In a deck of cards, there is about a 1 in 4 chance that you’ll find a card in one of the suits – diamonds, clubs, hearts or spades. (I say “about” 1 in 4 because with the two jokers included, there are 54 cards in a deck.) But after you’ve shuffled the deck, there will be times when you deal more than four cards in a row without finding one in a particular suit.
It works the same way with tickets in our instant-scratch and pull-tab games. If a scratch game has overall odds of winning of about 1:3, that doesn't mean that if you buy four tickets, one of them will automatically be a winner. It means that if you were to buy all of the tickets available in that game, approximately 1 in 4 of them would win a prize.
The tickets within our games are distributed randomly, just like the shuffled cards within a deck. That’s part of our security procedures, and not even we know where the winning tickets are or which stores will receive them. So, there could be three winning tickets in a row in one of our games, and then several nonwinning tickets in a row after that. We work hard to ensure that everyone has the same fair shot at winning.
The bottom line is, big winners happen all over the state, and higher ticket sales at a particular location will mean more winners there as well. Some busy locations where scratch tickets are sold sell several times as many tickets as others, and therefore they sell through ticket packs more often, creating more winners.
The odds in lotto games like Powerball® and Mega Millions® work differently than those in scratch and pull-tab games. In lotto games, the odds of winning a prize are based on all of the possible combinations of numbers available to play in the game. In Powerball, for example, the odds of winning the jackpot are about 1:292.2 million because that’s how many different ways you can combine the numbers available in the game to make a play.
I’ve blogged many times through the years about the odds in our games and what they mean. I hope today’s explanation has given you a new visual picture of how the odds work. Next time someone asks you how the odds work in a lottery game, you can give the deck of cards example and be totally “in the know!”