Balls of Power

by Bob Schwartz


She had a dream.

I played my first Powerball lottery yesterday. In fact, it was the first lottery I’d ever played, though I’d been given tickets before.

I played because someone had a dream, not just that I had played, but had used the I Ching to determine the winning numbers.

I didn’t mind using the I Ching for the purpose. After three thousand years, it has been used for purposes profound (war and statecraft) and frivolous. Like all great scriptures and texts, it stands ready to be put to work as the user sees fit. The wisdom and efficacy of doing that is a different matter, but there it is. I am positive that some very faithful people who hold the Bible sacred were nonetheless happy to use it to pick their Powerball numbers. A billion dollars is a billion dollars.

I faced three challenges.

First, I had no idea how Powerball worked. It didn’t take long to study up. The current version asks players for five white ball numbers between 1 and 69, another red ball number between 1 and 26, and an optional choice of the Power Play, which multiplies your winnings—if any.

Second, and this one was confounding, the I Ching generates hexagrams numbered 1 to 64. A real problem, since Powerball asks for numbers 1 to 69. Rewriting the I Ching to include 69 hexagrams seemed an act of hubris beyond anyone, let alone me. So I devised a scheme to extend the I Ching, just for this purpose. I cannot reveal the method at the moment, but you can be sure that if it results in winning a billion dollars, I will comfortably share that secret with the world, being then as comfortable as a billion dollars can make me.

The third challenge was mundane and ridiculous. I arrived at the supermarket service desk, only to find a display of ten different computer cards to fill in for different lotteries, including Powerball. I felt like an alien, stupid and stupefied. Thankfully, the very nice lady behind the counter patiently answered all my questions:

Q: Why are there five sections marked A to E?
A: Each one is a different play. If you want to play five times, you fill in all five.

Q: What about this box next to Pick 5?
A: That’s if you want the computer to pick your numbers. (Which I didn’t.)

Q: Does the Power Play box mean the bonus multiplier?
A: Yes. It costs an extra dollar. (With $2 for the basic play, it cost me $3.)

The result: I matched one of the five white ball numbers. You don’t win anything unless you match three of them.

The Powerball jackpot has again rolled over. The next time it will be up to something between one billion and two billion dollars. I will probably play again and use the I Ching again. And if it rolls over yet again, I might add the Bible as a lottery oracle.

After all, I would love to make someone’s dream come true.