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Being born with an extra finger, living to 100 and other things more likely than winning ‘el Gordo’
Thursday, December 23, 2021 @ 5:25 PM

The Christmas lottery in a quintessential part of Spanish festive traditions, just like setting up a nativity scene in your home or, decorating the tree or serving smoked salmon for dinner on Christmas Eve.  Year after year, millions of Spaniards buy lottery tickets from their local lottery outlet, their favourite bar, the village veterans' football club, etc, in the hope of striking it lucky and changing their lives. And they do all that, despite knowing that the chances of having the winning combination on December 22nd are infinitesimal. 

The fact that winning the first, second or third prizes in today's special Christmas lottery draw is highly improbable is no secret. Statistically, the probability of winning the main prize or el Gordo (literally, the fat one) as it is known, is one in 100.000. Unlikely occurrences like being born with an extra finger (between 30 and 360 cases in every 100,000 births around the world), living to over 100 (one in every 2,741 Spaniards), getting pregnant despite using a contraceptive (one in 3,322) or meeting someone in the street with more than 50 million euros in the bank (one in 21,442 Spaniards have this amount or more) are all more likely than winning El Gordo. Nevertheless, we're statistically more likely to win the big Spanish Christmas lottery than the Euromillions or the Primitiva - 1,400 times more likely!

So, if the chances of winning are so slim, why do we play every year?

If we only focus on the probability of winning, buying a lottery ticket seems like a completely crazy notion. But as so often happens in life, it's not just about the numbers. There's a whole series of psychological mechanisms that kick in and make us buy that décimo

Sergio García Soriano, clinical psychologist and expert in social intervention claims that the process by which we buy Christmas lottery tickets has a lot to do with the emotional hemisphere of the brain "which decides to buy, knowing full well that the probability of winning is really slim".

Some of the factors that come into play are questions of culture and emotions linked to the age-old tradition. "There's a learning process passed down from generation to generation. Even though you've never won it, el Gordo is an intrinsic part of Spanish culture", he says. García Soriano also mentions well-oiled marketing strategies, which play on our emotions and the tradition surrounding the prize draw and the whole festive season.



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