Improving My Lottery Scratch-Off Odds

Of course the only legitimate way to improve your lottery chances is to rob the store for all their tickets. That way everything you win is profit!

At my store we took down tickets when the grand prize has been won. The lotto machine automatically sends us a notification when a grand prize has been won.

So if you’re in New York you won’t have to check online.

That won’t work. There is a code on the back of each ticket so that the State can figure out which store has the tickets. Once they are reported stolen it would be easy to disable all of them. And it would be easy to catch the guy trying to cash them in.

Wrong, that won’t work. Packets of scratch it tickets are activated by the vendor once they are opened. If you stole a full pack of un-activated tickets and tried to redeem them you will not get paid and will get arrested. Even if you go to another vendor to redeem the tickets they will know that you have an unvalidated ticket. The pack has to be scanned by the lottery machine when the pack is opened.

If you steal an already validated open pack of tickets it is one quick phone call to cancel the reamaining tickets. Of course, people who try to steal tickets find this out the hard way.

Or what Lakai said.

Imagine there are 10 types of scratch-off games. Each game has 50 tickets (and 5 winning tickets) total. It seems to me my odds of winning would improve by buying 10 of the same game than to scatter my purchase across ten games. Wouldn’t each consecutive ticket purchase bring me closer to a winning ticket? …Or, is this logic seemingly only true when applied to a small population, such as this example???

If I don’t lose it all to white collar criminals cooking their books, running pyramid schemes, and such! :smiley:

Askance, I should add…isn’t this why people will keep playing the SAME slot machine for hours, instead of randomly moving about the casino? …Or, is it just a false perception people cling to?

It would be equally likely to take you one ticket further from a winner. And you sacrifice the chance of winning multiple times over the 10 games. I promise you, how you scatter your purchases has exactly 0 effect on your odds of winning.

If however there was a way of finding out that the winning ticket in any one game has already been sold (as some others have mentioned here is possible), then that’s extra information and does change things dramatically. Why they’d allow that I can’t imagine, that would mean they wouldn’t sell the rest of the tickets in that game and so they’d make a loss. I don’t believe that happens here.

It’s false. This is the same kind of thinking that says after 3 or 4 consecutive reds on the roulette wheel that black is somehow more likely to turn up next, as if the wheel has a memory. Humans have an appallingly bad instinctive grasp of probability, and gamblers even worse than that, so judging from their behaviour is always going to mislead you.

Picking all from the same game will increase your odds of making at least one win, but it’ll decrease your odds of getting multiple wins (in both cases, the difference is minuscule, when you’ve got a whole state full of lottery cards). The expected value stays the same, but the distribution changes.

Just remember one thing about any lottery – it would not exist if it didn’t make a profit for the state running it. In other words…


Well crap. There goes my plan to pay for my student loans! On to Plan B – faking my death!

Along these lines: The trouble with Statistics courses is that it is ALL exceptions and no rules! I swear we never used the same equation twice! What are the odds of finding a professor who can really explain this stuff???

So, the way to increase your odds is to decrease your playing…
Okay, seriously, I’ll try it.

No, this cannot be. In my scenario, with a fixed number of tickets, the odds of each consecutive ticket being a winner would incrementally increase, right? First, the odds of winning (asusming 5 winning tickets) would be 5/50, then 5/49, 5/48… As the total tickets available decreases with each purchase, you odds of winning should increase, right?

Unless one of those tickets purchased is the winning ticket. How will you know?

If you have all this information at your disposal, that is correct. I mean, if you know a roll of 50 contains a jackpot, and 49 tickets have been purchased without a jackpot, you’d be a fool not to buy that last ticket.

However, you can also think of it this way: You have 5 rolls of different lottery games. Each roll contains 10 tickets. Each contains exactly 1 winner. You have enough money to buy 10 tickets, but you cannot scratch any of them off until the whole purchase is made. (That is, you can’t buy one from roll 1, hit the jackpot, and then go to roll 2.)

If you buy all ten from the first roll, you’re guaranteed one winner. However, if you buy from different rolls, you might get zero winners, you might get five winners. Your odds to hit the jackpot using the first technique is 100%. But you are also guaranteed to only win one prize. If you scatter you picks across all five games, your odds of winning go down. But your prize potential goes up to 5x of just buying all ten tickets from the same roll.

In the end, the expected value of both of these bets (unless I’ve thought about this wrong) is exactly the same: 1 jackpot.

Unless you have total knowledge of the state of the game, (knowing how many prizes are left in each game and how many tickets are outstanding), I don’t think you can come to a useful conclusion about your odds that would make playing ten in a row from one game better than scattering your bets across different games. What is the game you choose to buy ten straight tickets has already paid off its jackpot? What if there is one jackpot remaining, but it’s an unpopular game with 100,000 unplayed tickets, while game B is popular with 25,000 outstanding tickets and no jackpot?

So, sure, if you have exact knowledge of the state of the game, you can improve your odds and/or expected value by sticking to one game.

I should add that, yes. Each time you play one game and lose, your odds for hitting the jackpot are slightly higher. So, it might go from 1 in 50000 to 1 in 49999 to 1 in 49998 to 1 in 49997, etc. But how do you know this is better than the scratch off game next to it? Like I said, what if that game has 30000 tickets left without a jackpot being hit? Well, your odds are better off playing that game. You have a 1 in 30000 chance. But you don’t know any of this info, so, all things considered, it doesn’t make a difference in terms of which is the better strategy in the long run.

But the first ticket sold (to someone else) may have been a winner, reducing your odds to 4/50 from the start and swamping the effect you cite. And so on. As I say, if you can really find out that a given game has already had a winner or winners (which I find hard to fathom, if so) that changes things dramatically.