Plot Points: More Than 20 Years Later, Does The ‘Friends’ Episode ‘The One With The Lottery’ Hold Up?

Evan Lambert

friends lottery episode

It’s hard to believe, but Friends has now been off the air for 20 years.

It may feel like it’s still around, especially for the people who love rewatching classic comedies instead of sitting down in front of any one of the 5,000 new shows on the air. But the show is most definitely long gone.

And you can feel it watching an episode like 2003’s “The One with the Lottery,” which feels just … so 2003.

In the Season Nine episode, the gang discovers that the jackpot just reached $300 million and they decide to go in on a pool and buy tickets. Hijinks ensue, of course.

The episode also includes an inspirational story about Chandler getting a junior copywriter position (that concept plays better on screen), plus Ross and Rachel’s daughter Emma says her first word, “Gleba,” which is the name of the spore-bearing inner mass of a fungus. Cute!

But what makes the episode feel less than contemporary? A few key details.

$300 million is not a Huge prize anymore

In the episode, a $300 million jackpot is considered a big enough prize to send Monica and Joey to Connecticut to buy tickets.

But nowadays, with Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots crossing the billion-dollar mark somewhat regularly, jackpot fatigue is on the rise, and $300 million wouldn’t be enough to inspire any out-of-state trips.

As economist Victor Matheson recently told Lottery Geeks, “[First] we get tired of a mere five million dollars. We’re talking about 50. Then we’re talking about 500 million. Then we’re talking about a billion. And there’s probably no end to that.”

In other words, it’s quaint that the gang lost their minds over a $300 million jackpot, but it’s just not realistic anymore.

Analog lottery pools are old news

In the episode, Chandler accidentally lets on that Monica bought more tickets than the rest of the gang, leading to inter-friend quarreling and general Monica-ness.

The friends never appointed a leader of their lottery pool and thus couldn’t keep track of who deserved a bigger share. Of course, problems like this are easily avoided now that, as one example, Jackpocket has its Pools” feature.

With Pools, lottery players can easily keep track of who contributed what and thus split winnings accordingly. The app takes care of all of that for you, hopefully avoiding any drama.

It’s all delivered digitally, too. Now, nobody has to physically hand cash to a point person or keep an Excel of their contributions or flip up their double collar or whatever it was people did back then.

In the smartphone age, there’s more accountability

Even with iLottery apps and couriers, there are still lottery players who take the old school route and create analog lottery pools. But most still use modern technology to assist in the process. 

In the Friends episode, the gang nearly falls apart after Monica’s betrayal is revealed. They argue, until Phoebe threatens to throw everyone’s tickets out the window unless they say out loud that friendship is more important than the lottery. Then a pigeon swoops down and knocks the tickets out of her hand, sending everyone scurrying onto the street.

In the end, Phoebe only wins $3 … and Gunther tells everyone that a $10,000 winning ticket was later found outside of their apartment on the street. Oops!

Of course, even analog lottery pool lovers have more checks and balances these days. Everyone has a smartphone. Everyone can share photos of all their pool tickets. The people running the analog pools also typically send emails containing lists of all the players who participated, along with their shares of the potential prize. And yes, they even make Excel spreadsheets sometimes.

It sounds like a lot of work, and it is compared to using an app like Jackpocket, but it certainly limits the arguments and the risk of pigeon-related disasters.

All that said, we can’t help but wonder how people in 2045 will talk about 2024 depictions of the lottery. Maybe, for them, a billion dollars won’t even cover a flight to Tahiti anymore.