How to Analyze the Lottery

Lottery Analysis Tips

Learning how to analyze the lottery lets you find the best lotto games to play in your state or jurisdiction, increasing your chances of getting close-to-even odds on your gambles.

Some lottery players become analysts, trying to sift through the latest news and information, and the past lottery data, to find the best games to play.

But there are inherent fallacies in a lot of the lottery analysis you might do, so I wanted to discuss the topic and save you a lot of time and trouble.

How to Analyze Winning Lottery Numbers

To decide which numbers to choose for your lottery ticket, you can try to analyze which lottery balls “give you the best chance to win”, based on past wins in a particular lottery game. For instance, in the past Megamillions/Big Game lotteries, the number “35″ has come up the most, while the number “49″ has come up the least. Someone analyzing the Megamillions lottery might think that the 35 is a much better number to play.

Keep in mind, though, that every single lottery drawing is its own drawing. If a 35 came up the last time there was a drawing, it has no better or worse chance of winning the next time around. It’s not like the 35 is taken out of the next drawing, or two 35′s are placed in the pool. The drawing is handled at random, so by the percentages, neither the 35 nor the 49 have a better chance of hitting than the other. In a statistical sample over a still fairly small sample of drawings, the 35 has deviated from the odds in one direction, while the 49 has deviated in the other direction.

Still, people want to find a perceived edge, so they analyze the previous lottery games to find a pattern. Maybe you want to go with the most successful or luckiest lottery numbers. Maybe you want to go with the numbers that are “due” to hit.

This overlooks the fact that the lottery drawing doesn’t work that way, unless there’s something in the making of the lottery balls (assuming this is mechanical and not an electronic random number generator) that makes one ball more likely to be chosen. Unlike poker, where you can calculate pot odds based on the cards showing, or blackjack, where you can calculate the odds of the card you want appearing, based on which cards have already been played out of the deck, there is no corresponding pattern to analyze in the lottery.

Analyzing the Lotteries to Enter

On the other hand, you can analyze the various lottery game options, according to which prizes have been awarded, or those that have been awarded recently. In the scratch-off games, you know what the big prizes are. You can also go to an online lottery website and large if the grand prizes have been won in various scratch-off or instant lottery games. This is a way that real analysis lets you choose the best lottery game to play, because you shouldn’t be playing a game where the grand prize has already been awarded. The payback percentage goes down significantly when you take the big prize out of your calculations.

What Is the Lottery Payback Percentage?

A “payback percentage” is a term used by casinos to describe what percentage of every dollar bet is paid back to the gamblers, on average. So if a game has a payback percentage of 93%, then of every $1.00 you gambling, you are likely to get back $0.93. The other 7 cents goes to the casino.

Keep in mind the payback percentage is about the odds of the game and the vig, and there can be a tremendous deviation from this expected payback. That is, one person might win 10 times what they gamble, while a whole slew of other people might lose to make up the difference. In the short term, even that isn’t certain.

Payback is determined through mathematics, using the odds that each possible outcome will happen and factoring in the vig or vigorish the casino takes (the “juice”). Casinos take out a certain percentage of each hand played, or weight the odds in their favor, so casinos can make a profit and stay in business.

Lotteries and Payouts

Lotteries do the same. Not every cent people spend is going into the pot. Sure, you might win more money than you spend, but other people are going to have to lose a commensurate amount of money to make up the difference. And while casinos can have deviations where they lose significantly more (for a time) than they take in, lottery commissions have the game mapped out, so they tend to have a pretty good idea how much they have to pay out. The amount of interest is the only thing not figured in.

The lottery payback percentage is among the worst you can get in any legitimate game of chance you’ll play. While state laws keep casinos from paying back less than around 80% on average, and most games pay out in the 90% to 95% range, lotteries tend to pay out only about 50% of the money the take in. About 50% of the money spent goes to administration of the lottery, advertising campaigns, and the funds of the state governments in question (often into education funds). Of the other half of the money, about 19% to 20% of what people spend on the lottery goes to pay fixed prize winners’ annuities, while the remaining goes into the current jackpot amount.

For the most part, people don’t care that they have bad odds of winning the lottery. You might get better odds playing poker or blackjack or the slot machines, but those games don’t give you the opportunity to win a hundred million dollars. People playing the lottery assume their odds of winning aren’t that great, but they want a piece of the action where one win can change their lifestyle and the future for their children. Winning a hand of Texas Hold’em seldom does that.

Instead, people like to analyze the lottery by seeing how much money they’ll collect, if they win. You might think it’s pretty cut and dried, that a $20,000,000 lottery jackpot is 20 million bucks. But it’s not that easy.

Lottery Payout Calculator

To analyze what you might win, use a lottery payout calculator tool. These are online resources that let you plug in the amount of money you hope to win in tonight’s lottery, then hit a button and see how much money that really becomes. Keep in mind that you probably took the lump sum payout option, which means you’re only seeing about 55% of the advertised jackpot. Then keep in mind that the government is going to take a significant amount of your lottery winnings, usually about 32% in all, so you are likely to see about 37% of that advertised jackpot in your bank account. That’s still great.

Lottery payout calculators also let you analyze what the payments will be like if you take the full cash option, which is payed out in yearly increments called “annuities” for the next 25 to 30 years. You can compare what you get here against what you receive in a lump sum.

Playing for Big Lottery Jackpots

This one is probably one any lottery player understands intuitively, but playing in lottery game where the lottery jackpot has rolled out numerous times gives you the best payout percentages. Lottery analysts calculate their chances of winning against the amount of money they get in case of a win to see whether a game is a “break even proposition”.

A break-even proposition is a game where the money you gamble is equal to the amount of money you receive when winning. The simplest break-even formula is a 1-to-1 bet on a coin toss. But those of us who gamble know that most organized games aren’t break-even propositions – that the most you can hope for is something near to break-even games.

We’ve already talked about the fact that lotteries only pay out about 50% of what you pay in. But when the rolled-over jackpot amount starts to increase after a few weeks, those numbers start to rise to somewhere close to break-even odds. Even this gets tricky, though.

Analyzing Huge Lottery Jackpots

Let’s assume you’re playing in a lottery where the odds of winning are 1-in-150,000,000. On the surface, you need to be playing for $150,000,000 for the lottery game to be a break-even proposition. But that is misleading.

When the lottery jackpots aren’t hit and roll over for a number of weeks in a row, the jackpot increases significantly. This naturally draws in more players, so people who never play the lottery buy a ticket. Those who play regularly might buy more tickets. More people are in the lottery, and the chances of multiple people hitting the winning numbers increases. This has to be factored in, since two people winning means you split the pot. Even a $200,000,000 jackpot split two ways falls far short of the 150,000,000-to-1 odds of hitting that jackpot.

Take into account that you have to give away a huge part of that money to the government, and it’s hard to ever find a lottery game you’ll consider a break-even proposition. That being said, playing the largest jackpot amounts increases your payout odds the best, so it pays to analyze the best games to play.

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