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Take Your Chance, Try Your Luck?
September 29

I'm sure that this does not surprise you, but thanks to the events on Wall Street, the number of unemployment applications have increased. Welfare applications have gone up. And also, which should also not be surprising, so have been the lottery figures. According to the NJ Lottery, this may be a record-setting year for them, as they have passed the $2.5-billion sales mark with only three months left to go.

Let's be blunt. The economy blows chunks. Regardless of who you blame (and there is plenty of blame to go around), there is no doubt that people are paying the buck to try to get rich quick and avoid the economic downturn that's been plaguing everyone. Spend a dollar, and maybe you'll be rich for life. You'll probably get struck by lightning twice first, but the dream of being the person to win million of dollars is such a romantic ideal that it proves too alluring to not spend a few bucks to try to snatch it.

But winning million of dollars off of a Pick 6 isn't the only way to get money. In NJ, the odds of winning money on a scratch-off ticket are between 16 and 30 percent, depending on a ticket - which is much better odds than being struck by lightning. And because the odds are better than a Pick 6, it's a very tempting offer. Now add game shows to the mix and you have yourself an interesting combination of gambling - especially when the rewards include actually being on the show.

The big one in the Garden State is Deal Or No Deal, which not only gives you the chance of winning $100,000, but allows people in a second chance drawing to win a trip to LA and be on the show during 'Lottery Winners Week'. Seven people will also have the chance to play a non-televised game and then spin a wheel that could multiply the winnings by five, hence winning a potential $2.5 million jackpot.

Great, huh?

Yes, if you want to spend money on it. And I mean a lot of money on it. In order to get a chance to win, you have to turn in 3 non-winning tickets. At $5 a pop, that means $15. There's 9 drawings, so if you want A CHANCE to get on a flight in LA and if you want A CHANCE in every drawing, that will cost you $135. Maybe you'll get lucky and win $25 or $50 on a ticket to offset your cost, but because you only have a 16 to 20 percent chance of winning, chances are you won't. And since you can enter more than one time, it's very possible that people will spend more to have a chance to get on the show than what the cost would be to buy an airplane ticket and board a plane to Los Angeles and interview in person.

So it this a good deal? Or should you no deal it? ONLY Gamble what you can afford. If you can throw a quick $20 down and have a shot, knowing you probably will never see it again, then why not? If you need the $20 to make sure you have milk. cereal and toiletries, then it's not a great idea. Keep in mind that this is a 9 state tournament, so you're going up against not only people in NJ, but from other states, so the chances of winning are worse than opening up a case and discovering Paris Hilton's cell phone.

If you do decide to do it - good luck. Just remember that although the idea is nice, unless you get touched by a massive surge of luck, the closest that you're going to be to Howie Mandel is by watching him on your TV set. And you can take that to the banker.

Gordon Pepper pays his money. Gordon Pepper takes his chances. E-mail him to