in second chances; or it was rigged. Ann astonishing 18 people guessed the six numbers on September 10th, the second time they were drawn. Each of the 18 winners will receive 10,164 leva, the equivalent of about $7,300. No one guessed all six numbers on September 6th, the first time they occurred.

Although the coincidence does seem wildly improbable, Bulgarian authorities insist that no manipulation would have been possible, giving as evidence of the event's randomness the fact that the numbers were drawn in a different order on September 6th and September 10th.

This may calm one's suspicions if it weren't for the fact that three of the six winning numbers also appeared once again in the following draw, on September 13th. Still, the geographic dispersion and rage of ages of the winners was deemed, in a lottery probe, as sufficient evidence the 18 people did not work together. The rather small winnings were also cited as making fraud unlikely.

I love this news, which provides illumination into the way regular human minds work. Instead of playing games of chance rigorously, by comparing the possibilities and determining what is most likely, people embrace the most delicious improbabilities. A recent statistical study determined that the best chance for winning the most money in a lottery is to play a random number, and not a pattern; and yet, 18 people believed that they might just win by playing the numbers picked in the last lottery draw.

The faith in the magic of coincidence, and the serendipitous result of that conviction, reaffirms my faith in the continued life of art and soul. If 18 lottery players in Bulgaria believed in magic -- and it worked -- why shouldn't you?