Winning the Lottery: What Are the Odds?
Thanks for visiting my hub on How to Win the Lottery. This is an outgrowth of another hub I previously wrote on What To Do After You Win The Lottery. That hub received a lot of positive feedback (thanks, everyone), but someone offline asked me about how to get to that point: How do you actually win the lottery? In other words, this hub that you're reading probably should have come first. (You have to crawl before you can walk, I suppose.)
With that in mind, I put forth a couple of ideas in this hub for you to contemplate with respect to playing the lottery. As with my other lottery hub, some of what I propose may not square up with traditional thinking, but hopefully it will increase your odds of winning. Good luck!
Tip #1 to Winning the Lottery: Buy More Tickets
Everyone's heard the statistics - how you're more likely to be struck by lighting a zillion times, or have a tornado pick you up and set you down next to a yellow brick road, than you are to win the lottery. Basically, the odds are stacked against you, and there's only one way to tip them in your favor to any real degree: buy more tickets. There are basically two ways to do this - buy more tickets on your own, or join forces with others via a lottery pool.
Buying More Tickets With Your Own Money: This is the first method of increasing the odds. You simply buy more tickets whenever you play the lottery. Thus, if you normally would by 5 lottery tickets, maybe you start buying 10. Of course, this is the least practical way of buying more tickets because it requires a larger investment, so to speak, from you.
Join a Lottery Pool: Far better than simply buying more tickets yourself is the concept of a lottery pool. In a pool, multiple people contribute the same amount of money - usually on a regular basis - for the purchase of lottery tickets. Using my example above of a person who usually buys $5 worth of lottery tickets, they'll increase their odds a lot more by pooling their money with, say, 9 other like-minded invidiuals than if they simply doubled the amount of tickets they normally buy. Looking at the math, pooling in that instance would yield $50 for the purchase of tickets; simply doubling their own regular five-dollar lottery purchase would give them $10 worth of tickets.
The downside to pooling, of course, is that you'll have to share the money with the other participants. However, the odds against you are so astronomical that you need every advantage you can get. Thus, I would say the it's worth splitting any winnings in order to have a better chance at a favorable outcome. (I'd rather have 10% of a lottery win that 100% of nothing.)
Tip #2 to Winning the Lottery: Don't Play Multipliers Like the Megaplier or Power Play
Let's talk about the odds for a second. The odds of winning either Powerball or Mega Millions grand prize is about 175,000,000 to 1. So when you buy a single ticket, you have one chance in one hundred seventy-five million of winning the jackpot.
When you buy a multiplier like the Megaplier or Power Play, guess how many additional tickets you've bought? None! So if you buy a single ticket, your odds of winning the grand prize remain the same whether you buy a multiplier or not. All a multiplier does is increase the amount you get if you win an appropriate prize; it doesn't increase the odds. Again, the only way to increase the odds is with more tickets. So, instead of buying a multiplier, just buy another ticket and increase your chances.
Tip #3 to Winning the Lottery: Play a Lottery Game with Better Odds
As you've probably figured out by now, the lottery is really a numbers game - especially when it comes to multi-state games like Mega Millions and Powerball. It's all about the odds and making them work in your favor (to the extent you can). However, one of the easiest ways to start boosting your winnings is something that's often overlooked: switch games.
The Odds: We already talked about the odds of winning Powerball or Mega Millions grand prize - roughly 1 in 175,000,000. But what about the odds of winning one of the smaller prizes? Well, the odds of winning the smallest prize ($2) in Mega Millions is 1 in 75. That means that for every $75 you spend on Mega Millions tickets, you can expect to win 2 bucks - a net loss of $73. (And the odds get worse as you go to higher dollar amounts - e.g., the odds of winning a $3 prize in Mega Millions is 1 in 144.)
For Powerball, the odds of winning the smallest prize of $4 is 1 to 55. Thus, for every $55 in tickets you can expect to win $4, thereby incurring a net loss of $51.
In short, no matter how you slice it, the odds are that you will take a loss with the big lottery games. That's why I prefer scratch-offs.
Scratch-offs: Although the payouts are considerably lower, scratch-offs have far better odds than the big lottery games. Looking, for instance, at Texas, their $1 scratch-off game called "Triple It" has a top prize of $3000, and odds of 1 in 4.58. Even rounding this up to odds of 1 in 5, you'll statistically come out ahead playing this game rather than, say, Powerball, because spending $55 on Powerball tickets will only win you $4, while spending $55 on Triple It would win you at least $11 (because you woud be expected to win 1 out of every 5 times - and $55 divided by 5 equals $11 - and the smallest winning prize is $1).
Taking this a step further, suppose that rather than playing scratch-offs for small pots, you'd rather opt for a huge prize, like the $2.5 million top prize in the Texas scratch-off game "$500,000,000 Blockbuster." Overall odds in that game are 1 in 2.77. Thus, for every 3 of these scratch-offs you buy (and they cost $20 each), you can expect to win no less than the smallest prize of $20 at least once. In other words, if you buy 3 of these scratch-offs, the odds are that at least one of them will be a winner, and the prize will be for at least $20. So, you would have spent $60 (for 3 scratch-offs) and won back at least $20 - a net loss of $40. This puts you ahead of the game in comparison to spending the same amount of money on Powerball and Mega Millions tickets. Moreover, you can earmark any winnings from the scratch-offs for use in the big lottery games. In other words, use the scratch-offs (with their superior odds) to subsidize your ticket purchases in the big lottery games.
(FYI: Just for the record, the Texas "Triple It" game has 57 winning tickets in the game for the top prize of $3000. The "$500,000,000 Blockbuster" game has 10 tickets for the top prize of $2.5 milion, as well as 40 tickets for $1 million each.)
Summary of How to Win the Lottery
You'll notice that in my hub here I don't spend any time talking about picking high numbers or low numbers, odd numbers or even numbers, fat numbers or skinny numbers, etc. The truth of the matter is that your odds pretty much stay the same no matter what. Thus, it doesn't really matter whether, say, you select your own numbers or do quick pick. Your odds of winning stay the same (1 in 175 million), and the only real way to affect that - outside of playing a game with better odds - is to buy more tickets.
In short, winning the lottery is really all about the odds. You've got to work at shifting them in your favor as much as you can. Thus, while no one can guarantee that you'll win, you can make it as likely as possible that you might.
(T-Shirt ("Why Don't You Ever See The Headline Psychic Wins Lottery") available at AllPosters.com.)
Abel Sauceda on May 11, 2014:
Here is a tip for y'all, for me i am a firm believer in numerology and that we are all connected, one day i was looking at and checking past winning numbers on tx mega millions and started to see a pattern in numbers and the dates example here is recent numbers picked 5/09/2014
10-28-39-51-59 mega ball 14,
Now for some reason i noticed that the date can be used either by +,-,x, or division. So its 5/09, what is 5+09= 14! 14 was bonus ball now if you look again at date 5/09 but look at it as 50+9= 59! 59 was number picked. Now i have yet to hit big jackpot i won several smaller amounts but a good 90% of time im able. To get all numbers but not on same line lol take a look at past winning. Numbers in powerball. And mega millions and you. Will see that dates games are played you can use the dates to come up with numbers
Wade on February 28, 2013:
Good article. I have won ten grand on the powerball, four thousand on a ten Dllr mega monopoly scratch off and a thousand Dllrs on a five Dllr Christmas scratch off in the MO lottery.. Including lots of 100 and 200 hundred Dllr prizes on scratch offs but the bigger prizes still allude me. And I without a doubt spend more than I can afford trying to make that hope of winning big a reality. I found a web site that showed a pie graph of the highest winning scratch off retailers in Missouri and the majority of them were in the south. I asked a MO lottery rep why there were so many more winners in that area and was told it was because of the fact there were more purchases in that area which I had already assumed that... Seems a forlorn conclusion that the further north you go in our state where it's more rural the odds are more diffacult.. Just sad.. Sometimes have a friend from St. Louis bring me scratch offs when she comes up for a visit but only once.. Think I need to again.. Have also went to Lotto retailers and bought a whole book of 20 Dllr scratch off s and did not break even and also a book of 5 Dllr scratch offs and did not break even.. I don't know what I was thinking... Am caught in the trenches of hope
dicaslotofacil on June 25, 2012:
Very good, now I have another view on how I can improve my luck
Hypersapien (author) on April 23, 2012:
If you mean the winning numbers, you can find those online at the sites for Powerball and Mega Millions (or whatever lottery you're playing). Most participating states will also have them on their own lottery sites. If you're speaking of the odds of winning, you can find those numbers in the same places, and sometimes on the ticket as well.
Oliver on April 23, 2012:
How will people know what the actual numbers are for winning the jackpot?
Hypersapien (author) on April 15, 2012:
You are absolutely right in that, unfortunately, very few people who play are actually going to win. But it's fun to dream, so I guess it's worth a dollar or two to let your imaginzation run wild for a couple of days. (We pay more than that for a 2-hour flight of fancy to the movies.)
John Sarkis from Winter Haven, FL on April 15, 2012:
Thanks for writing this informative article. What gets me about this topic, is that everyone I know, who plays lotto, is convinced they are going to win one day.