Despite the infinitesimal odds, more than half of Americans admit to occasionally playing the lottery. We wait on long lines and give up our coffee breaks. We scratch tickets, win, and spend the winnings on more scratch tickets. We play our "lucky" numbers, week in and week out.In a country where gambling is ostensibly illegal, this is a strange state of affairs. In colonial Jamestown, the first lottery was created despite conservative opposition to the vice of gambling. Now, 42 states sponsor lotteries despite complaints of liberals who see them as a regressive tax on the poor. Why do we all play this game that brings no rewards, and leaves us rifling through the garbage for the ticket we swear would be a winner if we could only find it? How has this game persisted, even flourished, in defiance of so much opposition?In this observant, intelligent book, Matthew Sweeney gives a history of the American lottery, stopping along the way to give us the bizarre--sometimes tragic--stories that it makes possible: the five-million-dollar miracle man who became a penniless preacher investing in a crackpot energy scheme; the senator whose untimely injury allowed the lottery to pass into law in his home state; and many others.Written with insight and wit, Dreaming in Numbers gives us the people and the stories that built a nationwide institution, for better or worse.