How to Pick Winning Scratch Off Lotto Tickets

By Contributor
Pick Winning Scratch Off Lotto Tickets

Everyone has the fantasy of hitting it big from a small gamble on a scratch off lottery ticket, but only few do. The opportunity to make a fortune off of a small, one-time wager is incredibly tempting, but why leave it all up to chance? Learn how to pick the scratch off cards with the best probability of paying out, and know what odds you are paying for. Let your scratch off lottery ticket experience be an investment, and not a gamble.

Research which scratch cards are available in your state. Since lotteries are run by individual states, each state will sell a different series of scratch cards.

Find your state's lottery website by searching, for example, "NY lotto" or whatever your state's abbreviation may be.

Find the scratch off information section on the website. This may be linked under "scratchers" or "instant win games."

Once you locate the scratch off section on your state's lottery website, you must decide your budget for scratch cards. This is when it is beneficial to compare the odds on the differently priced tickets.

Odds of winning a $1 Loose Change, nylottery.org

Generally, the higher the cost of the scratch off ticket, the higher the overall odds of winning. This is the chance of winning any type of prize, be it simply your money back or the jackpot. For example, for a $1 Loose Change ticket from the NY lottery, the overall odds of winning are 1 in 4.71.

$30 Win $1,000,000 a Year For Life

Meanwhile, a Win $1,000,000 a Year for Life ticket costs $30 and has overall winning odds of 1 in 2.93. Basically, you are paying more for all of the additional ways to win prizes.

A good way to compare tickets is to see which prize has the best odds of being won. On the Loose Change ticket noted above, that payout is $1, a refund of your purchase, with odds 1 in 8.59. On the Million a Year ticket, it has a $35 payout, with odds 1 in 6.58. That means more winning tickets will pay out $35 than any other, even ones that simply refund the money. The Million a Year ticket gives you a better chance of winning more than a refund.

It is important to note that just because you are paying more money for better overall odds, it does not mean you are getting better jackpot odds. If you are looking to win any big prize, then a lower stakes ticket is probably a better option because the odds of winning the smaller jackpots are better. This is clearly detailed with the two examples above, with 1 in 48,000 winning the $500 Loose Change grand prize, and 1 in 3.5 million winning the Million a Year for Life grand prize. Note: in few other circumstances does it make statistical sense for you to purchase a $1 ticket, as you are buying the worst possible odds of getting your money back. States make most of their instant game revenue from selling $1 tickets.

$10 Holiday Cash Word

Expect to see yourself winning more of the middle-tier prizes as you pay more for scratch cards. Here is another good example with a $10 Holiday Cash Word. As anticipated, the overall odds are right between the $1 and $30 cards. But unlike the $1 card, the chance of winning double your money ($20) is actually better than only getting a refund.

It is important to note that not all cards have the same odds for the same price. This is because of the varieties in payouts. For example, compare two $5 NY lotto cards.

$5 Win $2,000.00 a Week for Life

The first example is a card called Win $2,000 a Week for Life. The NY Lotto knows that the prospect of winning for life is very tempting, so they charge slightly more for the odds, with overall odds of 1 in 5.09. The average overall odds on a $5 card are 1 in 4.817, so anytime you see odds worse than that, you know you are paying more for a chance at a better payout. However, you'll need to consider whether the ratio of a decrease in overall odds to an increase in payouts is worth it.

$5 NY Poker

The second example is a New York Poker $5 scratch off ticket. Because there are so many ways to win, the overall odds are nicely discounted at 1 to 4.08. Also, the likelihood of winning $5 on this ticket is greater than winning $5 on Win for Life (odds 1 in 10 versus odds 1 in 11.59). Even though the price of both tickets is equal, the NY Poker ticket is statistically "better" than the Win for Life ticket.