Fortune cookies often offer up lucky numbers. And for Charles Jackson, those digits proved to be super-lucky, to the tune of $344.6 million.
One of the perks of dining on Asian food is the fortune cookie. Even if you don’t enjoy eating them yourself or fully subscribe to the nugget of advice found within, there’s just something fun about seeing what your fortune cookie has to say. And typically, along with the words of wisdom, many cookies also feature a roster of “lucky numbers.” Charles Jackson took his fortune cookie lucky numbers straight to a Powerball ticket. It turned out those digits were lucky indeed since he walked away as a $344.6 million winner. And he's not the only Powerball winner to have relied on fortune cookies for selected numbers. It makes some players wonder if there is any truth or validity behind lucky numbers and Powerball.
In 2019, Charles Jackson was living his best life as a grandfather and North Carolina resident. But when he decided to play the lucky numbers found in his fortune cookie from a local Vietnamese restaurant, life got even better. Initially, he believed he’d won $50,000 with his Powerball ticket. But then, upon being corrected, he realized he had actually managed to win $344.6 million, the jackpot amount at the time. Jackson took the lump sum payment of $233 million. He shared with reporters that he planned to share with his family and donate to charity. But it makes other Powerball players wonder just how lucky are those fortune cookie numbers? And is it worth it to play the numbers you get in yours?
Back in 2017, statisticians explored the data behind whether or not fortune cookie numbers could, in fact, be luckier than others. In 1,000 fortune cookies, compared to winning Powerball numbers across the previous 20-year period, the results were surprising. In their findings, the fortune cookie numbers did appear to be luckier than random digit selections. Theoretically, if a Powerball player had played fortune cookie numbers over that 20 years, they could have potentially made $4.4 million, based on $4.3 million in ticket purchases.
Last year, Florida resident Ernesto Sorzano stopped into a Chinese takeout to pick up his shrimp and fried rice. He also, of course, got his fortune cookies with his meal. He thought he’d use those fortune cookie lucky numbers to play a little Powerball. He was preparing for a move to North Carolina and thought he could certainly use an infusion of funds. And lucky for Sorzano, four of the numbers he played were a match, meaning he qualified for the $50,000 prize. But because he had also opted for the Power Play, his prize surged to $500,000, making that fortune cookie a life-changing one.
Despite the appearance of fortune cookie numbers being lucky, there’s no actionable data to support one set of numbers is luckier than any other. Because each Powerball drawing is entirely random and not based on any series of drawings or past selections, each game presents the same odds for any numbers chosen. So, whether you’re using your fortune cookie numbers, your family’s birthdays, or the automatically chosen digits at the counter, your odds of winning any prize, including the jackpot, are still the same.
Those like Charles Jackson and Ernesto Sorzano might feel differently about the validity of fortune cookie numbers being lucky. But in the end, their Powerball winner stories were completely rooted in random selection. And in a way, that might make you feel better knowing that the playing field is entirely level for all games, regardless of where you decide to pick up dinner.