How to Increase Your Chances of Winning the Lottery, Says Mathematician

Here are 10 tips from a professional.

This summer, a periodic epidemic spiked and tore its way across America. It wasn't COVID, for a change, but lottery fever. The national Powerball and MegaMillions jackpots soared to record and near-record amounts, sending even the most cynical fatalists down to the corner store for a ticket or five. The odds were insane, but the top prize was just too big to ignore. Unfortunately, that was a winning strategy for approximately two people. But it doesn't have to be this way. Wired asked mathematician Skip Garibaldi if there were any ways to game the system. Here are ten of his professional tips on how to increase your chances of winning the lottery. 

1
Play Games That Are Easier to Win

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It's hard to ignore the stream of news stories when Powerball or MegaMillions jackpots get huge. But lotteries go on all the time, and your odds of winning are higher when you're not competing with everyone and their neighbor. "There are definitely lotteries that are easier to win," says Garibaldi. "When you gamble normally, a bigger chance of winning means lower payout." For example, when you play roulette, you win more if you bet on a specific number instead of simply red or black. "Similarly, your odds of winning on a Powerball or Mega Millions ticket are very low, about one in 300 million." He adds: "There are all kinds of lottery prizes out there, and some of them are, are still pretty big, but they're not a billion dollars."

2
Play Certain Numbers

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"You're not going to increase your chances of winning by some strategy about how you pick the exact numbers that you pick," says Garibaldi. "However, for games like Powerball and Mega Millions, what you'd like to do if you win the jackpot is to be the only one who wins the jackpot, so you don't split it. So, with that perspective in mind, you'd like to pick unpopular numbers. You'd like to pick numbers that other people won't pick."

3
Don't Pick These Numbers

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"Don't pick dates," Garibaldi advises, "because a lot of people gamble based on dates."

4
Don't Pick Numbers in a Column

People wait in line in Blue Bird Liquor store to purchase Mega Millions lottery tickets in Hawthorne, Calif.,
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On a ticket with rows of numbers, like a physical Powerball ticket, "Don't just pick a column of numbers on that ticket," says Garibaldi, "because some people will do that." 

5
Play Sequential Numbers

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Wired points out that repeat lottery winner Richard Lusting won more than $1 million by picking sequential numbers. "This won't increase your odds of winning. That kind of thing is going to give you the same chance of winning the jackpot as any other method of choosing," says Garibaldi. But choosing sequential numbers might help you scoop up a bigger prize, since not many people will do it. "If you look at a ticket like that, it looks weird. So sequential numbers help you not share the jackpot, which is good."

6
Get a Bunch of Friends and Play Every Single Number Combination Possible

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"For Mega Millions and Powerball, that's not really a feasible choice, because cause there are 300 million tickets," says Garibaldi. "But for smaller state-level lotteries, which have fewer tickets that you have to buy, and also a smaller jackpot, people have done that." 

7
Play In States With a Higher Rate of Return

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"You want a lottery where maybe not a lot of people are buying tickets, and yet the jackpot is pretty big," says Garibaldi. For example, in 1999, Oregon's jackpot reached $18 million but sold relatively few tickets. "When you buy a ticket in such a drawing, you're unlikely to share the jackpot," he said.

8
Don't Buy Scratchers When They're First Released

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"Sometimes it happens that the big prizes in the scratcher games don't get bought at the beginning of the game," says Garibaldi. "So effectively, all the people buying up those tickets at the beginning got unlucky and they didn't get the big prizes. And then the remaining scratchers that wait to be bought have too many prizes." 

9
Check Out Sites Like This

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Many states release information on how many of their scratch-off prizes have been claimed, and that information is available on websites like scratchoffodds.com. "They'll tell you which lottery scratcher ticket games have better payouts right now," says Garibaldi.

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10
Bet the Six-Way Box

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One good way to increase your odds of winning: "Find a game where you have to guess a four-digit number and bet the six-way box," says Garibaldi. "That means you're going to bet on a four-digit number with repeated digits, like one and one, two and two, or one and two. If you bet a six-way box, it bets all the six possible ways of writing a number with two ones in it and two twos in it. And if you do that, your odds of winning are one in 1,667."

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