Win More Scratch Offs
The uncertainty of scratch-off tickets is what makes them so fun and exciting —
are your tickets a bust, or will you win big? While there’s no way to know for sure until you scratch them off, there are some tricks you can use to choose better scratch-offs at the store and increase your chances of winning.
Part 1 of 3:Buying Smart
1. Pick a price point
Pick a price point. Scratch-off lotto tickets are sold with varying odds, styles, and designs, but the easiest way to compare them is by price. Typically, scratch-off tickets cost between $1 and $20 a piece, depending on the game and the area in which you live. The cheaper tickets have a low percentage of overall winners, lower payouts, and a smaller spread between the top prize and interval prizes. More expensive tickets $5 and up, yield a higher overall percentage of winners, with a more even spread of higher-payouts, and usually a higher jackpot.
In other words, a dollar ticket may win more often, but the top prize may be a few hundred dollars, and the average prize will be much lower, while any given $20 ticket will win less often, but there is a very low probability that you could win $500,000 or more.
2. Understand the odds of the game in your price point
Understand the odds of the game in your price point. The odds listed for any particular game are the odds that any given ticket will be a winner. Just because some games present higher odds of winning than others doesn’t mean you’re more likely to win the jackpot, but it does make it a more valuable ticket for the price, given a large spread of lesser prizes. Buy tickets at your price point with the highest odds of any winner.
For a serious lottery player who wants to buy in bulk, the lower-price cards with higher odds is usually a better choice, while the occasional lottery player might do better to buy a more expensive ticket every now and then.
3. Study the small print on the back of the scratch card to find the odds of winning
Study the small print on the back of the scratch card to find the odds of winning. Compare the odds of a few games before making an educated guess as to which card to buy. Typically, the odds are listed as a comparison of numbers: 1: 5, or 1: 20. This means that 1 out of every 5 or 20 tickets will be a winner.
It doesn’t mean that every fifth ticket in a row wins, and it doesn’t mean that in a random sampling of 20 tickets, one will definitely be a winner. It means that in the total number of tickets allotted, in all the stores across the state, that percentage of tickets are winners.
4. Buy in bulk, or else stagger your ticket buying
Buy in bulk, or else stagger your ticket buying. There are rarely two winning tickets in a row, but there are at least a few winners in every roll of tickets. Therefore, if you know that a winning card has already been purchased from a given pack, stop playing for a couple days and come back, go to a different store, or buy a different game. This will ensure that you don’t spend money on an almost guaranteed loser.
Scratch-off tickets are sold with a guaranteed number of winners and losers in each pack, which is usually about 30 or 40 tickets. One way to guarantee that you’ll win is to buy an entire pack. Now, you might end up not making a profit, but you’ll end up winning something.
5. Hang out and wait for losers
Hang out and wait for losers. Like slot machines and other games of chance, long streaks of losses mean that the odds get much more friendly when you swoop in with a well-timed purchase. Try talking to the cashier at a particular lotto shop to get good tips on which games have paid out and which haven’t lately. You won’t necessarily be able to know whether or not a particular ticket has a better chance than another, but you can know whether or not a game’s already played out.
If someone in front of you just bought ten tickets and lost on them all, buy a few. It’s not a guarantee of a winner, but there’s a better chance the next ticket in the roll will win if the previous ten didn’t.
6. Check to see prize levels before you buy a game
Check to see prize levels before you buy a game. Unfortunately, it’s perfectly legal to sell tickets for a scratch off game after all of the top prizes have already been claimed. Sometimes the store will post a flyer with that information, but it is sometimes several weeks out of date. Checking with the state lottery homepage is the simplest way to make sure you aren’t wasting money on a loser.
If you have a favorite game at your price point and are considering buying some tickets, check out the top prize first before you head to the store. If it’s lower than usual, because the top prizes have been claimed, think about switching to a different game in the same price point.
Part 2 of 3:Avoiding Common Mistakes
1. Save your losing tickets
Save your losing tickets. Many places will run second-chance lottos, in which you can send in the old tickets from particular games for a drawing. Keep old tickets organized by game in an envelope, and go through it for second-chance opportunities when they’re announced. Send them in and hope for the best. That losing ticket might still win you money.
Sometimes, the lottery commission will advertise these second-chance drawings when the top prizes have already been paid out, to try to drive the sales of essentially useless tickets. Buying tickets that will surely be losers just to have the second-chance opportunity isn’t a great idea. Only use it for tickets you’ve already bought. Don’t play a game just because it will be collected as a second-chance lotto ticket later.
2. Turn in all losing tickets
Turn in all losing tickets. After you collect a few winners and want to turn them back in to collect your winnings, bring back your losing tickets too. Always have the computer at the retailer check the winnings to make sure you haven’t missed anything. In games where there are several different ways to win prizes, it can be easy to overlook winnings. Having the computer check will ensure you don’t accidentally throw away any winnings.
If you want to save tickets for second-chance opportunities, ask for them back and save them somewhere safe until the second-chance lotto is announced.
3. Avoid “Mystery Packs” or any other package promotions
Avoid “Mystery Packs” or any other package promotions. Another technique some retailers use to repackage and clear out old stock is discounting ticket packages, made up of games in which the top winners have already been paid out. While it may seem like you’re getting a deal, understand that the probabilities of a given ticket being a winner are completely skewed when the top prizes have already been claimed. It’s better to focus on active games in which the numbers are more friendly and you actually stand the chance to win some real money.
4. Examine the tickets before you play them
Examine the tickets before you play them. One Canadian professor was able to “plunder” tic-tac-toe scratch-offs by noticing a recurring pattern printed on winning tickets . If the printing on the outside of a scratch-off varies from card to card, pay attention to it.
The “singleton method” involves looking at the grid of printed numbers immediately to the left of a tic-tac-toe style scratch-off game, and analyzing the each matrix for patterns. If a single number appeared once on this game, it indicated a winner around 60% of the time.
Most states in which this manufacturing abnormality occurred have corrected the issue. Since most retailers and machines don’t let you examine the tickets before you’ve purchased them, it’s difficult to say there’s much practical application of this skill, though it’s still worth examining the ticket for any signs of tampering, or any patterns you might pick up on later and find your own manufacturing error.
Part 3 of 3:Staying Ahead
1. Set a scratch-off budget and stick with it
Set a scratch-off budget and stick with it. Decide how much you can afford to spend on a scratch-offs every week. This absolutely has to be money you can afford to lose, because you will lose money playing the lottery longterm. It’s a guarantee.
When you’ve set a weekly budget, take money for scratch-offs from the leftover cash, not used for rent, groceries, or other necessary expenses. If you’ve got a fund set aside for fun stuff, you could take it out of there if you enjoy playing scratch-offs.
Never spend more than your budget. Resist the temptation to chase your losses. The statistics won’t change in your favor.
2. Pick a game you like and stick with it until the prizes are paid out
Pick a game you like and stick with it until the prizes are paid out. Lotto tickets may award consistency in the long run. Keep playing the game at your price point with the odds you like, until the top prize is paid out, then switch to another game. This helps to manage the psychological impact of winning and losing. Make it a rule: you can’t play another game.
Some serious players differ on their philosophy regarding this. Alternatively, you could pick a store to always buy from, and buy different sorts of games from that store. Make one part of your buying routine consistent. Since there’s always a higher-percentage chance of losing over winning, regardless of what you do, playing consistent is just one way of staying sane.
3. Quit while you’re ahead
Quit while you’re ahead. If you win on a ticket, put the money in your wallet and leave the store. Don’t spend it on more scratch-offs beyond the budget you set, no matter how little. This alone will increase your income from scratch off wins, as using the winnings to invest in more money will most likely cause you to just lose them again. The numbers aren’t your friend in the long-term.