While sitting in a bar with Lotto the other day I noticed that when no one won a particular prize the dough (or at least some portion of it) rolled over into the next pot. For instance, if no one gets 4 out of 4, then that pot rolls over. I’m assuming that the more people who bet four numbers, the more cashola goes into the next pot. That makes it possible, if the prize rolls over enough and enough people are playing (paying) for that prize, that the expected value of the reward could conceivably exceed the cost to play. In other words, the prize would be larger than the cost of covering all possible outcomes. (The one time I did the math it looked like the return on a dollar bet was in the $.50-$.60 range depending on how many numbers you chose, far worse than almost any bet you’ll find in Vegas.)
Normally when a jackpot gets really large the expected value of an entry decreases because so many people participate that the chances of sharing the prize rise faster than the value of the prize itself does. But with ordinary ho-hum lotto you would have to be extra diligent to notice when the prize had grown to an enticing level. Since there is a new drawing every few minutes, when the prize does get large enough there is no time for a gambler to respond.
So what you need is something that monitors the lotto channel and watches for particular prizes to roll over an extraordinary number of times. (Ideally you would also be able to see how much money rolled over each time.) When enough moolah is on the line, Lotto-matic would enter you in that drawing for all possible permutations. I doubt that would be possible—entries have to go through special machines. Failing that, the system would notify you and you would spend the next ten minutes furiously filling in lotto slips.
Of course, if the system can’t enter you automatically, you have to already be at a location with a lotto machine (say, perhaps, a bar) when the opportunity strikes. The cost of sitting in a bar waiting for the right moment is likely (at least in my case) to dwarf any potential winnings. It might, however, be tax-deductible…