5 strategies for winning TX Lottery’s popular instant-win games
The Texas lottery instant games have been some of the most popular scratch-off games in the U.S. since their debut in May 29, 1992.
The instant ticket games change frequently and cost anywhere from $1 to $50. Texas is the only state to offer a $50 scratch-off game. As of July, 2015, the TX Lottery offers 64 instant games to play.
However, the Texas Lottery has been criticized for continuing to sell tickets to games where the top prizes have already been won – tickets remain on sale until 90% are sold. And just last year, the Texas Lottery Commission was charged with misleading its players after dozens of scratch-off game players who thought they had won were told they were losers.
But just like with any scratch-off game, it pays to play smart. If you really want to win, always check the website first to see which games have a number of unclaimed top prizes and follow our strategies in this story to increase your odds.
The Texas Lottery offers the typical games of pure chance, like the Lotto Texas, Texas Two Step, All or Nothing, Pick 3, Daily 4, Cash 5, and the multi-state Powerball and Mega Millions.
The only way to really increase your odds of winning these lottery jackpots is to buy more tickets. The more lottery tickets you have, the better your chances of winning.
The Texas Lottery scratch-off games are different. None of these games are truly games of chance.
To be clear: The Texas Lottery drawings are a game of chance because the numbers are drawn at random. The Texas Lottery Scratch-Off Games are not like the lottery drawings because a lottery official must decide the number of total tickets to print, the number and amounts of winning tickets, and where the winning tickets are sold across the state. The purpose of each decision is to make the game more appealing and keep players coming back.
Even how winning tickets are dispersed in a given roll is often not random to make sure there’s not a long list of losers.
And the Instant Game tickets themselves are carefully crafted, and not random.
“Near winners” are produced, where a ticket will have nearly all of the matching numbers or symbols needed to win, to entice players to keep playing.
So, yes, the Texas Lottery Instant Games have a method to their madness. The challenge is to figure it out.
A story in Wired Magazine explains how a geological statistician living in Toronto, Mohan Srivastava, discovered a pattern to how the tickets were printed.
“The tickets are clearly mass-produced, which means there must be some computer program that lays down the numbers,” Mr. Srivastava is quoted in Wired. “Of course, it would be really nice if the computer could just spit out random digits. But that’s not possible, since the lottery corporation needs to control the number of winning tickets [otherwise it could go bust]. The game can’t be truly random. Instead, it has to generate the illusion of randomness while actually being carefully determined.”
Mr. Srivastava’s discovery will no longer work on most (probably all) instant game tickets. However, the concept of “illusion of randomness” remains relevant.
Instant lottery scratch-off games best strategies
Here are 5 strategies to increase your odds of winning the Texas Lottery Instant Games:
1. Buy all your instant game tickets from the same roll at the same time.
You can assume there are at least a few winners in every roll of tickets. Every time you get a losing ticket, you reduce your chances of losing by one ticket.
Do not buy different games. If you buy a new ticket from a different roll, the pool of losing tickets is much larger and your chances of getting a winning ticket goes down.
2. Don’t play everyday. Rather buy in bulk.
Building on tip #1, the odds are better if instead of buying one ticket every day for a week, you spend the same amount and buy 7 tickets at one time. Better yet, purchase your monthly allotment of scratch offs during on visit. Buying 30 tickets at once is much better than buying one a day.
3. Let others buy the losing tickets.
If you’re able to and have the time, hang around and watch others play. If you see a prolonged losing streak from a specific roll, your chances of getting a winning ticket increase because scratch-off tickets are sold with a guaranteed number of winners and losers in each pack.
You could also make friends with the cashier who could keep track for you.
4. Have the retailer’s computer check your losing tickets.
This isn’t about improving your odds necessarily, except that after scratching off 10, 15, or 20 tickets, it’s easy to miss matching symbols or numbers.
5. Strategically plan your play using math and a spreadsheet
Most scratch-off games publish on their websites the odds for each instant cash game. Many will often post prizes that have already been won for each game.
If you do nothing else, at least be sure to check the appropriate website to see which games still have top prizes available.
Now to really improve your odds, let’s do a little math (there’s a spreadsheet at the end to make it easy).
We start with a simple concept: When tickets are sold and prizes won, the odds of winning change.
For example, if a game has sold many tickets, all or nearly all the top prizes could have already been won, so the odds of you winning that $1 million went from very small to virtually zero to perhaps zero if all the top prizes have been claimed.
However, sometimes the odds swing in your favor.
Again, simplifying the math for the example, let’s say 50% of the tickets have been sold but only 25% of the prizes have been claimed. Naturally, your odds of winning have gone up, or swung in your favor, by 50%. This would be a game you should play.
In reality, the odds never swing this much. In fact, most of the time, the odds vary only slightly. But a slight move in your direction can help and a few times, you’ll find significant swings that can make a worthwhile difference.
We’ve created a spreadsheet you can use to do the math for you. All you need to do is check the game’s website and fill in the numbers.
Here’s how the spreadsheet works for a single game:
We used the Texas Lottery Money, Money Millionaire $20 game as an example.
You can find the numbers for the game here: http://www.txlottery.org/export/sites/lottery/Games/Scratch_Offs/details.html_252729490.html
In column A, we filled in the available prizes.
In column B, we filled in the odds, which are usually stated as “1 in X.” In the Money, Money Millionaire scratch-off game, only 2 odds are provided, which are printed on the back of the ticket. The overall odds are 1 in 2.9, but this includes break-even tickets sold and the specific odds for break-even tickets are not given. The odds for the top prize of $1 million is 1 in 1.2 million, so we can fill in the numbers we have and put 1,200,000 at the top in column B.
In column C, we filled in total available prizes. This is detailed on the website.
Column D automatically calculates the estimated number of tickets sold. The formula is:
Odds X Available Prizes = Printed Tickets
However, in this case, the Texas Lottery website tells us how many tickets have been printing with the kind of funny statement: “There are approximately 5,925,875 tickets in Money Money Millionaire.” We filled in that number in column C.
Column E automatically calculates your chances of winning. Your chances of winning $1 million is .00008%. Your chances of winning $50 is 12%. And yes, you’re reading it correctly that your chance of winning $25 is less at 4%, but the chance to win $20 goes back up to 16%. Look at the number of available prizes and you’ll see that there are a lot more $50 prizes available.
In column F, we filled in the claimed prizes as published on the website.
Column G automatically calculates the number of remaining prizes.
Column H is an important column. It estimates how many tickets have been sold. This is a number not provided by the website, but it’s critical in determining how the odds have changed.
To generate a reasonable estimate, the spreadsheet uses the estimated tickets sold of the lowest prize amount because this gives us the largest sample size and will be more accurate than the numbers with fewer prizes.
Column I automatically takes the estimated tickets sold and subtracts from total tickets printed to get the estimated remaining tickets.
Column J automatically adjusts the odds based on the new numbers.
Column K automatically adjusts your chances of winning based on the new numbers.
Column L automatically determines how much your chances of winning have changed. Sometimes in your favor, represented by a green bold number, and sometimes against you, represented by a red number.
In our example, you can see that the odds for most of the higher prize amounts have moved slightly in our favor, especially for the $5,000, $1,000, and $500 prizes. But the smaller prizes have swung in the opposite direction. The odds of winning $50 has decreased 0.6%. And our overall chances have gone down slightly.
What does all this mean?
If you’re looking to minimize your risk, don’t play this game given the odds for the smaller, more of the sure-win prizes are not in your favor.
However, if you’re looking to win greater jackpots, then this would be a good game to play because most of these odds are moving in your favor.
But don’t stop with just this game. Use this spreadsheet to compare games. Is the Texas Lottery Money Money Millionaire game better or worse than the 50X the Cash game? Currently, the Money Money Millionaire game is much better. In fact, don’t play 50X the Cash because most of the top prizes have been claimed.
Bottom line, don’t just walk into a store and purchase a few random tickets, unless you really don’t care and just want to have fun. But if you want to improve your odds, these strategies do help.
Download instant lottery scratch-off games spreadsheet
Click to view the spreadsheet: https://goo.gl/MbR9TO
To download the spreadsheet to your computer, click the menu File, then Download As.
Note, this is a Google Doc so you won’t risk getting viruses or other crap you get if you download strange files or those ending in .exe.
Let me know what you think below.