It is an email that many people would be happy to see in their inbox when they wake up on a Monday morning: “Congratulations! You’re an Emirates Draw winner!”
That is how my week began.
For those of you unfamiliar with Emirates Draw, participants have to match seven numbers to win a mega prize of Dh100 million ($27.22 million) — the largest jackpot on offer in the UAE.
In January, Emirates Draw organisers doubled that amount to a whopping Dh200 million to celebrate the New Year, which I imagine sparked a massive scramble to buy tickets (me included).
Emirates Draw winner — in pictures
Sadly, nobody has yet claimed the top prize — despite, I’m sure, doing their best to pick what they hope will be the winning numbers.
But trust me when I say that choosing those seven numbers is much easier said than done.
Since the launch of Mahzooz, which offers a Dh10 million prize in its Fantastic Friday and Super Saturday draws, and Emirates Draw, I’ve interviewed a few of the top prize-winners.
One of them is Junaid Rana, who lays claim to winning the biggest jackpot in the UAE to date — a life-changing Dh50 million.
“I couldn't believe it at the time; it’s like dreams come true,” Mr Rana told The National's Pocketful of Dirhams podcast shortly after his win in October 2021.
“The thing is, I still cannot believe that I have won. I’m in shock because the amount is huge. I cannot believe it, even now.”
Watch: The 50 million dirham man — the Pakistani driver who won the prize draw
One of the first questions I ask jackpot winners is how they choose their winning numbers (possibly hoping to gain some type of insider secret or magical formula).
Some say they base their numbers on important dates, such as birthdays or anniversaries. Others say they use lucky numbers or pick them randomly, kind of like throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded.
While I don’t own a dartboard, I have been known to occasionally close my eyes and take a wild stab at the numbers on the digital ticket with my mouse. To no avail.
Trawl Google for tips on choosing your numbers and you will also find that some winners say it is about consistency, as in never change your numbers, or even “channelling energy”.
So far, that hasn’t worked for me. Neither have birthdays or anniversaries. This week, I tried my childhood landline number as it has seven figures — a perfect fit, I thought.
But what do I know?
Then, of course, you start to lose heart when you read stories like that of Juliette Lamour, 18, a Canadian who recently won C$48 million ($35.89 million) after buying her first lottery ticket at the suggestion of her grandfather.
“He said to me: 'You just turned 18, go buy a lotto ticket, test your luck,'” CBC News quoted Ms Lamour as saying. “So, I did.”
Talk about beginner’s luck.
While I don’t have the stats for the jackpot draws in the UAE, you apparently have a one in 176 million chance of winning Mega Millions in the US, according to Go Banking Rates, a personal finance website.
“Although playing the lottery can be a thrill, the reality is that your odds of winning a jackpot are essentially zero,” Go Banking Rates says.
“That can be a tough pill to swallow, because part of the exhilaration that comes from playing the lottery is the idea that anyone can win the big prize.”
I agree that it fills us with hope, especially when you see others winning life-changing amounts of money and finally get to embrace the financial freedom that many of us spend a lifetime dreaming about.
That's not to say, however, that it’s an entirely impossible dream.
So far, Mahzooz, which means lucky or fortunate in Arabic, has created 30-plus millionaires and given away more than Dh200 million in prize money to about 224,650 winners from 122 countries.
There have also been two winners of Emirates Draw's Dh15 million Easy 6 prize, which is held on Friday evenings.
But for many of us, the reality is that we’d be better off saving or investing the money that we are spending on these types of games.
Case in point?
Let us return to that email I received from Emirates Draw on Monday, which warmly welcomed me “to our winners’ club”.
Did my numbers turn out to be the winning combination and I’m now an overnight multimillionaire?
I'm afraid not.
After logging into my account, I checked my wallet to see that it had been topped up with an underwhelming Dh7, putting an abrupt end to those (now far-off) dreams of retirement.
I paid Dh50 for the ticket and my return was just Dh7. I will leave you to do the rest of the maths on that.
But does it mean that I will stop entering prize draws despite my losing streak and the advice of financial experts?
I would like to think of it as my “fun” money, which I put aside in my budget for “wants” rather than “needs”.
After all, there's no harm in hoping that you may win that life-changing amount of money — one day (or not).