Lottery Strategies

By Gal Shapira
Last Updated: November 14, 2018

Anyone who’s bought a lottery ticket has probably asked: are there surefire lottery strategies?

We all know that winning lottery numbers are picked randomly. Most statistics experts will tell you there’s no way to predict which lottery numbers get drawn. UCLA’s professor emeritus of statistics, Donald Ylvisaker, even says that no machine can predict winning lottery numbers— not even the most powerful supercomputer we could invent.

But does that mean we should just buy tickets and hope for the best?

Is There a Strategy to Winning the Lottery?

Yes and no. When it comes to the question of lottery strategies, there’s one important thing we have to figure out first: What do we mean by “winning”?

Hitting the jackpot is completely different from pocketing an extra dollar — in more ways than one. Just look at the US Powerball. If you calculate your odds of winning the Powerball, you’ll get different results. To win the jackpot, your odds stand at 1 in 292,201,338. But you have a 1 in 32 chance of winning $4 just by matching the Powerball number.

Sample Powerball ticket playslip

Should You Go For an All or Nothing Lottery Strategy?

First things first: a good lottery “strategy” is realistic, logically sound, and aligns with your goals. And when it comes to “realistic,” an all-or-nothing lottery strategy doesn’t quite fit the bill.

Most lottery strategies aim for any kind of win, not just the jackpot. It’s all about setting a goal that your strategy can reliably hit. After all, consistently matching the full set of lottery draw numbers is an impossible task. But if you’re aiming to win any money at all, then you’ve got a better chance of finding a formula or technique that can work for multiple draws.

Here’s a quick example: Let’s say you buy 38 US Powerball tickets. One simple strategy is to go through the numbers 1-38 for your tickets’ Powerball numbers. Since you’ve covered all possible outcomes, you’re sure that one of your tickets will net you $4.

Other lottery strategies try to control factors that could reduce your winnings.

Sussex University’s Dr. Jon Haigh, for example, has developed rules of thumb to ensure that you get bigger prizes. His method minimizes the chances that someone else picked the same numbers. It doesn’t guarantee a win, but it does mean you’re less likely to split any prize you might get.

No strategy can ever guarantee that you’ll get the outcome you want every single time. But there are ways to make sure that your tickets aren’t always a sunk cost.

Lotto Strategies on YouTube

YouTube houses thousands of tutorials, including lottery strategies. You’ll find videos promising ways to win the lottery — meaning hitting the jackpot consistently. These range from Pick 3 and Pick 4 games to huge lottery games in different countries: the US Powerball and Mega Millions, EuroMillions and EuroJackpot, Australia Powerball, and more.

Lottery Critic’s tip? Take most of these strategies with a handful of salt. Better yet, don’t give them your time at all.

As we keep stressing here, there’s no strategy that will guarantee a lottery jackpot win. Lottery operators go to great lengths to ensure random draws: switching out lottery machines at random, fine-tuning their random number generators, and so on. There are just too many variables for anyone to reliably predict all the winning numbers, all the time.

Lottery Strategy Books

Do a quick Amazon search and you’ll find tons of books claiming to be in-depth guides to hacking the lottery. Here’s a quick tip: no book can guarantee that you’ll win the next million-dollar Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot. There’s simply no way to swing a lottery’s jackpot odds in your favor.

Does that mean all lottery strategy books are bogus? No, not quite. Like we said previously, not all lotto strategies are built around scoring the jackpot. Some just try to give you some assurance of winning a certain amount, and others just try to help you pick better numbers.

Here, we run down some of the most popular lottery strategy books to tell you if they’re worth your while.

Richard Lustig and Lotto Dominator

Richard Lustig famously won the lottery seven times. He then capitalized on those wins by writing a “book” called Learn How to Increase Your Chances of Winning the Lottery. The 40-page booklet sells for a hefty $40. It claims to give readers all the secrets behind Lustig’s string of lottery wins.

You can buy a copy of Lustig’s book through these links:

Is Lustig’s book worth your money? Lottery Critic says: no, not really. Check out our quick review of Richard Lustig’s book to learn why.

You might have also seen Richard Lustig’s name in connection with a book called Lotto Dominator. This title also claims to dig into Lustig’s lottery-winning secrets. As it turns out, though, Lustig might not even be the book’s author.

So is Lotto Dominator a scam? Yes, and you can learn more in our detailed Lotto Dominator review.

Gail Howard Lottery Winning Strtategies book cover

Gail Howard and Lottery Winning Strategies

Gail Howard has written some of the most highly-rated lottery books on Amazon, including Lottery Master Guide and Lottery Winning Strategies. Howard even has game-specific books for lotteries like the US Powerball and Mega Millions. All of her books use a similar system, though: lottery wheeling.

Simply put, lottery wheeling helps you systematically generate combinations from a given set of numbers. This ensures that, if you hit a certain number of matches (e.g., you match 5 numbers), you’re guaranteed at least a certain amount or prize tier. You’ll learn more about lottery wheeling later in this article.

It’s worth noting, though, that Gail Howard herself admits she hasn’t hit any jackpots or upper-tier prizes. That’s more than enough reason to take any of her advice with a heavy sprinkling of salt. However, there’s no denying that lottery wheeling does give you better reassurance than just picking any old set of numbers and hoping for the best.

If you’re interested in Howard’s books, there’s no need to buy them all. We recommend going for Lottery Winning Strategies if you want to check out her strategies for yourself.

Are There Strategies for Picking Lottery Numbers?

Yes and no. There is no perfect formula that will help you find jackpot-winning numbers every time. But there are methods you can use to make smarter choices about the numbers on your ticket.

Pick 3 and Pick 4 sample tickets

How to Win: Pick 3 Lottery Strategies

Boxed Bets

This isn’t so much a formula as it is a simple rule of thumb. “Boxed” bets are games that allow matches for winning numbers in any order. Playing boxed bets means it’s easier for you to score a win.

Let’s say you bought a ticket with the combination “123.” If the winning numbers were drawn as “312,” your ticket would still be considered a winner.

Obviously, boxed bets are much easier than “straight” bets that require you to match winning numbers in the order they’re drawn. The good news is that you can also find Pick 4 boxed bet options, if you’d like to level up your game.

If you’re a beginner, or if you’re just looking for an easy win, boxed bets are the way to go. Nothing beats playing a game with better odds to start with.

1 Number Guaranteed

This strategy simply involves picking one number and playing it in 36 possible combinations for all positions (i.e., the number in the first, second, or third spot).

For example, if you pick the number 1, you’d have a list like:

 

123012148
124013149
125014156
126015157
127016158
128017159
129018167
134019168
135139169
136145178
137146179
138147189

 

Note, however, that this system doesn’t cover all possible combinations. To do that, you’d need to buy 720 tickets — assuming that no number comes up twice.

However, this strategy does give you a good spread of combinations for your chosen number. You could refine this system further by combining it with Frequency Analysis (which could guide you as to which number to draw possible combinations for) and Positional Tracking (which claims to help you find which position a number is more likely to hit).

Frequency Analysis

This strategy isn’t exclusive to Pick 3 lotteries, but it’s easier to do the fewer numbers you need to match. Frequency analysis simply means tracking previous results to try and spot trends in the winning numbers.

Numbers that seem to appear more frequently are called “hot” numbers. Meanwhile, numbers that rarely get drawn are called “cold” numbers. There’s no standard formula for working with hot and cold numbers:

  • Some players will play hot numbers exclusively on the assumption that these will be more likely to come up
  • Some players will play cold numbers instead on the assumption that these are overdue for a draw
  • Others will mix both hot and cold numbers to hedge their bets

It’s up to you to decide how exactly you want to track each number — and what to do with “hot” and “cold” numbers. The advantage here is that you have a certain system for selecting numbers — so you’re not just picking digits on a whim.

There are actually a lot of software programs that promise to do all the tracking and analysis work for you. We’ve reviewed some of these lottery tools here.

Bear in mind, though, that many lottery games take great pains to ensure that draws are completely random. There’s no guarantee that any trends you might have spotted aren’t just coincidences.

Positional Tracking

This strategy adds another layer to frequency analysis. Instead of just tracking how frequently a number comes up, positional tracking also keeps tabs on which positions a number tends to occupy in winning draws.

If you’re serious about this method, though, you’ll likely need to find a software program. Like frequency analysis, positional tracking can get complicated quickly. Even the biggest spreadsheet whiz can’t possibly keep track of 10 different digits across 3 positions.

As with frequency analysis, bear in mind that there’s no guarantee that you’ll find any legitimate trends to capitalize on. The biggest benefit of these strategies is that you get a more organized way of picking numbers than simply relying on pure chance or whim. Simply put, this system reduces your chances of buying a ticket with combinations like “111” or “000.”

It’s worth noting, too, that whether you use positional tracking or your lottery’s Quick Pick, your odds of hitting the jackpot remain the same.

Pick 4 lottery ticket samples

How to Win: Pick 4 Lottery Strategies

Lottery Wheeling

This method isn’t exclusive to Pick 4 lotteries. Actually, you could use it for any kind of lottery — as mentioned above, for example, Gail Howard sells books that apply wheeling systems to games like the US Powerball or Mega Millions.

But what is lottery wheeling, and how does it work? Lottery wheeling is all about maximizing your chances with your chosen set of numbers.

Picture this: You buy a few tickets for the upcoming lottery draw. Once the results come out, you realize you’ve got all 4 winning numbers — just not on the same ticket. Sucks, right?

Lottery wheeling helps you solve that problem. Once you’ve selected a set of numbers, lottery wheeling will require you to arrange these numbers in different combinations. You then play all those combinations for a draw. Depending on your lottery wheel configuration, you could be guaranteed to win a certain prize tier as long as your number set includes some of the winning numbers.

Here’s a quick example. Let’s say you picked a set of 5 numbers for your Pick 4 game: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Running those numbers through a simple lottery wheel arrangement would give you something like:

 

Line NumberNumber Combination
101 02 03 04
201 02 03 05
301 02 04 05
401 03 04 05

 

And so on until you cover all possible combinations.

There are many possible configurations for a lottery wheel. Some veteran players use grids, others use graphs, and so on. You can find many lottery wheel configurations online for free.

What’s the main advantage of lottery wheels? They can guarantee a minimum prize amount if you get a certain number of matches.

For example, you could have a 6-number system for Pick 4 with a match 3 guarantee if 4 out of those 6 numbers are drawn. This means that, as long as any 4 out of your 6 chosen numbers get drawn, you’re guaranteed a match 3 prize at least.

Of course, no lottery wheel can guarantee a jackpot win — nor can one guarantee that any of your chosen numbers will hit. But lottery wheeling is a good way to ensure that you net a certain minimum amount as long as some of your chosen numbers appear in the winning draw.

Pairs or Doubles Analysis

This method analyzes the probability of two numbers appearing together in a winning draw.

First things first: you can also use frequency analysis and positional tracking systems with Pick 4 lotteries — or any kind of lottery, for that matter. Consider pairs/doubles analysis as yet another subset of these methods.

As with both frequency analysis and positional tracking, you’ll be combing through previous lottery results to try and spot trends. You’ll likely need a detailed spreadsheet or dedicated software if you want to be thorough here.

Unlike lottery wheeling, though, pairs or doubles analysis doesn’t come with any kind of guarantees. After all, many lottery operators do their best to make sure that each draw is as random and unpredictable as possible.

Florida Lottery Fantasy 5 playslip

How to Win: Pick 5 Lottery Strategies

Odd or Even Number Analysis

This method is all about helping you select a wider number spread for your lottery ticket. The idea is to always bet with a mix of odd and even numbers.

For example, for a Pick 5 game, you might use odd and even number combinations like:

  • 4 odd / 1 even
  • 3 odd / 2 even
  • 2 odd / 3 even

This lotto strategy isn’t exclusive to Pick 5 games, either. You can just as easily apply it to anything from Pick 3 to Pick 6 games.

The great thing about this method is that it encourages number variety. While any number is just as likely to be drawn as another, a varied set — especially one with “higher” numbers like 33, 38, or 42 — makes it less likely that someone else picked the exact same numbers. This means that, if your ticket does win, you have a lower chance of having to split the prize money.

Sector Analysis

Sector analysis relies on one fact: Pick 5 lotteries have vastly bigger number ranges than Pick 3 or Pick 4 games. You’re looking at anywhere from 30+ to 50+ numbers to choose from. Sector analysis divides the number range into 3 different sectors: low, middle, or high.

It’s up to you where you choose to cut off each sector. The “low” sector, for example, could include all the numbers from 1 – 15; the “middle” sector could then cover all the numbers from 16-30; and so on.

From there, the strategy resembles frequency analysis: you go over previous results to try and see which “sectors” are more likely to hit. If you find that the “middle” sector seems to have the most frequent winning numbers, for example, then you might stick to the 16-30 range when it comes to picking numbers for your next ticket.

Like frequency analysis, bear in mind that there’s no guarantee that this method will make you more likely to pick winning numbers.

Pile of scratch-off lottery cards

Scratch Off Lottery Strategies

Looking for a lottery break? Consider playing a scratch-off game instead. Many lottery operators offer scratch cards alongside big-ticket games. Unlike blockbusters like the US Powerball and Mega Millions, however, scratchers lend themselves well to strategizing.

Why? One big difference: every scratch-off game has a predetermined number of winning tickets.

Games like the US Powerball and Mega Millions are unpredictable because the winning numbers are generated at random during every draw. But with scratch cards, the lottery operator has to produce a set number of winners. So the systems used to mass-produce scratchers can’t be completely random.

Simply put: with games like the Powerball, you could buy tons of tickets every day and you still wouldn’t be guaranteed a jackpot win. But if you buy all the tickets printed for a scratch-off lottery, you’re bound to get the promised prizes.

Of course, not all of us have the money to buy all the tickets for a scratch-off lottery. But here are some tips to help make each scratcher ticket worth your while:

Set a budget

First things first: make sure you’re not spending more than you can expect to win. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how much or how often you cash in a ticket — if you’ve gone broke to get those prizes, you haven’t won.

It’s up to you how much you want to spend on scratch-off tickets. Whatever budget you set, though, make sure you stick to it.

Buy multiple tickets

Unlike the bigger lotteries, scratch-off lotteries have a closed ticket pool. There are only a certain number of tickets available per game — so the more tickets you buy, the closer you get to scoring a prize.

Buy tickets from the same roll

Here’s the thing about scratcher games: they’re more heavily planned than number-draw lotteries like the US Powerball and Mega Millions. From the number of tickets printed to the distribution of ticket rolls per store, scratch-off lotteries are designed to entice people to buy more tickets.

For example, each roll will have at least some winning tickets — because people won’t even bother finishing that roll if it only gives an unbroken string of losers. By buying tickets from the same roll, you boost your odds of finding at least one of the winners in that roll.

Buy all your tickets at once

This tip uses a similar logic: by buying tickets in one go, you buy tickets from the same batch. That makes you far more likely to score one of the winners in that batch.

By contrast, buying a ticket a day might sound nice, but it won’t help: you might be getting tickets from different rolls, which dilutes your odds of scoring winning tickets from each one.

Join second-chance lotteries

Many lottery operators run second-chance games for losing scratch-off tickets. What’s great is that your odds will likely improve if you join a second-chance lottery.

Why? Well, for better or worse, massive games like the US Powerball and Mega Millions tend to be more popular — so there are fewer scratch-off lottery players to start with. Better yet, only a fraction of those players even bother to join second-chance games. You’ll be competing against a much smaller pool of players.

 

Many US state lotteries offer a variety of scratcher games. Each state operator handles these games differently, though. Here are some state-specific tips to help you scratch your way to those wins:

Florida (FL) Lottery Scratch Off Strategy

Track the top prizes

The Florida lottery website provides a tally of how many winning tickets were printed for each prize tier. Better yet, the site also keeps an updated record of how many winning tickets have been claimed.

That’s amazing information to have! It lets you gauge which scratch-off game is a better use of your money: the more winning tickets still available, the better.

Once you’ve picked a game, this information also gives you a good picture of your chances. Maybe all the top prizes have been claimed — so you know not to expect a jackpot, for example. Or maybe a long-running game still has many unclaimed high-value prizes. Since many tickets have already been bought, you have fewer duds to wade through while you hunt for those winning tickets.

Check the scratch-off game schedule

Speaking of game durations, the Florida lottery ends games quarterly. There are no specific dates for when each game ends, but at least you have an idea of which games might be on their way out soon.

Why is this important? As demonstrated in the previous tip’s examples, your odds can also be affected by how long a scratch-off lottery has already been running. If it’s a new game, more of the prizes are up for grabs — but more of the losing tickets are still in the mix, too. On the other hand, long-running games with lots of top prizes left are ripe to be won.

 

Missouri (MO) Lottery Scratchers Strategy

Join Points for Prizes

Missouri is one of the state lotteries with second-chance promotions. To enter, you have to sign up online for a program called Points for Prizes. You can do that through the Missouri State Lottery’s website.

What’s neat is that you can earn rewards points just by registering your losing tickets. You can then exchange those points for all sorts of prizes. And if any second-chance promotions do roll around, your scratch-off tickets automatically get entered.

 

California (CA) Lottery Scratchers Strategy

Research your scratcher odds

The California State Lottery website displays the number of winning tickets and the odds for each scratch-off game.

From there, you can calculate the total number of printed scratcher tickets: Just multiply the number of printed top-prize tickets with the inverse of the scratch-off game’s odds. With a bit more math, you can then figure out how many losing and winning tickets there are in all. Helpful information if you want to be more strategic about buying tickets!

Count the winning cards

Like the Florida State Lottery, the California State Lottery also reports how many winning tickets have been claimed. Just check the California lottery’s website to get breakdowns for each scratch-off lottery. This will help you gauge which scratch-off games are worth playing, and which ones you should skip.

Play the second-chance games

The California lottery runs weekly second-chance games for scratchers. All you need to do is create an account at the California lottery website. You can then submit your losing tickets online.

 

Virginia (VA) Lottery Scratchers Strategy

Check for claimed tickets

The Virginia State Lottery website also reports how many winning scratcher tickets have been claimed for ongoing scratch-off lottery games.

Look for the eXTRA Chances logo

Many Virginia state lottery scratcher tickets carry the eXTRA Chances logo. Why should you score those tickets? Because these are eligible for second-chance drawings!

Here’s the thing, though: not a lot of people know they can use their eXTRA scratcher tickets to enter second-chance games. In fact, so few players join that it’s not unusual for players to win several draws.

Speaking to The Virginian Pilot, a spokesman from the Virginia State Lottery even said, “The thing is, a lot of people don’t seem to know about it. They buy a ticket, scratch it, see it’s not a winner and just throw it away. So statistically, if you enter, your chances are pretty good.”

 

Texas (TX) Lottery Scratch Off Strategy

Check your odds

Like many state lotteries, the Texas State Lottery reports how many winning tickets were printed and how many have been claimed for each scratch-off lottery game.

Visit the state lottery website for analysis

The Texas State Lottery provides tons of information for each scratch-off game. You can often check how many tickets are in each batch or pack, the guaranteed prize amount per batch or pack, and more. For games that are about to end, it’s not unusual to find an analysis of odds for the remaining tickets, too — straight from the lottery operator itself!

Watch out for second-chance drawings

Texas also runs many second-chance drawings for scratch-off lottery players. Prizes range from weekend suite and training camp packages to cash prizes totaling millions. Not bad for games that only take losing scratcher tickets.