Origins: Those who regularly duel Lady Luck in state lotteries employ a variety of systems for choosing the numbers they hope will form the winning draw. Some people base their choices on familiar strings of digits such as birth dates, telephone numbers, addresses, and Social Security numbers. Others pick numbers through what they believe is a random process (or allow the lottery machines to generate random entries for them). Many hopefuls play the same numbers week in and week out, hoping "their" numbers will eventually hit; others select new combinations for each drawing.
Many people's lottery choices are influenced by current news. Numbers that feature prominently in news stories (e.g., flight numbers, license plates, addresses) often end up being the selections of large numbers of lottery players in subsequent draws. We only hear about this phenomenon when the winning numbers correspond to real-life events, of course — jackpots are news, but many hopefuls choosing the same wrong numbers aren't (and since only the winning numbers are publicized, there's no real way of telling how many people selected any particular losing combination).
News and random chance intersected again on
Although the coincidence is interesting, it isn't astounding. The odds of randomly drawing any particular three-digit combination (such as
In a similar coincidence, on
Another lottery coincidence occurred on
Once again, the coincidence wasn't astounding, but merely a 1 in 1,000 chance of a particular combination's hitting on exactly the right day to be considered noteworthy. (A search of
Originally published: 15 November 2001
Last updated: 12 January 2016
Linkous, Jeff. "New Jersey Lottery Begins Midday Pick 3 and Pick 4 Drawings." Associated Press. 12 November 2001. Virtanen, Michael. "Eerie 9-1-1 Lottery Draws Interest." Associated Press. 12 September 2002. Associated Press. "NJ Lottery Number Same As Doomed Plane." The New York Times. 13 November 2001. Reuters. "Doomed Plane's Number Lottery Winner." 14 November 2001. Reuters. "N.Y. Lottery Draws 9-1-1 on 9/11." 11 September 2002. UPI. "Horses 9, 1 and 1 Finish First on Sept. 11." 13 September 2011.