Almost everyone I know has played the lottery at least a few times. And most people I know play on a regular basis. Some of them only buy tickets for big drawings, and others play online scratch-offs games.
When you play responsibly, the lottery is a fun way to risk a few dollars for the possibility of a big return. Dreaming about a big return can even be part of the entertainment value of the lottery.
But odds are that you’re not thinking about everything there is to consider when you buy lottery tickets. Here’s a list of six things all lottery players need to think about before buying.
1 – Winning Is Next to Impossible
I only buy lottery tickets for the Powerball and Mega Millions drawings. If I’m going to get lucky and win, I want to win big. I’m going to talk about this a little bit more in an upcoming section, but there’s an important factor to consider when you buy tickets for the big games.
I’ve personally only ever known of one person who has won a big jackpot. I don’t know exactly how much he won, but it was a few million.
The reason I point this out is because of all the people I know who play the lottery on a regular basis, and have for most of their lives, nobody ever wins big. This doesn’t mean you can’t play the lottery, but you should have realistic expectations. And if you expect to win, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.
2 – Buying More Than One Ticket Is a Waste
I understand why people buy more than one lottery ticket for the same drawing. I’ve even done this a time or two myself. But the truth is that if you buy a ticket that is impossible to win, or in this case almost impossible, it’s still almost impossible to win if you buy two or more tickets.
What this does in real life is simply cost you more money. Mathematically speaking, you do have a slightly better chance to win when you buy multiple tickets to the same drawing. But the improvement in your odds is so small that from a cost benefit analysis that you’re far better off saving the extra money and using it for something else.
Consider the following numbers. You buy tickets for four drawings every week at $2 each. This is a total cost of $8 every week, and $416 every year.
If you buy two tickets for each drawing, you spend $16 every week and $832 every year. You can do a lot of things with the extra $416 you’re spending on lottery tickets every year.
The truth is that the only thing you’re going to get from lottery tickets is the enjoyment of dreaming about the money. You can get this same level of enjoyment with a single ticket as from multiple tickets.
3 – Almost Every Other Form of Gambling Has Better Returns
A good way to look at gambling games and compare them is to look at its return percentage. The return percentage is a simple way to look at how much you get as a percentage of how much you bet.
For example, if you bet $10 on a coin flip that pays $10 when you win, the return is 100%. In other words, if you play long enough, you’re going to get back exactly the same amount as you lose.
Lottery games are at the bottom of the list of when you compare return percentages. Of course, most of the other gambling opportunities cost more than $2 to play. But playing the lottery is one gambling opportunity that costs $2 or less. So, just because a game has a better return percentage, it doesn’t always mean it’s better for your purposes.
4 – Play Big
Do you know the odds of winning a lottery game with a big prize versus the odds of winning a lottery game with a smaller prize pool?
The odds of winning most lottery games with a smaller prize pool is better than a lottery game with a big prize pool in most cases. But when you compare the return percentages of both games, they’re usually similar.
I only play lottery games with a big prize. I know the odds of getting lucky and winning are basically impossible. And if I do get lucky, it’s probably only going to happen once.
Personally, I would want to win enough money for it to completely change my life. If I win $1,000, that’s nice, but it’s not much. In comparison, winning $40,000,000 would drastically change my future.
You can play lottery games with smaller prizes if you want, but you’re playing a game with the odds stacked against you. So, if you do win it’s not worth what you have to risk for a small return like a mere $1,000 when there are multimillion-dollar lottery prizes available.
5 – Do You Play the Lottery for Entertainment or Profit?
I know people who play the lottery religiously and are completely convinced that they’re going to win. None of them have won.
I also know people who buy lottery tickets who don’t really expect to win. But they get a lot of entertainment out of thinking about winning. They can spend hours dreaming about how they’re going to spend the money.
The people in the second category tend to be much happier with their lottery play than the people who are convinced they’re going to win.
But if you really expect to win, you’re probably going to spend a lot of time being unhappy.
6 – What Are You Really Going to Do If You Win?
I’ve read many stories about people who win a big lottery and end up broke a few years later. In fact, sometimes, things are actually worse a few years after a big win than they were before the win.
I’m sure that this doesn’t happen to everyone who wins the lottery, but it is a danger. Most people who win the lottery have never had anywhere close to that much money, and they don’t know what to do with it. This can lead to many mistakes.
I recommend immediately investing enough money so that you have a consistent income every year for the rest of your life. This way, even if you make bad decisions, you still end up making more every year than you do now. If you don’t have a plan, the odds are good that you end up in a worse situation. It’s happened to many lottery winners before.
Our Summary of Playing the Lottery
Lottery games are the worst form of gambling in some ways, but they’re also the cheapest way to gamble for many people. While winning a big jackpot is unlikely, you do need to have a plan if you get lucky.
If you’re looking for a higher percentage of return, almost any other form of gambling is better than the lottery. But if you’re looking for a chance to win big for a bet of only a few dollars, the lottery is perfect.
Stay away from lottery games that don’t have huge prizes, because the odds aren’t much better on games with smaller prizes.