Physics Students Bet on 'Numbers,' Beat Mass Lottery

A system designed by Harvard Physics graduate students for playing the Massachusetts State Lottery "Numbers Game" turned a $400 profit in its first nine weeks of operation, one of the students said yesterday.

According to John Sheiman, betting with the system began the second week of August. Bets were made from a pool of $1 200, collected from graduate students in $100 shares.

Sheiman declined to disclose details of the system, but he said it gave participants roughly a 60 per cent chance of breaking even or turning a profit. He estimated the chance of losing the entire pool in the lottery as "less than one per cent."

The major value of the betting system, Sheiman said, "is entertainment value."

Sheiman refused to speculate on future lottery betting. But Kambiz A. Safinya, another of the graduate students, said the group is "going all out for another month and betting $50 a day."

The Numbers Game is a parimutuel system. Payoff on the randomly-selected winning number varies inversely with the number of bettors who select that number. Gamblers may play various number combinations in three- and four-digit games.