Couple Uses Same Numbers for 26 Years, Finally Wins Lottery

Was it blind luck or could the couple's strategy pay off for others? We look at the statistics.
Chris Young

If at first you don't succeed, try again and again. That's a lesson a couple from North Carolina seemingly took to heart when they repeatedly bought lottery tickets and came out winners after just over a quarter-century.

The husband and wife duo played the exact same set of lottery numbers for 26 years and won an enviable $366,000 this week.

Does playing the same number over and over again give lottery ticket buyers a higher chance of winning? We take a look.


The lottery-winning couple

Terry Coggeshall claimed the prize on Thursday at the headquarters of the North Carolina Education Lottery in Raleigh. As CBS News reports, Coggeshall said he and his wife had come close to winning on a couple of occasions, though they never dreamed they would actually win the Cash 5 jackpot.

"I was in the La-Z-Boy as she was standing there watching," Coggeshall, a delivery coordinator, told CBS News. "And she started screaming. She goes, 'I won, I won!' And I go, 'What?!'"

Coggeshall, from Durham, bought the winning ticket at a grocery store in Chapel Hill. He says that he and his wife started playing the exact same number every week when they were living in Florida. 

"We never really thought that we'd get all of that," he said. "I can't wait to see my wife's face when she looks at the check."

A sound strategy?

It's not the first time this type of strategy has paid off: in 2018, a New York man won a $343 million Powerball jackpot after playing the same numbers for 25 years.

However, as Business Insider reported at the time, the rules of probability, as well as the way lotteries are typically set up, mean that using the same number in multiple drawings makes no difference to your probability of winning.

This is due to statistical independence, meaning that random events — such as a lottery draw — are statistically independent if the outcome of one doesn't affect the outcome of another.

In other words, the numbers picked are completely random for every single draw. So people such as Mr. and Mrs. Coggeshall are at square won and are just as likely, or unlikely, to win the lottery every week.

The one effect that we might say did help Mr. and Mrs. Coggeshall win is the fact that picking the same number every week may have helped to turn the task of buying lottery tickets every week into a thoughtless routine.

The lottery is a numbers game after all, so someone who buys tickets for 25 years is, of course, a little more likely to win than someone who can't be bothered to think of numbers every week and ends up forgetting to buy them or simply giving up.

For a little context, the odds of Mr. and Mrs. Coggeshall winning the lottery this week were 1 in 962,598. 

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