The 2020 Toto Hong Bao Draw


James looked up from the snaking queue and muttered a silent curse. He had barely moved in the past ten minutes. This is taking longer than he had imagined. 

He reached in for his phone to check the time. The iPhone Face ID algorithm got his face right every single time and unlocked it automatically, even when all he wanted was to steal a peek at the clock face. He had been amongst the first few in Singapore to receive the phone and was throughly impressed by the technology. But after a while the novelty has worn off and he found himself getting irritated occasionally. 

His mother had sent him multiple WhatsApp voice messages about the dinner tonight. Some he listened to, others he left untouched. She would record them at the coffee shop whenever she has a free moment, and the background noise was deafening. 

He had no doubt that all the messages will be about the same thing. Dinner. Tonight. Chap Goh Meh. 730pm. Home cooked food. Brother will be buying crabs. Don’t be late. 

From the looks of it, late he will be. He had left the office at 630pm (a rarity nowadays) to make the long drive north to his parents’ home in Woodlands, a drive that he was once familiar with, but one that he is making lesser and lesser. 

After all, from where he works at MBFC, Woodlands is right at the opposite end of the island. He does not relish the prospect of being stuck in the evening commute. He had much better things to do with his time. He had reluctantly agreed to dinner at home only because it was CNY. 

It did ease his pain somewhat when he realised yesterday that Yishun is somewhat along the way home, and that he could do a quick stop to pick up some Toto tickets for the Friday draw. According to the wise old Internet, more than 30 winning tickets have been sold from this Yishun outlet alone. It is not called the luckiest outlet in Singapore for nothing. James is not one who believes in half measures. If you want to do something, do it well. Even when it comes to buying Toto. 

And do it well he will. Especially when the pot is starting at 12 million bucks. 

Not that 12 million anything is foreign to him. His biggest deal at work last year was way over nine figures. US dollars. A conglomerate wanted to hive off part of their property portfolio into a REIT. The newly promoted CEO was someone whom he had worked with many years ago. He made a pitch for it and landed it squarely. 

The deal was the largest he has ever led, and just that one deal alone had netted his team a sizeable bonus. As they always say in Investment Banking – when you sit near a waterfall, you are bound to get wet. They had worked hard on it for six months and they deserved every single cent. 

James himself had dug deep into his own pockets and had dished out rewards to the deserving team members. The Rolex watches were expensive but he was sure they appreciated the thought. On top of that, he drooled at the miles he could accrue when they allowed him to pay with his credit card. He would break the million mile mark with one full swipe. 

It took him a while before he finally found a parking lot. HDB car parks, especially the ones located next to food centers and shops, are often filled with vans and lorries. James was reluctant to park next to them. He had seen first hand how his colleague’s brand new M5’s paint work fell victim to a tradesman’s trolley. It was a traumatic experience for both of them. 

But today he took a chance. He was in a rush, and he would be tied up in meetings and appointments the next few days. There is no way he could spare time for this. He had to get it done today. From this shop. The stakes were too high to ignore. 

$12 million dollars, the posters declared. This 12 mil could come in really handy, James thought to himself. Ever since he stepped into the working world and drew his first pay cheque more than 12 years ago, he had never ended the month with a positive bank balance. The salary for bank employees have never been high to begin with, he contented. It is the bonus that makes all the differences. 

And over the years, it was his year end bonus that literally kept him alive. The bonuses allowed him to pay off his credit card debt, accumulated in big and small amounts over the months leading up to it. They allowed him to make the downpayment on his Porsche Boxster S, his bachelor pad in the city and also his annual holidays. 

The bonuses kept him solvent. They make him rich. They also make him poor. 

With the 12 million, things would be radically different. For a start, one of his acquaintances had bought an investment deal to the table. It was a pair of conservation shophouses in Club Street, the current owner having just inherited them after the patriarch of the family passed away. Sensing hostility from her siblings, she needed to dispose of the property in the shortest possible time and siphon the cash away. They are worth easily $40 million, and she is only asking for $25m. 

James could see the potential of the properties and he wanted in badly on this deal, but the minimum buy in is a million dollars in cash per share. There is no way he can come up with that amount of cash in such a short time. A few of his friends have already committed and have made payment. He has until next week to decide. The 12 million jackpot might just do the trick, with plenty to spare. 

He also needed a bigger place. The more often his girlfriend stays over, the lesser his wardrobe space becomes. Shoes are piling up in the storeroom, many of them still in their boxes, remnants of her overseas haul. If only he had another room for his home office, where he could escape to for some peace and quiet when he needed it. 

The tv mounted high in the corner was showing the Finance Minister delivering the budget speech. He was just getting to the part about the Medisave top ups, MediShield Life premium subsidies and Careshield Life. Seriously, James thought, how much more complicated can it be to even be living in Singapore? 

He noticed the person ahead of him in the queue break into a deep frown. Not an angry frown. More of a face someone would make when he is deep in thoughts. James recalled a client telling him during a meeting that he frowns too much. Guilty as charged, James remembered thinking, especially when I have to put up with such bullshit during meetings. 

No more bullshit, James thought to himself. No more bullshit the moment he cashes in on the winning ticket. 


Danny could hardly remembered when was the last time he ventured beyond his neighbourhood in Woodlands. 

Even during the recent Chinese New Year break, his visitations were limited to relatives living in Woodlands and Sembawang. After all, their parents were living together in the same kampong decades ago before being allocated their HDB flats. The spirit was strong then, and few people knew what to make of high rise living, so it made sense for everyone to stick together. 

Today was somewhat special. Danny had Ah Boy, the drink stall assistant who is the expert with phones, help show him how to use Google Maps on his cracked up Samsung Note 2. 

Danny was reluctant initially, he was certain he would not be using it much. After all, Woodlands had everything going for him. He was familiar with the mall and the neighbourhood shops. Everyone was friendly and he did not feel out of place in his slippers and berms. 

But today he had an important mission and he did not want to mess it up by getting lost. So not only did he get Ah Boy to set up the destination on his phone, he also ensured that it was fully charged before he left the coffee shop at 6. 

Danny normally did not get home until 11pm. The dinner crowd was good business. They normally started streaming in from 6pm. The earlier ones are usually in a better mood, probably from being able to escape the office earlier than usual. The ones that show up at 9 for that quick bite tend to be more solemn. They rarely stop to chat, preferring to gobble down their noodles while staring at their phone. 

They are usually the unmarried ones or without kids, Auntie would always venture a guess. Customers with small children would order their noodles to go and often with no chilli. The ones who bought their own tingkat to contain the soup usually have an elderly parent at home. Auntie could read people well. And when she does that it is always about their family. 

But today Uncle and Auntie choose to close shop early. Chap Goh Meh, they informed Danny a week ago. Time for the entire family to get together and have dinner. Almost like a second reunion dinner. Auntie was visibly excited. 

To him, Uncle and Auntie are family. They work together 350 days a year, 12 hours a day. They know what each other is thinking even before anything is being mentioned. At work, they perform in a choreographed dance – Practiced, deliberate and a joy to behold. Uncle cooks the noodles, Auntie takes the orders and assists him with the ingredients, while he, Danny, sends the noodles out and tidies up the miscellaneous affairs. 

He contemplated whether to head home for a shower before making his way to Yishun, but decided against it. The Wan Bao article had mentioned that long queues are to be expected at the luckiest Toto outlet in Singapore. He wanted to make sure that he gets there nice and early. On top of that, Danny had no idea how long the bus rides were going to take. 

He was carrying the weight of the coffee shop on his shoulders. Everyone had read that Wan Bao article, and everyone wanted to be part of the winning team. Throughout the day, they chipped in with their bets which Danny meticulously recorded down in an exercise book. They debated if System 7 stands a better chance of winning. According to Ah Boy, who is forever plugged in to the wise old Internet, the answer is yes. 

12 million. Danny had no idea what 12 million looks like. 

He had no reason to, given that he makes $1500 a month. He remembered that it was only $1200 three years ago when he first started working for Auntie and Uncle.

They were generous to a fault, and insisted on dishing out a $100 increment every year. He felt a little bad at times. After all, he knew how much the stall takes in every month, and how much the fish balls and the noodles and the sauces cost. He knew about the rental increase every year. He saw for himself how hard Auntie and Uncle work. 

But they insisted. Their kids are all grown up now, they said. Their house is paid for and they receive an allowance every month from the children. On their probing, Danny could not say no. At the rate he is going, in five years’ time he will be making $2000, a very generous amount indeed. 

Ah Boy had suggested breaking the bet into twelve shares, and to accommodate everyone, Uncle and Auntie had to combine their bet. If they win, it would come up to a million dollars per share. 

With that kind of money, Danny would go on a holiday for sure. He heard that Thailand is cheap and the people are friendly. Or perhaps Japan. He had only eaten the supermarket varietal sushi, and he would love to try sushi from where it originated from. 

With the winnings, he was sure Uncle and Auntie would want to retire and spend more time with their grandson. The kid is turning two years old soon, and their faces lit up every time his name is mentioned. Once in a while, Auntie would receive the cutest kiddie video from his son. She in turn would leave a WhatsApp voice message for her beloved grandson.

If that were to happen, Danny would be more than happy to buy over the stall and take over running it. He was happy at the coffee shop and they have regular customers who appreciate their food. That is more than enough for Danny.

But first, he has to get his hands on the tickets first. The queue is crawling along.

The tv mounted high in the corner was showing the Finance Minister delivering the budget speech. He was just getting to the part about the Medisave top ups, MediShield Life premium subsidies and Careshield Life. 

Danny could not help but break into a frown.

He remembered his mother falling ill four years ago and passing away soon after. The bill came up to a fair bit but they were able to get it waived for some reason. These schemes are way too complicated for him to understand. He would need to ask Ah Boy about them at the coffee shop one of these days. 

Unless, of course, he buys the winning ticket later. Then, Danny told himself, he would really have no use for such things anymore. 


Prize money for the Toto Hong Bao draw starts at $12 million. At the time of press, it has snowballed to $13.6 million.

We live in a capitalistic society. Money is a scarce resource.

It is a good servant but a very bad master.

We seek more money through work, through business, through investing and through the occasional lottery flutter.

But never let it be the master of your life.

Dr Wealth wishes all punters best of luck.

Huat ah!!!