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How to Play Lotto

by Staff

Lotto is the most played lottery-type of game on an international scale. The reason why so many people are attracted to lotto games is simple. With a small wager – such as $3-$5 – you can have a chance of winning millions of dollars and sometimes even hundreds of millions. The chances of winning the jackpot in lotto are slim and yet the game doesn’t seem to lose its popularity. Lotto games are available in very many countries and draws are often broadcasted on television. In large countries such as the USA, Canada or Australia, there are several regional lotteries in operation while players from participating European countries have the chance to play Euromillion games where huge, life-changing sums are at stake.

How to Play Lotto

Lotto is a number matching game where players try to match their selected numbers against a random number drop. The more numbers players manage to match the more they can win.

Another reason why lotto is so popular is its easy availability. Anybody over legal age can play lotto even if they don’t have internet access, a smartphone, a computer or a credit card. Lottery tickets can be purchased:

  • At a retail store
  • Online, via the lottery page
  • At kiosks or check-outs at grocery stores (depending on the country)

In most lotto schemes, there are two ways of choosing the numbers. The player can pick them himself or the lottery terminal can randomly choose them for the player. This automated option is often called “Quick Pick”.

The Lotto Ticket

All lotto games have the same basic idea – numbers are picked at random and players try to guess the numbers when buying lotto tickets. The larger the selection of the possible numbers and the more numbers players have to pick, the smaller the probability of winning.

  • Lotto tickets can have different numbers but common ones are 90, 50 and 60
  • Most commonly, players have to pick 5, 6 or 7 numbers
  • Players can choose to play one or more lines – usually, the maximum number of lines is 5 or 10
  • There can be a minimum number of lines to play – e.g., 2 or 3
  • In some games, players pick one line and the lottery terminal/computer generates one or two additional lines for them randomly
  • There can be a bonus game that players can buy for a small extra wager
  • The bonus game may have a fixed jackpot – e.g., $1,000,000
  • You may be able to play at several draws with the same ticket – e.g., you can play Lotto Max in Canada up to 26 weeks in advance
  • You may be able to play several lottery games with the same ticket – e.g., the National Irish Lottery with the purchase of a Euromillion ticket in Ireland

Lotto draws

Lotto draws are often biweekly or weekly and the draws are sometimes broadcasted on television. In the past, numbers were drawn by hand, however, today most games use random number generator technology. This is the same technology online casinos use to determine the outcome of roulette games, slot games and hands in blackjack, baccarat and poker. RNG makes sure that game outcomes are random and the technology is independently tested and certified by internationally recognized and accredited testers.

Step-by-step Guide

Buying your lottery card is easy. The steps you have to follow are:

  • Register for an account on the lottery page or sign in
  • Choose your favourite lottery game and click on “Buy tickets”
  • Choose the total number of plays
  • Pick your numbers or choose auto-pick
  • You may choose a bonus game
  • You may add a lottery subscription so that you wouldn’t miss any games
  • Complete the purchase and wait for the draw

Buying lottery tickets at the lottery retailer.

  • You can buy your ticket from the lottery retailer or the lottery terminal
  • Choose “Quick pick” and the numbers will be automatically generated for you
  • You can select the numbers yourself on the selection slip
  • If there is an “Advanced play” area, you can select your numbers for future draws too
  • Pay for your ticket and wait for the draw

How to Claim

The way to can claim your prize depends on the lottery scheme, the amount of the prize and the method you used to purchase the ticket.

Tickets bought through the lottery site or app

Smaller amounts (e.g., under $1,000) are normally deposited into the cash balance of your account. You can then decide to withdraw the amount. Depending on the country you played in, the withdrawal can be processed through bank transfer, cheque or other methods.

If you won a free play ticket, you should get an automatically generated ticket – you cannot choose the numbers yourself – that will be in the next draw. The lottery scheme will notify you by email when your ticket is generated and when it is redeemed.

For larger prizes, you will most likely be prompted to fill out a claim declaration form to start the process of claiming your prize. The lottery center should then contact you and explain the next steps. Paying you your prize is subject to age and identification details being confirmed.

Tickets bought at a retail store

If you bought your winning ticket in a retail store, there is a time limit for your claim – e.g., 90 days. The lottery ticket is a bearer instrument and it is the only valid proof of a game played so you must present it when claiming a prize.

You should sign the back of all winning tickets before presenting for payment. Small prizes – e.g., up to $1,000 – can be paid out at the retail store you purchased the ticket at or any other lotto retail store. You will receive a customer receipt and your prize will be paid in cash. If you have remaining draws on your ticket, you’ll receive an exchange ticket instead.

Larger prizes may only be claimed by mailing the prize center. If you can’t make your way to the prize center you can mail or courier your signed ticket there together with the following documents: photocopy of your ID, customer receipt and prize declaration form. Claims are normally processed in a few weeks’ time.

For very large sums – e.g., over $50,000 you’ll need to phone the prize center and make an appointment for claiming your prize. A photo ID will be presented when claiming the prize.

How to See if You Have Won

If you purchased your ticket over the lotto site or through the app, you should get an email notification regarding your winning ticket. For this reason, buying your ticket online is – in our opinion – the best way to go. You’ll never lose out on claiming a winning ticket.

You can also check your transaction history page online that will list all the wins you have had in the past.

Lotto schemes that launch an app, often include a scanning feature. Lottery tickets purchased at retail stores comes with a QR code. Using the app, you can scan the ticket and see if it won any prizes.

You can scan your ticket at a ticket shop as well or ask the attendant to scan it for you. Alternatively, you can check the winning numbers by visiting the lottery site.

Odds, Payouts and House Edge

In lotto, prize amounts can vary as it is dependent on the size of the prize pool and the number of winners. Typically, in lotto jackpots happen rarely – e.g., a few times a year – and in the meanwhile, the prize pool grows. When somebody wins the jackpot, they win the majority of the prize pool and the amount will reset for a much smaller figure – for example, in Euromillion the minimum jackpot is €17 million and the largest win ever was a 210-million-euro jackpot. Since nobody knows if there is going to be a jackpot and how many people will win prizes with 6, 5 or 4 matching numbers, prize figures are estimates. If the estimate for a jackpot is $100,000,000 but two people would have picked all the correct numbers, the jackpot would be split and both players could take home $50,000,000.

The house edge in lottery types of games is usually very high – around 30 to 50%. When you compare that with blackjack’s house edge of 1.5%, you can see how bad a deal it is for you to play the lottery. However, with blackjack, you cannot possibly win $100,000,000. The reason why the house edge is this high with lotto is that usually, it finances some government programs, special projects or charity.

Figuring out your odds of winning a certain prize in the lotto is not difficult and all you need is some basic math skills. Alternatively, you can always look up the odds table on the lottery page.

Let’s take OLG’s Lotto Max as an example. Here, there are 50 possible numbers and players have to choose 7 of them. To win the jackpot, you have to match all 7 numbers correctly. In Lotto Max, players play with 3 lines so they have 3 chances of winning.

When you select your 1st number, you can choose from 50 numbers, which translates to a 1 in 50 chance of picking the right one. When you select your 2nd number, you have only 49 numbers to choose from, and a 1 in 49 chance of picking it correctly. The sequence goes like this until you select your 7th number.

To find out your odds of winning the jackpot, multiply all of the fractional odds of picking a given number correctly: 1/50 × 1/49 × 1/48 × 1/47 × 1/46 × 1/45 × 1/44 = 1/503,417,376,000

So, now, your odds of winning are 1 in 503,417,376,000, however, since the winning numbers can be in any order, your chances of winning are better than the odds above. The number of different ways that a sequence of 7 numbers can be written down is 7 factorial (7x6x5x4x3x2x1) or 5,040. When you divide 503,417,376,000 by 5,040 you get your true chances of winning which is 99,884,400. Since you are playing a minimum of 3 tickets, you divide this number by 3 which takes you to a 1 in 33,294,800 probability of winning.

This may seem very little but don’t forget how large the jackpot amounts are. The minimum matching numbers that are required for a win are 3 and this will get you a free play ticket. Your chances of getting 3 numbers right are much bigger – 1 to 8.5.

Lotto FAQs

Does it matter where I buy my lotto ticket?

No, it doesn’t. Your chances of winning are the same whether you buy your ticket in a retail store, on the lotto site or through the app. The tickets cost the same too.

Is it true that people from large cities have more chances of winning?

No, it is not true. The reason why there are more winners from larger cities is simple. There are more inhabitants in big cities and therefore much more tickets are sold, so the likelihood of a city winner is bigger.

What are my chances of winning?

This depends on what type of lotto you are playing. In most games, around every 7th or 8th ticket wins a prize. However, most prizes are small – e.g. a free play ticket or $10-$20. The probability of winning the jackpot, in most schemes are around 1 to 10million.

Can I play the lotto as a group?

This depends on the lottery scheme. Some organizations only support individual play while others allow players to buy and claim tickets as a group.