Winning With Scratch Tickets

Winning Lottery Scratch Tickets

a Robert Perkis / Lotto-Logix article cr2001

Lately I've been trying very hard to determine how I am any different from the knuckleheads standing on the lottery line ahead and behind me, especially when none of us are cashing in any winning tickets.

I console myself with the knowledge the tickets I am playing have better odds of winning than those chosen willy-nilly.

"NOT SO!" I hear you exclaim, "all lottery tickets have an equal chance of winning." If that's what you think, come with me for a look beneath the surface at Scratch Off Tickets.

First a quick covering of the basics. Lottery scratch tickets are issued by the state lottery in ever increasing numbers. On the surface they generally consist of a collection of boxes printed on stiff slick paper with a special latex paint hiding what's printed in the boxes. As the paint is scratched away the boxes reveal prize values or symbols relating to prize values. Usually one is required to match three price/symbols to win, though this can vary enough to make reading the rules worth your while.

For the most part, state agencies give lip service to citizen service. The Lottery is the only state agency actively trying to fleece citizens with a get rich quick scheme, so expect to be flimflammed with skating the edge promotions suggesting you will win easily and often.

One of the reasons the state Lottery is able to successfully promote scratch ticket games is by making the truth difficult to acquire. Any responsible agency would print pamphlets with the odds of winning their games. In Florida which I assume is pretty much like most lottery states, this information used to be secret, then only available per game on request, finally they now provide a single copy to retailers to post under plexi-glass on the lottery ticket rack.

It is virtually impossible to compare lottery scratch odds of dozens of differently structured and priced games while others are trying to use the same rack to fill out their tickets.

If you buy lottery scratch tickets in quantity, you must acquire a game odds chart from your lottery in order to improve your chances to win. Don't be afraid to write the lottery and ask for the scratch off odds chart or to ask a store owner to allow you to photo copy the chart or get you a copy.

Almost all Florida games start with the same odds of 1 in 8.33 to win a free play, after this things start to get strange.

Here we compare two lucky 7 games:

COOL 7'S Wild 7'S
Ticket ($1 value) 1 in 8.33 1 in 8.33
$2.00 1 in 13.04 1 in 15.00
$3.00 1 in 33.33 1 in 33.33
$7.00 1 in 42.86 1 in 50.00
$27.00 1 in 391.30 1 in 270.66
$77.00 1 in 16,363.64 1 in 4,500.00
$700.00 1 in 180,000.00 1 in 180,000.00
Overall odds 1 in 3.96 1 in 4.16

The back of the ticket gives the Overall odds, but not the breakdown. By the Overall odds of winning any prize the Cool 7's appears to be the better game, when in reality the lower tier prizes worth winning ($27. and $77.) have the better odds in Wild 7's.

Most scratch ticket games are not this easy to compare because the lottery likes to confuse the issue with differing prizes.

Next we'll look at two games where the prizes and jackpot odds differ somewhat.

High Card Swinging Cash
Ticket ($1 value) 1 in 8.33 1 in 8.33
$1. 1 in 25.00 1 in 15.00
$2. 1 in 30.00 1 in 37.50
$4. NA 1 in 75.00
$5. 1 in 42.86 1 in 75.00
$10. 1 in 150.00 1 in 75.00
$15. NA 1 in 689.66
$25. 1 in 300.00 NA
$30. NA 1 in 360.00
$50. 1 in 507.04 NA
$200. 1 in 30,000.00 NA
$250. NA 1 in 180,000.00
$1,000. 1 in 189,000.00 1 in 240,000.00
Overall Odds 1 in 4.37 1 in 3.88

Again the overall odds would suggest Swinging Cash at 1 in 3.88 over High Card at 1 in 4.37, but look at the difference between the two when it comes to your chances of a good prize.

Any thinking lottery player would conclude a scratch game with a top prize of $100. would offer a much better chance of winning. This isn't always the case as we compare . . .

Fun Money Market Windfall
Ticket ($2 value) 1 in 8.33 1 in 7.50
$2. 1 in 25.00 1 in 25.00
$4. 1 in 37.50 NA
$5. 1 in 21.43 1 in 16.67
$10. 1 in 33.33 1 in 30.00
$20. NA 1 in 150.00
$25. 1 in 133.33 NA
$40. NA 1 in 320.00
$50. 1 in 444.44 1 in 1,846.15
$100. 1 in 8,000.00 1 in 4,000.00
$500. NA 1 in 60,000.00
$10,000. NA 1 in 1,260,000.00
Overall odds 1 in 3.41 1 in 3.61

Whether you've only got $2 and you're hoping the lottery will buy you lunch or you'd like to pick up a little extra cash, Fun Money is clearly the sucker bet.

In the final test, let's shop around for that $10,000.00 jackpot prize. These are all $2 tickets.

Crazy 8's Bingo 1 in 2,016,000
Wild Play Bingo 1 in 2,016,000
Cruse N Cash 1 in 1,890,000
Fame, Fortune N Adventure 1 in 1,890,000
Golf & Cash 1 in 1,890,000
High Stakes 1 in 1,890,000
Poker Party 1 in 1,890,000
Sparkling Gold 1 in 1,890,000
Market Windfall 1 in 1,260,000
Just For You 1 in 840,000
Harley Davidson 1 in 756,000

A little knowledge can mean powerful odds improvement in your favor when it comes to the lottery.

Good luck to you. Robert Perkis

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