Lessons I Learned From Buying Losing Lottery Tickets

Hand With Thumb Down With a Lottery Ticket Background

I hate to think of how much money I’ve wasted playing the lottery in my life. It’s not as much as I’ve lost playing slot machines, but it’s still a big number. But my lottery losses haven’t been completely wasted. I’ve received a large amount of entertainment value.

I learned a long time ago to not expect much when I buy a lottery ticket. But I still get a rush of excitement thinking about how much I can win and what I’m going to do with the money.

Here are seven lessons I’ve learned from buying losing lottery tickets over the years. You can learn a few things from these lessons that might improve your lottery experience.

Lower Your Winning Expectations

I used to actually think that I was going to win when I bought a lottery ticket. These beliefs lead to a great deal of disappointment over the years. I’d buy a ticket for every major draw for the week and anxiously await the numbers to see how many I matched.

The exact date I finally got over being disappointed has long been forgotten, but somewhere along the line I stopped expecting to win every time I bought a ticket and started focusing on other reasons why I wanted to play the lottery.

In-Store Rack of Various Lottery Cards

The most important reason I came up with for continuing to buy lottery tickets is covered in the next section. But the important lesson you need to learn first is that you probably need to lower your expectations.

If you expect to win when you by lottery tickets you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. The fact is that you have a very low odds of winning the lottery, even for a small prize, and when you do win something it’s not going to be enough to change your life.

Of course, people do win the lottery from time to time, but how many people do you know that have won enough to change their life? The answer is probably nobody.

Entertainment or Value?

The reason why I buy lottery tickets now is because it’s a cheap form of gambling entertainment. I spend less than $10 a week on average playing the lottery, and I get at least that much value in entertainment when I play.

The first thing I enjoy doing is fantasize if I’m going to take the money in payments or in a lump sum. Surprisingly, this changes from time to time. The next thing I do is determine how much I’m going to get in each scenario after taxes. Then I figure out who I’m going to help with my winnings, how much of it I’m going to invest and how I’m going to invest it, and make a list of what I want to buy.

All of this takes time and I haven’t got tired of doing it yet. In fact, this is one of the best forms of entertainment I get to enjoy every week. I don’t expect to win, but I still hope to win. And every once in a while I win a small prize which I use to buy more lottery tickets.

The Best Lottery Game

You can compare gambling games in many different ways. One of the best ways to compare them is to look at how much each gambling activity returns as a percentage of the amount you bet. When you look at lottery games this way you’re probably going to be disgusted.

Lottery games have the worst return numbers in the gambling universe. The return numbers are so bad that you probably should forget all about the lottery.

But one thing that’s interesting is that the best lottery games aren’t usually even considered lottery games. The best lottery-type game when you look at returns is real money keno. Keno is a form of lottery that uses a pool of 80 numbers.

El Royale Online Keno Game

You can play keno for $1 most places it’s offered, and you can win anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 for a $1 wager if you get extremely lucky and match all of your numbers.

The problem is that even though the return percentage is much better for keno than most lottery games, it’s still the worst return in many casinos. And even though you can play for $1, if you’re never going to win it’s still a waste of $1 every time you play.

Small Risk, Big Reward

Everything about lottery games is designed to appeal to human nature. The promise of a huge win is enough to make anyone take notice. And the fact you can have a chance at winning for just a few dollars is what keeps gamblers coming back for more.

I understand why the possibility of a big reward for a small risk is appealing. It’s appealing to me too. But maybe it’s time to start looking at the risk in a different way. Instead of looking at the risk as only $1 or $2, consider the long term risk, and the opportunity cost of spending the money on the lottery.

The fact is that you’re losing most of the money you spend on the lottery. Whether it’s only a few dollars a week or $100’s a year, you’re losing the money. What could you be doing with this money instead of buying lottery tickets?

Could you be investing that money or using it to start a side business that could make money? Or could you be using the money to invest in education so you can get a better job and make more money?

I’m not telling you that you should stop playing the lottery. But you do need to have a realistic view of what it’s costing you in both real money and other opportunities.

Never Shoot Small

If you’re going to play lottery games stop shooting small. All lottery games have a bad return percentage, so when you play you might as well shoot for the absolute top prizes.

I don’t buy lottery tickets for anything except the top draws. Where I live that means that I buy Mega Millions tickets and Powerball tickets. These are the two lottery games that have the highest top prizes, so they’re the only games I play.

Mega Millions Lottery Tickets

You shouldn’t waste your money on scratch-off tickets or other lottery games with top prizes of $100,000 or less. Your odds of winning the top prize aren’t much different than when you play the big draw games, so why shoot small?

The Lottery Is Too Easy to Play

The lottery is too easy to play. I don’t mean that it’s easy in the fact that all you have to do is exchange money for a ticket. What I mean is that it’s too easy to buy a ticket.

I stop and get gas and when I pay for my gas I can grab a lottery ticket. Or I stop for a snack and when I’m checking out I ask for a lottery ticket.

Where I live every gas station and convenience store sells lottery tickets. And all you have to do is give the cashier a few dollars and you get a lottery ticket.

When I want to play in a casino I have to go to the casino. Of course, it’s easy to play in an online casino, but even this takes some effort. The lottery ticket is right there teasing me when I’m doing everyday things.

Limit Your Gambling Losses

Lottery games are bad investments. No matter how you look at them, there are better things you can do with your money.

I learned a long time ago that I had to control my losses from playing the lottery, and the best way to do this is to set a simple budget. Most weeks I spend no more than $8 on tickets, and most weeks I lose $8. This budget keeps me from losing too much while still giving me the entertainment I’m looking for.

Set a lottery budget and stick with it. This is the only way other than stopping play altogether to limit your lottery losses.


The lottery is a gambling sucker bet, yet I still buy tickets almost every week. I can’t get away from dreaming about winning millions, and if I don’t buy a ticket I can’t win. This is the same reason why most people buy lottery tickets.

Most lottery players know that they’re not likely to win, but we keep playing anyway. And in some ways the lottery is a cheap form of entertainment.

If you’re going to buy lottery tickets, don’t expect to actually win, enjoy the entertainment value, and limit your losses. This is the only way to keep from being disappointed when you play the lottery.