Lotteries – The most common form of gambling

Lotteries have been around for centuries. A majority of people have played at least once in their life, though many play regularly, even weekly. In India, about 80% of all people have played a lottery before. The lottery is the most common and most widely accepted form of gambling. But it is still gambling. Here you learn more about it.

A little background

The earliest forms of lotteries can be traced back to the 2nd century BC in China, where evidence of keno games was found. Even ancient Rome knew various forms of lotteries, sometimes only run in private. National lotteries were held under Emperor Augustus to raise funds for repairs around the City of Rome.

Since the late Medieval period, lotteries could be found much more commonly. Often, they were held by towns to raise funds for repairs and the like. But eventually, local governments and even national governments ran lotteries to raise funds for various war efforts.

In fact, lotteries became a popular way for governments to increase revenue instead of raising taxes. And since there would usually be lottery ticket holders who would win something, the appeal for the wider population to buy tickets was there.

It still is.

Lotteries in modern times

Throughout the centuries, gambling was regulated or outright prohibited in many ways around the world. Lotteries were, at some point or another, also prohibited in many countries. But they are also usually the type of gambling most widely tolerated.

After all, governments tend to run them and profit from them.

Nowadays, lotteries are hugely popular around the world, with some lotteries offering amounts into the hundreds of millions worth of winnings. The US lottery PowerBall is one such lottery. But the European EuroJackpot can also come with tens of millions in winnings.

The higher the jackpot, the more people tend to play a lottery. And the funds raised by everyone paying in still far outweighs the size of the jackpot.

So, what happens to the money that is not given back to the lucky winners? Most of the time it goes to charities or educational purposes. In other words, the funds raised are invested back for the good of society. Perhaps not all the time and it may be different for some lotteries. But most lotteries work this way, so by playing, you are doing something good, even if you’re not winning.

How lotteries work

The basic principle is always the same these days: you have a range of numbers and players pick a bunch out of these numbers as their winning combination. You may pick 5 numbers out of 35. Or 6 out of 49 or 5 out of 50. The range tends to be similar.

Additionally, extra numbers (usually 1 or 2) can be picked out of 7 or 10 numbers to give you extra winning combinations or access to bigger jackpots or extra wins.

You do this for each tip, you choose to complete. Many lotteries allow you to select more than one set of numbers, each of which is called a ‘tip’. In the EuroJackpot, for instance, you can choose 12 tips in total on one lottery slip. Each tip costs 2€ and there is an additional fee to start with. So, the more tips you complete, the more expensive is your lottery slip. But the higher your chances at possibly getting the right combination.

In other lotteries, such as the US PowerBall, players select 1 set of numbers and that’s it.

The rules are always clearly laid out in every lottery you want to participate in.

Lottery draws are held on set days at set times, everywhere. The time and date will differ according to the lottery, but there is always a schedule, which means you have to have handed in your tip beforehand. If you miss the deadline and later have the winning numbers on your slip, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to claim the jackpot or any winnings.

During the lottery draw, the numbers pulled out of a container that contains all possible numbers (from 1 to 35, or 1 to 49 or 1 to 50, etc.). This is completely random and may either be done automatically or by hand. Lottery draws are often televised (at least the big national ones), so players can follow in real-time.

Once the draw is complete, any wins need to be confirmed by officials. Smaller wins can be collected where the lottery ticket was purchased, to begin with. But bigger wins will usually have to be collected at official offices, where pains are taken to confirm the validity of the ticket and the win.

What are the odds?

The odds of winning a lottery are tiny. And that’s a big word for just how small the odds are. For the EuroJackpot, for instance, the odds are 1:96 million. Other odds could be 1:140 million or 1:292 million (the latter is for the Powerball).

Take a lottery such as 6 out of 49, this is what the probability of getting all six numbers matched to the balls drawn from the pool:

Number of balls matched Probability
6 1 in 13,983,816
5 1 in 1,906,884
4 1 in 211,876
3 1 in 18,424
2 1 in 1,176
1 1 in 49
0 1 in 2.3

Accordingly, the higher the odds, the bigger the winnings will be. If you get 2 or 3 numbers right, you may get €5 to €20. But getting 4 numbers right could already pay out €250 whereas 5 correct numbers could pay out €150,000.

These are just random examples to illustrate how big the jumps are from adding a correct number to your tally.

Playing lotteries online

Almost anywhere where lotteries are played, it is now possible to play them online as well. For many, it is a matter of convenience. But it also happens to be perfectly secure (unless you fall prey to a rogue operator). You won’t have to worry about a paper lottery tickets either. Instead, you have an online account with your favourite operator, where you can make your selections for your chosen lottery online. You pay online as well and once your account is properly verified, any wins would be paid out into your account in turn.

Apart from the convenience of playing online, you will often be able to play in multiple lotteries at the same time. It depends on the operator, of course, and what they offer. But most operators offer access to more than one lottery.

Can I play international lotteries? is an operator who offers access to many Indian lotteries as well as international lotteries. Lottoland is a trusted provider, who has been around for a long time and is internationally regulated via Gibraltar, Malta and the UK Gambling Commission.

Before playing any lottery online, of course, you should make sure that the operator is trustworthy and that you will be paid out your wins.

There are many other operators, of course, is one such place to play lotteries online. We have not yet reviewed either of the operators, but have briefly checked their reputation, which appears to be in good health.

Are there lottery strategies?

We had a look into lottery strategies as well and found a few dangerous as well as amusing tips and tricks. We didn’t find a single one that would assure us of our chances to win a lottery increased.

For instance, we found a site advised us to spread our numbers evenly among low and high numbers as well as odd and even numbers, telling us for both cases that 81% of drawings follow patterns of 2/4, 4/2 or 3/3 – meaning each draw contains 2 or 4 low numbers, 4 or 2 high number or 3 of each (in a lottery where 6 numbers are drawn). The same is true for odd and even numbers.

What does that tell us? Nothing usable. Yes, the spread of numbers may be as described above. But when you still have 49 or 50 numbers to choose from, the odds of picking the correct spread of low/high and odd/even numbers is still not 81%. You’re lucky to get 0.00081%.

So, just because someone tells you that 81% of the time a draw will include high and low or odd and even numbers in a certain percentage, you won’t have gained much in terms of usable knowledge of how to increase your own chances.

We also found the incredibly helpful advice to view your chances of winning positively. If you are negative about your chances to win the jackpot, it will be your own fault for not winning it. Negative energy apparently doesn’t attract wins.

We are being sarcastic here, of course. Sure, a positive attitude is better than a negative one. But it won’t change the outcome either way. At least not that it has ever been proven in any way.

What to avoid when picking numbers

The cardinal rule when choosing your lottery numbers is this: do not follow patterns! If you have lucky numbers you want to play, go ahead and play them. They are probably as random as they can be, giving you at least a good chance to collect a jackpot by yourself instead of sharing it with thousands of other players, who also played 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 in the lottery.

Don’t play patterns such as 5, 15, 25, 35, 45 or 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42. There are tons of patterns you could play, and you can be certain that tons of players are opting for these same patterns.

What to do instead?

Lotteries are utterly random and studying the last dozen draws to figure out which number is due to come up, is not going to work. It’s possible for the number 3 to have come up 10 out of 12 times during the last draws and it may still get drawn during the 13th draw. Just as the 8 may be overdue because nobody has seen it for 20 draws, which still doesn’t mean it will show up.

You can study the last few draws to see how the numbers may have spread out and adjust your own selection to match that. It is still not a guarantee that you will have a winner.

So, yes, just play your favourite numbers, complete 3 to 6 tips, if that is an option and cross your fingers one of them is lucky.

What will increase your chances at winning is a lottery pool with other fellow players, where you pool your resources to buy as many lottery tickets as your combined budget allows. Winnings will then be shared among all players (if they are big enough) or put back into the playing budget for the next draw. If you do something like that, there is some trust involved, because a lot of money might be involved if your group wins the jackpot. And that jackpot is then shared by a much bigger number of people than usual. Still, the odds of winning also increase.

Finally, and most importantly, play for fun. Never play more than you can afford to lose and maybe one day you’ll be the lucky winner. Each jackpot gets won eventually and many lotteries have thousands upon thousands of smaller prizes.