By ZACH NOBLE
Like the performance of the U.S. economy and papal elections, the board game Risk revolves around die rolls in which the attacker loses ties.
Haha I'm kidding, I'm 97 percent sure that Pope Francis was not elected as a result of a Vatican City dice tournament.
But a financial-planning-and-Risk analogy is pretty tight.
Spread your armies (i.e., money) out and attack everywhere you can...
... and you'll lose almost every battle.
The stats are just plain against you. You only win on 15 out of 36 possible combinations, or 42 percent of the time, if you attack one army with one army of your own. If you attack two armies with one, your odds plummet to 55 in 216.
How does this compare to your abysmal odds of winning the lottery, 1 in 292 million?
It'd be like bringing one army in to attack a territory that's defended by 14 or 15 of your opponent's armies.
"That is not so hard," you might say.
Go set up a game of Risk.
Try to kill 15 defending armies with one attacker in one battle.
You will be there for a gazillion years.
You'd be far better off taking the $2 you spent on a lottery ticket and putting it toward a sensible life goal: your regular old bank account, a well-considered investment, heck, even a latte that, you could argue, would make you feel better and thereby boost your productivity! The $2 would join with your other spending as a mighty army group, crushing your opponents (which in this case are poverty and thirst).
But throwing it into the lottery is just tossing a lone soldier to his (or her!) death.
To everyone else, ya'll should have known better than to play the shameful state-sponsored poor tax that is the lottery.
Play Risk instead.
(Editor's note: When Zach first ran the math, he calculated that you'd have to beat 60 million defending armies to match your odds of winning Powerball, which made the blog post a lot punchier. But Zach hasn't done math in a long time and his brother Ben saved his bacon by pointing out how dumb Zach was being with his probability calculation, which was less of a probability calculation and more of a madman's napkin scribbling. Embarrassment aside, Zach remains happy to harangue you about personal finance.)
Zach Noble is a journalist who has covered everything from the OPM hack to a rescue dog's retirement party. He's been wrestling to reconcile his bleeding heart Catholicism with his pragmatic libertarianism since that freshman year love affair with Ayn Rand. He tweets erratically as @thezachnoble.