How to Win the Lottery


Lottery is a form of gambling wherein players pay to participate in a drawing whose prizes are determined by chance. It’s not to be confused with raffles, wherein a prize is given away to every participant regardless of whether they’ve paid. In the United States, state governments operate lotteries and have granted themselves a monopoly over them. Profits from state lotteries go directly to government programs.

The modern lottery began in New Hampshire in 1964 and spread quickly, as states searched for budgetary solutions that would not enrage their anti-tax electorates. By the early 1970s, all but a few states had introduced a lottery. Revenues typically expand dramatically when a lottery is introduced and then level off and decline. Lottery organizers must constantly introduce new games in order to maintain or increase revenues.

Although the odds of winning a jackpot are slim, there is a way to maximize your chances: buy a ticket for every number in the pool. This way, you’re not limiting yourself to one cluster or relying on a pattern, says Harvard statistics professor Mark Glickman. He also recommends avoiding picking birthdays, ages, or other significant dates as those numbers will have more than your share of the winning pool.

If you win the lottery, you’ll have to choose what to do with your prize. Some people opt for an immediate payout, while others prefer a payment plan over several decades. An annuity option allows you to receive a lump sum upon winning, as well as 29 annual payments that increase by 5% annually. If you die before receiving all the payments, the remaining sum will pass to your heirs.

Some people like to purchase tickets with their children’s ages in hopes of hitting the big jackpot. However, this is a risky strategy. Statistically, your odds of winning are far better if you purchase Quick Picks, which are numbers that have a higher chance of being drawn. You can also try to increase your chances by playing with groups of people, says Romanian-born mathematician Stefan Mandel. His formula, which he has won 14 times in the past, involves buying tickets that cover all possible combinations and sharing the winnings with other investors.

In general, it’s best to treat the lottery as a form of entertainment rather than a financial bet. Even if you don’t win the jackpot, you can still enjoy the rush of purchasing tickets and crossing your fingers. For more financial advice, sign up for the NerdWallet newsletter (opens in a new tab). You can also follow our writers on Twitter. NerdWallet’s personal finance content is independently produced by our staff. If you’re interested in a sponsored piece, please contact us. Read our full disclosure policy.