Plotting a Chase the Ace lottery

My novel is based on a real charity lottery draw in Inverness, Nova Scotia that started in 2014 and ran for almost a year. It’s a lottery style called “Chase the Ace,” and it’s a slightly more complicated 50-50 draw. While it seems a bit convoluted at first, is really quite straightforward, and, for my novel, the actual plot framing device:

  • Draw tickets are sold every week
  • 50% of the weekly take is kept by the charity or charities
  • A ticket is drawn and the winner selects a card from a deck of cards
  • If the winner selects the Ace of Spades, he or she wins the cumulative jackpot (30% of all of the previous weeks’ takes, plus 30% of the week’s take)
  • If the winner selects any other card, he or she wins 20% of that week’s take
  • The selected card is removed from the deck, and the draw goes on for another week
  • Every week the Ace of Spades isn’t drawn, the jackpot grows and the number of cards remaining in the deck declines

The Inverness Chase the Ace went for $1.7 million in October 2015. While I had already plotted out the basic story elements of my novel, I went in NaNoWriMo without having a great idea of how a lottery makes $115 in its first week and ends up giving away $1.7 million.

So, using my real-world skills, I made a formula-driven mathematical model in a spreadsheet. I used what I knew about the Inverness Chase the Ace to create a calendar of draws, including breaks for holidays. Then, plugged in numbers until I sold enough $5 tickets to get a jackpot of more than $1 million.

Chase the Ace lottery plot spreadsheet

Then, I shuffled a deck of cards and starting drawing. In five run-throughs of my living room Chase the Ace, I drew the Ace of Spades:

  • After 20 cards ($12,000 jackpot in my model)
  • 5 cards ($330)
  • 3 cards ($150)
  • 36 cards ($116,000)
  • 15 cards ($5,800)

This completely unscientific experiment achieved a couple of things. First, it helped me identify places to introduce problems to solve, conflict, and humour. Second, it confirmed how unique it was to get to the point where a draw could conceivably give away tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Let alone $1 million.

Enough procrastinating, time to write. Have a good one!

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