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Many Picked Lottery's 9-1-1


NEW YORK — So many people wanted to bet the numbers 9-1-1 on Sept. 11 that the New York State lottery stopped selling the combination the day before the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, officials said Thursday.

And when 9-1-1 won Wednesday night's drawing, some proclaimed it was fate. Mathematics experts preferred to focus on probabilities.

Christopher M. Rump, an assistant professor of industrial engineering at the University of Buffalo, who teaches probability theory, said Thursday the odds of picking the right number, such as 9-1-1, in this type of drawing were 1,000 to one.

"It's pretty rare," Rump said. "The fact it hit this particular day is a little eerie in some people's minds."

But such a convergence "is not as unlikely as it appears to be," said Karl Sigman, an applied probability specialist and a professor at Columbia University's School of Engineering. "The probability the same number as the same day would win at least once in any year, is about 50%."

Officials said they had employed the lottery's standard random-drawing process, in which numbered balls circulate in a machine. After levers are pressed, the balls are lifted by air into tubes where they are displayed.

Sales of 9-1-1 were cut off at 2 p.m. Tuesday, when the potential payout reached the maximum total of $4,999,999. By that time, 14,878 tickets with the 9-1-1 combination had been sold.

"We have a liability cap of $5 million for any particular drawing," said lottery spokeswoman Carolyn Hapeman. "Once the sale has the potential to reach that cap, we cut off that number."

Each $1 ticket paid $500 to the winner and a 50-cent ticket paid $250, but officials did not know how many individuals might actually share in the payouts.

"One ticket could represent one person or it could represent three, five, 10 people or more," Hapeman said.

The 9-1-1 combination had not come up in more than a year, Hapeman said.

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