I’m writing this time around about the odds of winning in our Pick 3 and Pick 4 games after covering that topic in an exchange with a player from Winterset. The issue of odds can be a confusing area, but let’s see if we can find our way through it.

It appears the player thought that if the odds of winning the top prize are 1 in 10,000, as they are in Pick 4, then a particular combination of winning numbers can only be selected every 10,000 drawings. But that’s not the case.

The odds of winning in our lotto games are based upon all the different ways you can combine the available numbers to make a play. In Pick 4, the odds of winning the top prize are 1 in 10,000 because there are 10,000 ways you can combine the numbers 0-9 to make a four-digit straight play. And in Pick 3, the odds of winning the top prize are 1 in 1,000 because there are 1,000 ways you can combine the numbers 0-9 to make a three-digit straight play.

To dig into it even deeper, each Pick 4 drawing is actually comprised of four separate drawings – one for each of the winning numbers chosen. The numbers 0-9 are available each time, making the odds of matching each of the four numbers 1 in 10. The math looks like this: 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 = 10,000.

Each lottery drawing is a unique, random event, and the outcome of one drawing has no impact on the next. A particular set of numbers can be selected in back-to-back drawings. Or, it could be a long time before that set is selected again. That’s precisely how random drawings are supposed to work.

But what about sets of numbers that look similar? Let’s take these two combinations as an example: 2-6-7-5 and 6-2-5-7. Remember that in a game like Pick 4, each of the numbers is selected in a separate drawing with a pool of 0-9 available. So in the example, there wasn’t a duplicate in any of the four spots, let alone the combination as a whole. But there could have been, and that would be OK.

Has that made it more clear, or did all this math just give you a headache?!

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