- Posted April 11, 2014 by
Improving odds of winning instant lottery scratch-off ticket games
It all started when I saw Richard Lustig – a serial lottery winner who says he’s won more than $1 million by playing the lottery in a logical and effective manner – on ABC’s 20/20 news program one night. It was during that report that I learned Lustig advised folks not to buy scratch-off tickets until they’ve checked to see if there were any winning tickets remaining for the variety of games, so they wouldn’t waste their precious monies on games whose prizes have already been given out.
Lo and behold, I didn’t even realize that states provided that information, such as the prizes-remaining page on the Ohio lottery’s website, which is updated quite frequently. Viewing the multitude of instant ticket games and their levels of prizes, I began to see how I could use mathematical skills to decipher those scratch-off tickets that had the best odds of winning when compared to others.
Approaching the lottery using logic and Excel spreadsheets
During the past couple of days I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time manipulating the remaining-prizes data for Ohio’s instant games in an Excel spreadsheet to uncover the tickets most likely to produce a win.
For example, when viewing the $1 “Luck of the Irish Tripler” game – which has 11 levels of winning amounts ranging from $1 to $1,700 – I learned that as of this writing, the Ohio lottery reports a total of 327,877 tickets remaining as unclaimed prizes. Of those remaining yet-to-be-won tickets, only eight of them have been printed with that top $1,700 prize. Therefore, dividing eight by the total number of tickets for that game gives an infinitesimally small .00244% chance of winning one of those top eight tickets.
I performed the same calculations for all 73 instant games listed on the Ohio lottery website, and then sorted the chance of winning percentage for each level of each game in ascending order to determine those prizes that have good chances of being winners.
Hedging your bets when buying instant scratch-off lottery tickets: The game with a 68% chance of winning
It was pretty interesting to learn that the “Supercash $5” instant game has a high percentage of turning out winners – with 68% of the 482,646 outstanding tickets providing a $10 prize. That’s 326,394 of those tickets paying back double what it costs to buy one. Of course, the odds of winning begin to drop dramatically as you climb up the prize ladder, with only 16.9% of those total tickets garnering a $15 prize, 2.79% of them worth a $50 prize, and a teeny .0002% of them taking home the big payday of $100,000 at the pinnacle.
Statistically, it’d be better to spend the $5 on a “20X the Money” Ohio scratch-off game, where you’d find a 16.9% chance of getting $20 back in your pocket. Or you could drop $20 on a “$300 Million Diamond Dazzler” ticket to experience a 12.48% chance of getting $100 back.
The point is, with all these states providing their remaining-prizes instant ticket data, we can use formulas to logically deduce the games that are more likely to pay out faster or better than others. If I would have known the slim odds of winning anything on the $10 “50X the Money” scratch-off ticket I’d previously purchased – even getting back the $10 lowest prize stands at only a 30% chance – I might’ve saved those funds.
Alas, I did “auto-win” $3 on a $1 “5X the Money” ticket, which only has a 9.1% chance of doing so – and I won $1 each on two $1 “Double Doubler” scratch-off tickets, which totally makes sense, seeing as though – at 52% odds of winning that prize – it’s one of the highest odds in our favor for the games.
Another thing that examining the lottery scratch-off statistics this closely tells us just how far-reaching some of those odds can be, reiterating the fact that certain folks might have better luck getting an online cash advance than striking it rich at instant tickets. Thus far, I’ve spent $20 this month on lottery tickets and have won back $5 – so we’ll see if I take Lustig’s advice to “reinvest” my winnings in hopes of earning more. Combined with my lottery odds and statistics analyzing, things might work out in my favor, and I'll garner more tips that I can pass along to readers hoping to improve their odds of winning, helping us not to throw good money after bad odds.
The $10,000 prize for the $10 “Money in the Bank” game, for instance, might sound like a wonderful payday, but it comes with a slim .005% chance of winning the cash. Once you start to realize odds like that, you begin to understand that it really is smart to play responsibly, and only pop those ten bucks in an instant lottery machine instead of in the gas tank if your gut pulls you in that direction.