Beating the Odds – State Lottery Scratch Offs

It’s fun to play scratch off lottery tickets, but that fun comes at a cost. Scratch offs can have some of the lowest payout of all forms of gambling.

Don’t lose hope. You can improve your odds. The tips I’m about to share won’t be enough to overcome the house edge. But they’ll give you a fighting chance!

How exactly do scratch offs compare to other forms of gambling? How much better can you do by following a few simple steps?

There are at least a couple of ways you can compare games of chance.

1. Odds

2. Expected Value

Scratchoff Odds

The “odds” refers to how *often* you will win, but odds dop’k take into account how *much* you will win. Imagine a scratch off game with 10 tickets; 9 losers and 1 winner. Your “odds” are 1 in 10.

The odds of winning on any given ticket range from about 1 in 3 on high-dollar tickets to as bad as 1 in 8 on some of the lower-priced tickets.

When you compare the odds of a scratch off ticket to the odds of other forms of gambling, things seem pretty good. Your much more likely to win money on a scratch off than to win money playing one of the big draw lottery games, like Powerball. It’s even better than some slot machines, where you might only win one out of every 10 or 15 pulls.

If your objective is to get instant thrills while winning smaller amounts and winning often enough to keep you in the game, then scratch offs are a pretty good bet.

But how do things compare when we take into account “how much” you win? That’s where expected value comes in.

Expected Value

The “expected value” of a game refers to the amount of money you could expect to win on average if you played the game an infinite number of times.

For example, let’s consider that game again with 10 tickets; 1 winner and 9 losers. But now, let’s consider the cost to buy a ticket and the value of the winner. Imagine the winning ticket pays $7.00 and each ticket costs $1.

If you were to buy all 10 tickets, you would have spent $10 and won $7.50 for a loss of -$2.50. Losing -$2.50 on 10 tickets can also be thought of as losing -$0.25 on each ticket (since -$0.25 per ticket * 10 tickets = -$2.50). If each ticket costs $1.00 and you lose -$0.25 per ticket, then each ticket is *worth* $0.75.

On average, you’re getting $0.75 value on each $1.00 ticket.

Sure, you might lose 3 in a row and then get lucky and win the $7.50 grand prize on the 4th ticket. But on average, each ticket is worth $0.75 on the dollar, or 75 cents on the dollar, or *75%*.

That *percent* is the “expected value”.

Beating Scratch Offs

How can you use information about odds and expected value to improve your winnings at scratch offs?

States publish information on each game detailing how many prizes at each prize tier have been printed and how many have been claimed.

You can add up all of the value of the remaining prizes and divide that by the total cost of all the remaining tickets and you’ll get that number – the expected value – that tells you how good the game is.

The math is just as simple as the example we just went over with the 10 tickets. It’s just done with much bigger numbers.

But there are sites out there that calculate the odds for you, so you know exactly what is the best scratch off.

Want to know what is the best Florida scratch off, for example? Check out, where the expected value is automatically re-calculated daily for scratch offs from Florida, Texas, California, and many other states.

Nobody can guarantee that you’ll be a winner. But by playing by the math, you’re sure to win more!