IT has often been said that Singaporeans love to queue. It’s common knowledge that the longer the queue of patrons in front of a heartland food stall, the better the food.
The queuing theory is the mathematical science behind why the line is so long. A queue is just another word to describe a line of things waiting their turn – whether it’s people waiting to get a free ice cream cone or a new car moving through the assembly line.
But there have been extraordinary queues, from the famous business district to the multiple heartlands, with folks, from business suits to even pyjamas, flocking to Singapore Pools outlets – simply because there may well be a multi-millionaire by the weekend!
Yes, from dawn to dusk, the longest queues signal Friday’s bumper annual Toto Hong Bao Draw jackpot, where this year’s snowballed jackpot prize money of $13.6 million. It’s the second-highest ever in Singapore lottery-history, eclipsed only by the $13.9 million jackpot in the 2016 Hong Bao draw.
The snaking queues from Woodlands to Whampoa, Bedok to Bukit Batok and Jurong to Joo Chiat clearly signal the warmth of potential luck just after Chap Goh Mei, the 15th and last day of the Chinese New Year, earlier this week.
Not surprising, thousands of Singaporeans were seen braving the long queues and even, torrential rain, in order to stand a miniscule chance of striking it real rich.
And in order to tilt the overwhelming odds in their favour, some punters even go to “lucky spots” – outlets that have sold tickets to winners before. They include the Ng Teo Guan Self Service outlet in Ubi and the NTUC FairPrice Serangoon Central Hypermart outlet at Nex shopping mall.
People at these outlets were seen waiting in line for at least half an hour to buy their lottery tickets. Dim sum helper Ms Cynthia, 64, who caps her bets at $20, travelled specifically to the Nex outlet to tap on the good fortune of the place.
She told The New Paper: “People strike quite frequently at this outlet, so I try my luck here.”
Some, like Mr Rajaratnam, 55, who works in construction, are drawn to such outlets simply because of the intrigue caused by the snaking queues. While waiting in line at the Ubi outlet, he said: “I only bet sometimes, maybe once a month… When I came here and saw a lot of people, I decided to join the queue.”
While the buzz builds to Friday’s delicious draw, even foreigners were also seen queuing to take part. For example, schoolteacher Mary Strokes from Belgium is betting on Toto for the first time.
She says with a big laugh: “It’s fun just to see. I just wanted to experience it one time and see the madness around it. There’s no strategy because I just let the system pick the numbers.”
IS THERE A WINNING FORMULA?
Associate Professor Chua Tin Chiu, a statistician from the National University of Singapore, says the Toto draw gives equal chance to all numbers and combinations. So there is no pattern, favourite number or combination.
“Every draw is independent and a fresh start. Past draws cannot determine what numbers will come out next,” he says. “It’s like flipping a coin. Assuming it’s a fair coin, previous results of heads and tails will not determine the next outcome.
“The numbers have no memory. It’s not like numbers say, ‘I haven’t come out in a while, maybe I’ll go out today’, so you can’t choose numbers this way.”
So, how can I ever increase the chances of winning and be a dreamy millionaire?
Prof Chua says the odds of winning for each number combination are the same, so if you believe that the selection is random, there is no strategy in picking the winning combination.
Although you can buy more combinations to increase the chances of getting a winner, you are also paying more with a slim chance of returns.
Prof Chua, who buys Toto “occasionally”, said he always chooses the QuickPick option as experience tells him that there are no “lucky numbers”. He explains: “Essentially, the only way to ensure you win is to buy all possible 14 million combinations.
“If I knew a strategy that would really let me win, I would be a professional gambler and not a professor. It’s like buying a piece of hope – just don’t get addicted to it.”
For the sheer record, anyone who bets in Toto will know that the chances of winning are extremely low. To hit the top prize in Friday’s Hong Bao Draw, your chances are about 1 in 14,000,000.
‘$1 BET IS ENOUGH’
To provide a perspective of how poor these odds are, the chances of a person in the USA getting strike by lightning is about 1 in 280,000. In other words, a person is about 50 times more likely to get struck by lightning than to win the top prize in Toto!
For retiree Phillip Tay, 62, a simple $1 bet is enough and he is not changing anything. He says: “To me, if you are lucky, just one dollar will get you there.”
On a lighter note, the participation in Toto betting should be one of leisure and a topic with friends and family during this festive period. However, if you are thinking of getting rich just because of this Hong Bao draw, don’t put too much hope into it as you would for any other regular Toto draws.
But deep in the hearts of Singaporeans endear this aspiration of being a multi-millionaire. Winning the lottery is every Singaporean’s dream!
If you’re part of the lottery-mania and want a sudden windfall, don’t feel embarrassed. Just get on to the winding queues. That’s something I’ve learnt from my fellow Singaporeans – how to queue nicely to dream of the big bucks!
As the Chinese love to say: Huat-ah! (An expression used to wish oneself prosperity)