The ads assure me that anyone can win so I decided to take a chance with $20 and buy some scratch-offs. I wanted to see how far my money would go and if I would win anything.
For my experiment (and to make sure I wasn’t pulled into an endless gambling cycle) I decided I would buy in $5 increments and never purchase from the same place twice. I also decided I would spend whatever winning I received. Once I ran out of money, the game was over.
How it Worked Out
Although, I did not specify before I started, in hindsight it may have been more interesting if I had not repeated scratch-off types. But I did since one type was winning.
- Purchase No. 1: I have $20 in the till and I purchase $5 worth of Tic-Tac-Toe scratch-offs, winning one dollar.
- Purchase No. 2: I now have $16 and I buy $5 worth of Lucky Dog scratch-offs. I win two dollars. This leaves me with $13.
- Purchase No. 3: At this point in the game, I have spent $10 and won $3. I buy $5 worth of Double Decker tickets — winning $4.
- Purchase No. 4: Because I won four dollars on my last purchase, I still have $12 to spend. I try Double Deckers again, buying $5 worth, and this time I win two dollars.
- Purchase No. 5: This means I am down to nine dollars, but since Double Deckers have been my best ticket so far, I try them one last time. Unfortunately, my luck runs out and I win nothing. This is the only time I do not win at least one dollar out of a five-ticket purchase.
- Purchase No. 6: For the first time since I started, I deviate from my rule by adding a dollar to the till (I only have four dollars left). I purchase $5 worth of 5x the Money and the last ticket I scratch off is a one-dollar winner.
What I Learned
Although the odds of winning are slim, the games are addictive because the winnings are large enough to keep you buying more tickets as you chase the Big Prize. Even though I won $10, in reality I lost $30.
If You Play
If you are going to play scratch offs, at least put the odds a little more in your favor by knowing whether or not the top-tier prices are already gone. My state of residence, Ohio, posts on its lottery website which prizes can still be claimed for its scratch-off tickets. Don’t make the mistake of playing for the big prize when it has already been won.
You can also use Lotto Crawler to determine the overall odds of winning for a specific game. In the games I played, Tic-Tac-Toe had the best odds with a 1 in 4.58 chance of winning.
Odds Not in Your Favor
Lottery is big business — and to stay that way, winnings can never seriously impact the earnings. In 2012 those earnings were at least $78 billion for North America. When it comes to scratch-off cards, one insider goes so far as to say, “…stay away from $1 and $5 games. Everyone buys them, so the chance of winning a top-tier prize is low.”