Best Strategies for Winning NC Lottery Instant Scratch-Off Jackpots

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5 Tips and an Excel spreadsheet guaranteed to improve your odds of winning North Carolina Lottery instant games.


North Carolina was a bit late to the state lottery game, as its legislature approved the game only in 2005, some say due to its “bible belt”-leaning constituency. To help grease the political skids, the lottery is officially called North Carolina Education Lottery (or NCEL).

However, since its inception, the state government has wasted no time in ratcheting up advertising and ways to play in hopes of juicing state revenue – and raiding the funds for non-educational uses as well.

The NC Lottery even introduced “Play at the Pump.” This is a convenient and fast way to play the Carolina Cash 5, Powerball and Mega Millions jackpot games. And they’ve made it super simple to play. You just have to swipe your debit card at the pump and drive away with your numbers for the next jackpot drawing.

The state lottery is also looking at “E-Instant” games. This would be Internet-based instant games that would allow registered players “to access a portfolio of interactive electronic games.” The games would be played on computers or on players’ phones.

NCEL offers 8 state-only games (like Carolina Pick 3, Carolina Pick 4, Carolina Cash 5, and All or Nothing ), 2 multi-state games (Mega Millions and Powerball), and dozens of scratch tickets with price points ranging from $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, and up to $30.

(Initially, the NCEL instant game tickets had an overall payout of 52%, the lowest among scratch tickets available through US lotteries. While its $1 instant tickets continue to pay out at roughly this level, its newer $2-and-up games now have higher-percentage payouts.)

However, all the NC Lottery draw games – despite what you might read online – are games of pure chance.

Sure, there are small things you can do to slightly improve your odds of winning the NC Lottery jackpot. But in general, the only real way to improve your odds is to purchase more tickets. The more lottery tickets you possess, the better your chance of becoming rich.

The North Carolina Lottery instant scratch-off games, also known as scratchers, are different.

Let me repeat. North Carolina Lottery drawings are games of chance because the numbers are drawn randomly – without human intervention. Scratch-off tickets are not random because a real person must determine how many total tickets to print, how many will be winning tickets and for what amounts, and how the winning tickets are dispersed geographically. All of these decisions are carefully crafted to maximize excitement and to draw players in and keep them playing.

In short, there is a formula to NC Lottery scratch-off games. The challenge is to figure it out.

January-coverA famous article in Wired Magazine details how Mohan Srivastava, a geological statistician living in Toronto, figured out one of the formulas.

“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.”

The article goes on to describe his approach. Although his particular method will no longer work on most (probably all) scratch-off tickets, the principle of “illusion of randomness” does still apply.

We can’t tell you the exact formula for your favorite NC scratch-off games, but we can offer strategies for dramatically improving your odds for winning money when playing instant cash games.


North Carolina Lottery Instant Games 5 Best Strategies


If you really want to win more when playing the NC Lottery instant lottery scratch-off games, start doing the following:

1. Buy all your North Carolina Lottery scratch-off tickets from the same roll at the same time.
lottery-tickets-rollYou 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 one visit. Buying 30 tickets at once is much better than buying one a day.

3. Let others in North Carolina 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.

freelotto-spreadsheetNow 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 NC Lottery 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.

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:

First go to the North Carolina Lottery website to find the numbers for the game.

You can find the numbers for NC Lottery here:
Page for North Carolina Lottery Instant Game odds

You can find the remaining prizes here:
Page for North Carolina Lottery Instant Game remaining prizes

In column A, fill in the available prizes.

In column B, fill in the odds, which are usually stated as “1 in X.”

In column C, fill in total available prizes.

Column D automatically calculates the estimated number of tickets sold. The formula is:

Odds X Available Prizes = Printed Tickets

Column E automatically calculates your chances of winning.

In column F, fill in the claimed prizes as published on the NC Lottery 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. You may have to adjust this number depending upon what numbers are available in the earlier columns.

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.

What does all this mean for the North Carolina Lottery Instant Games?

If the odds haven’t changed much, it means that the winning tickets have been evenly distributed throughout the packs, which is not unusual, but it means you can be assured of the following:

Watch for losing streaks from any specific pack. If you see someone else play a number of times in a row and lose, you should play next. A winner will likely follow because of the even distribution strategy.

Bottom line, don’t just walk into a store and purchase a few random NC Lottery 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


freelotto-spreadsheet-top

To download the spreadsheet to your computer after you’ve clicked on the button above, click the menu File while viewing the document, then choose Download As.

Note, this is a Google Doc so you DO NOT risk getting viruses or other crap you get if you download strange files or those ending in .exe. Google wouldn’t let that happen.

Enjoy the same excitement and chance to win instant cash as scratch-off games.

If you like to play North Carolina Lottery scratch-off games, you’ll love FreeLotto It’s free and it’s fun. And you can win up to $11 million today. It’s a better way to play #betterwaytoplay.

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This story was written by Michael Smith

2 Comments


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    Traci says:

    How much money is on a whole roll of scratch off tickets?