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Scratch-Off Success: A Guide To Better Lotto Odds

Updated on September 8, 2011

If you've ever paid cash at a gas station and while inside you stopped and looked at all of those curious looking rolls of lottery tickets and thought to yourself, "What if?", and seriously considered purchasing one, do not feel bad. Thousands of people buy scratch-off lottery tickets every, single day, and out of those thousands, someone will win the extremely sought-after grand prizes each brand offers. Why? Well first off, it's fun! The excitement of knowing at any moment you can strike it big, just like anyone else, can give you quite a rush! Also, the lure of winning an amount of money to retire on from spending a few dollars, to many, is just too irresistible. However, irresponsible spending and failure to strategize could result in the loss of more than just those few dollars you thought you could spare. In this guide I will break down some simple strategies and tips that could help you save some cash, and possibly make you some, from Scratch-Off lottery tickets.

Let's start with a brief statement on common sense. Lottery tickets are fun, sure. In a sense they're a lot like carnival games. You go into it knowing that more than likely you will lose some money and walk away with nothing, but then again, what if you don't? What if it just so happens that you knock over all of those infuriating milk bottles and win that ginormous, stuffed teddy bear capable of being a bean bag chair, and you can walk around the fair grounds with it slung over your shoulder and everyone will know, "Wow! They won one of those games!", and you didn't just toss your money into the great abyss? That sounds enticing, and if you feel the need to try your hand, then have it, and cheers should you win! However, you need to make sure that before you buy scratch-off tickets, or play "more-than-likely-it's-a-scam" carny games, that you are playing with money that you can AFFORD to lose. Point made simple, if the money you're buying a scratch-off ticket with is money that should instead be going towards gas to get you to work, do NOT buy the ticket! Please, be responsible. Lottery tickets can be fun every once in a while when you have the spare change or cash, but when I say spare, I mean SPARE. So use your better judgement, because more than likely, you will not see that money again.

With that being said, I will now begin to break down some different forms of strategy, accompanied by various pictures of my own states lottery here in Ohio.

1. Fix Your Spending Limit

Like I've said above, one of the quickest ways to lose money on lottery tickets is to spend what you don't have. However, there is more to it than just that. Lottery tickets come in many different price ranges, and each have their own odds, which I will discuss shortly. Should you already have a preference for a certain card, say you buy a $1-$2 dollar card every couple of weeks when you go grocery shopping, AFTER you've paid for your groceries mind you, than great! You're already a step ahead. For those that don't have this however, decide how much "spare cash" you REALLY have BEFORE you go to buy the ticket, because tickets are intended to attract you and make you buy them on impulse.

Say you walk in the grocery store with a ten dollar bill knowing you can afford a five dollar ticket, yet you see a really colorful game that looks cool and you have a "good feeling about this one". That's how they get you. If you are standing in line, you may just be tempted to say "forget it", because the pressure of the guy behind you getting angry at your indecisiveness is starting to wear you down, and you were trying to do the math in your head of what you can spare, but then you cracked and just said "what the heck, i'll take the $10 Mega-Triple-Ultra-Winner Card", against your better judgement.

Now you've done it.

Now you walk out and realize you should've done the math and are short five dollars more than you could spare, and you really hope this card will at least give you that back. If it does, lucky you Jack. If not, your girlfriend/fiancé/wife is going to love to hear your excuse as to why you are now five dollars shorter than she expected plus the money for groceries when all she sent you to get was milk and bread. In short, budget wisely, and do so BEFORE you see all those colorful cards.

2. Know Your Game, Know Your Odds

This is perhaps the single, most important rule of strategy when it comes to buying lottery tickets. Each brand has different odds, based on price and prizes, even cards that cost the same amount.

What? You didn't know there were odds in the first place? Well sure you knew your chances of winning big money were slim to none, but did you know that there are odds for every card and every prize amount, based on cost of the card and the amount you stand to win, against remaining prizes to be won? Sounds slightly complicated right? Think about it this way:

If you spend $2 on a card that has a grand prize of $500 and few interval prizes in between, YOU ARE PLAYING FOR THAT $500. This is because the prize is small and as few grand prizes of that amount that there are, there are therefore less of the prizes that would at least return your money. This means the odds that you will make your money back at least are astronomically small. This opposed to buying a $5 dollar card that the grand prize is $100,000, with many, many prize intervals in between, you are playing for much more, i.e. you have more prize options, and therefore more chances to win, since there are more than likely only 1 to 3 total grand prize tickets, yet more in the smaller intervals. Starting to make sense? See the pictures below to get a feel for what I'm talking about about prize options and remaining prizes that make up the odds. The first picture is of a Bingo X 10 $5 dollar card, with a grand prize of $100,000.

This next picture is of a $1 Cash Explosion card. Take notice of the overall odds compared to the overall odds of the $5 Bingo card. The $5 card has better overall odds then the $2 card.

Now you may think, of course the odds for the $5 card will be better because it has higher prize amounts and more prizes, well take a look at this next $1 card, the Cherry Tripler, and its overall odds compared to the first $1 card. The Cherry Tripler has worse odds than the Cash Explosion even though they cost the same. This is because of the amounts of the potential prizes.

So as you can see, odds do indeed play an important factor every time you choose to buy a scratch-off ticket, whether it be cards of varying price ranges, or cards that cost the same but are different games. Take some time to read up on your states lottery page about the odds of the games your state provides. And make sure you constantly check back on their site to see how many of each prize is still available, because sometimes you could be playing for a grand prize that has already been won!

Now that I've covered everything from Budget to Odds, I'd like to give a couple general tips and guidelines to help once you've fixed your budget amount and have read up on the odds of what game you'd like to play.

  • Make sure to change up your location. If you buy a card from one convenient store and you happen to win, even if it is a small amount, the chances of winning again from that same store or machine are very small, because rolls of tickets are made and sold with certain percentages of winning tickets, and therefore predetermined odds of winning anything.
  • Do not buy a whole roll of tickets! There are avid ticket buyers who believe that buying entire rolls of a particular game nearly guarantees them a winning ticket. This is more than likely true, but it's not much of a success if you've won several small tickets out of the whole roll if you've spent over $300 on it. You're still down a couple hundred bucks, and unless that is your fixed budget of spare cash, which I don't believe it is, you should be in no position to lose that money.

That's all I have to offer, and should you be reading this and you made it to the bottom of this article, than I not only congratulate you for hanging in there, but also thank you for reading! I hope this enlightens you on what could be a fun way to make a few bucks, when approached with knowledge and a cool head.
Cheers and good luck!


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    • profile image

      seb 2 years ago


      I live in Poland and I am wondering is there a way to cheat scratch off tickets.

      I noticed that they are very similar in diferent countries so there should be one way of producing them.

      If you wants to share with me please write to:

      I am open for any business proposal.

    • profile image

      Danny 3 years ago

      He said va not vt

    • profile image

      Daniki 4 years ago

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      Daniki 4 years ago

      Hmm, I found that info on the VT lottery website and I don't even live in that state. Honestly, any state I've bought scratch I check their website first to make sure all the top prizes haven't been sold (i.e. Calif).

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      Mary 4 years ago

      Nick's comment is actually quite legitimate. I'm looking for the number of outstanding tickets on the VA lottery website and I don't think they're up there. Not every state works the same, and his comment about odds are very true.

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      Tim 4 years ago

      He said "Most" lotteries.

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      Kristal 5 years ago

      Yes, Daniki you're so right! I look on the Florida Lottery website all the time and the tell you what what remaining prizes are left on what tickets. So you can increase your odds just by eliminating the tickets that have 0 top prizes left.

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      Daniki 5 years ago

      Washington shows you how many tickets, how many winners, and many were paid. Also how many are left of the prize. Nick who left the comment doesn't know what he's talking about.

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      nerf 5 years ago

      secret code.....alfalfa love Darla

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      Haley 5 years ago

      Nice Article

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      Nick 5 years ago

      Good write-up, but you are assuming that just because there are more prizes, the odds are better. That assumption is invalid (for example) if the ticket with twice as many prizes has 4x the number of tickets printed in total. Most lotteries won't tell you the total number of tickets, or the total number outstanding. Therefore, it is pretty tough to determine your actual odds.