A few times a year, the big lottery jackpot games in the US make headlines with their massive prizes up for grabs. Just last month, Powerball crossed the $1 billion mark before a single ticket won that notable prize. And currently, the Mega Millions jackpot sits at an estimated $1.25 billion.
It takes an incredible amount of luck to win a jackpot on either of these games, no matter how sizable the prize is. Naturally, players attempt to give themselves a leg up on the odds in hopes of having a better chance at winning. Buying more tickets, playing the same set of numbers every time or analyzing previous drawings are some of the strategies players use.
Just about any method of choosing lottery numbers is as good as any other, but none really give players a true edge. Here’s a look into five common strategies for picking winning lottery numbers, and the potential pros and cons of each.
Playing every lottery drawing vs. buying more tickets
One popular strategy lottery players use is to buy a ticket for every drawing. As the maxim goes, you can’t win if you don’t play. That much is absolutely true. But whether you buy one ticket for two separate drawings, or two tickets for one drawing, your odds of winning are the same.
That’s because each ticket has an independent chance of winning. Two tickets are two tickets. The difference is more in the experience. With a ticket for two drawings, you have a chance at winning each jackpot. With two tickets in a single drawing, you have two chances at winning one jackpot. Pick your poison.
More tickets of course means a higher chance of winning, either way you go about it. The important thing to remember is that even with 10 or 20 tickets for one drawing, the odds of winning are extremely slim. The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are about 1 in 302 million.
Analyzing recent lottery drawing numbers
There are plenty of ways that lottery players attempt to narrow down the field of numbers in order to pick the most likely ones to show up in a drawing. Lottery sites often show the history of recent numbers, and even the most and least popular numbers that have been drawn. Common strategies include playing the most popular or hot numbers, or doing the opposite and playing numbers that are “due” to come up.
People also look for patterns. Even numbers, odd numbers, consecutive numbers – you name it. But when you get right down to it, every number has an equally random chance of appearing in a drawing.
Another ubiquitous maxim applies here. In the world of finance and investing, there’s a common caveat: past performance is no guarantee of future results. That rule can be applied in many areas, especially with gambling and lottery drawings.
Choose your own lotto numbers instead of using quick pick
Another misconception is that if you let the lottery terminal automatically pick your numbers for you, you’ll be less likely to win. After all, why would the lottery want to give you winning numbers? The logic here is flawed, because the lottery doesn’t know what the winning numbers will be ahead of time.
Conspiracy theories about the lottery fixing drawings or being rigged are unfounded. With the odds of winning being so minuscule, the lottery easily sells many more losing tickets than winners. About 50% of the proceeds from Mega Millions and Powerball ticket sales goes toward the jackpot. The remainder is split between paying lower-tier prizes and profit kept by each state. Lottery tickets are highly profitable for the individual states, even when players win big.
Not only that, but about 70% of lottery winners hit with numbers automatically picked by the lottery terminal. So you might reason that you’re more likely to win if you use auto-pick. However, that logic is also flawed, because about the same percentage of tickets (70-80%) are sold using auto-pick.
Keeping your numbers consistent
Yet another popular technique for picking lottery numbers is to play the same numbers every time. The idea being that a set of lucky numbers will eventually come up, so playing them every drawing will in time result in a win.
This method is as good a method as any for picking numbers. But, it doesn’t increase your chances of winning. You’d have the same chances if you picked a unique set of numbers every time.
Avoiding popular lottery numbers
Some people avoid using commonly played numbers, like birth dates, kids’ ages (numbers under 32), sequences and other popular numbers. The hope with this method is that if you win, you’ll be less likely to have to split the jackpot with another player.
This strategy is more about maximizing the potential payout than it is about increasing the chances of winning. The logic is pretty sound, but you’ll still need to beat the incredible odds before you can keep all that money to yourself.
Just play the PA Lottery responsibly
At the end of the day, all lottery games are longshots. In the case of Mega Millions and Powerball, hitting the jackpot is super rare. When you get “that feeling,” it doesn’t hurt to buy a ticket or two, but don’t get carried away.
It helps to set a budget or spending limit on your lottery play and any other form gambling. If you play online at the PA iLottery, look for the built-in tools that help keep a cap on your play.
One way to keep lottery play responsible and fun is to join or create a “lottery club” with co-workers or friends. In a lottery club, each person chips in a small amount toward a ticket or two, and any winnings are split between the members. As the PA Lottery reminds players, it only takes one ticket to win.