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Confessions of a Scratch-off Fool

Updated on April 24, 2018

When I would win on a daily number, which wasn't often, I'd treat myself to a few scratch-offs and would leave the store where I bought them to scratch them at home.

Then I became a scratch-off fool. I started playing way too often where I bought them and would walk away from the store I was staying and playing in with no cash. Or worse, would foolishly make an ATM transaction or two.

When you play scratch-offs, try to preset the amount you are willing to lose. However, that's easier said than done with these colorful, well-designed tickets with such enticing names as "Win for Life", "Cash $50!", "Jumbo Bucks", "$1,000,000 Large" , "Big Red 8s", "Lady Luck 7", "Cash X20", "$2,500 a Week for Life", "Cash X50" and "Set for Life" to name some. Even more enticing is there are new scratch-off games added each month.

Before I foolishly starting playing way too often, I saved money in a credit union. I'll confess it's a rush buying a ticket and winning $20 - $100 or more instantly, usually up to $500 max. Winning $500 is not easy, but possible. It's more likely to win a larger amount via the $5 and $10 tickets. However, I've won $500 a few rare times on a $2 ticket and once amazingly on a $1 "Loose Change" ticket which is even rarer. And no doubt, some scratch-off tickets are better than others.

Scratch-offs can be addictive. Odds are you won't win big and often. If you buy enough tickets in one sitting of the same kind, you will win something. Hopefully you will get a good hit after just buying a few. There are times you can buy as many as 8 or 9 of the same ticket and win nothing. There's been a few times I've won $50 or more after buying just a few tickets. When you do get a good hit, you have to stop yourself and walk away.

Like others who read this will confess, way too often you make the mistake of chasing a ticket after you bought 7 or 8 of the same ticket and won $0. You're angry, want revenge and are thinking there's got to be a winner soon. So, you buy a few more and win just face value of the ticket. You're still disappointed and upset. So you continue to buy a few more thinking the next ticket or two will be worth my time and money spent and it isn't. All that equals a big loss. You leave the store with $0 money and are angry.

Scratch-offs are OK gifts to slip into a card; Birthday (18+), Graduation (College), Anniversary or Retirement. Or it's fine to play on payday. Just buy a few and take them home. Don't stay at the store unless you are disciplined to buy a few (2 or 3) and leave. And when you stay and buy way too many, you will see the store clerk or owner frown or get inpatient. Especially if you are frequently buying one at time and winning a dollar or two and keep buying more.

If the store has a lottery scanner, double check what you think are losing tickets. Don't tear up the tickets you think are losers. On occasion, I've been surprised after checking that I actually won $10 or $20 on a $5 ticket. No need to check if you see a K or P at the bottom of any scratch-off. That ticket for sure is a loser.

For $2 tickets usually $100 is the maximum now. I've only heard of one very lucky person in the town I live in, who purchased a $5 Monopoly ticket and won $1,000,000. Yet, I've never met or personally know anyone that's won more than $1,500. And who knows how many of those $5 / $10 / $20 tickets they bought to win that. Unlike the name "Set for Life" it simply will be a good week or month if you win $500 or more.

It's OK to play. I still do, but play smarter. Try harder to save your money rather than scratching it away. Take it from a former scratch-off fool.

Scratch-off fever can be costly.

The reality is winning isn't easy with scratch-offs. Odds are you won't win often and will read frequently "Sorry Not a Winner" when you scan your ticket. It's more likely you will be break-even Steven every now and then. Or, on rare occasion, be a winner. That is, if you are lucky...


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      GMBLRMomNoMore 2 years ago

      I was at one time a scratch off fool as well.

      It started off innocently enough. I'd get them for Christmas or birthdays, buy a couple after work occasionally. Then I won $1,000 on a $2 ticket. I started buying more thinking I could win again big. It never happened. I had the occasional $500 or $100 over the years, but I was spending anywhere between $20-$100 a week with nothing to show for it.

      I used to rationalize it by telling myself I didn't drink or smoke, or have any expensive hobbies so it was okay. I was supporting education! Then I read something about savings. It was about how if you saved $50 a week for 5 years you'd have $13,000 (even if it was in a no interest cookie jar). Well after 10+ years of buying lotto tickets I had nothing saved.

      I started reading about your chance of winning, where the money goes too, etc. First, you have very little chance of winning big. The payout on scratch offs varies by state but is usually under 60%. The money that is supposed to go to education may go to education, but what the states fail to tell you is that the schools don't actually get more money from them for most. Instead the state will use the money the lotto covered for something else. 80% off the profits come from around 20% of the players. I was probably one of those 20%. It's not a called a stupid tax for nothing.

      Once I really though about it, I realized all I was doing was handing my money over to the state, which pissed me off since I already paid so much in taxes. I would have gotten more out of donating the money. November of 2014 I said enough. No more!~ I quit buying them cold turkey. It was not easy. I was tempted a lot. I really think I was addicted to the thrill of them. All those commercials about winning big. It used to be that I couldn't go into a store without buying some, couldn't pass the machine without looking to see which ones were new. I also used to buy them for Christmas and birthday gifts for others. I don't do that anymore either as I think it promotes gambling, and that is not something I wish to do. I don't want my children to grow up thinking that the lotto is "fun". For most, it is nothing but a pipe dream.

      Now that I no longer buy them, I finally feel like I'm winning.