How to Make the Most of Your Lottery Odds


Lottery is one of the most popular forms of gambling. Americans spent more than $100 billion on tickets in 2021, and states promote them as ways to raise money for schools and roads, or save kids from poverty. It’s not surprising that people have a strong desire to win, but there are better ways to spend your money.

When you buy a lottery ticket, you pick your own numbers or opt for Quick Picks that the retailer chooses for you. Then you wait for bi-weekly drawings to see if you’re a winner. If you do win, your winnings go to a combination of commissions for the lottery retailers, overhead for the lottery system itself, and state government. A small percentage also goes to the grand prize pool.

What the numbers say

Our research shows that the success-to-failure ratio of a particular lottery combination depends on its composition. For example, a 6/49 game has 465,200 combinations that include three odd and three even numbers. Some of these combinations, which are arranged into combinatorial groups, exhibit regularity and can be used to predict future outcomes.

Others, such as those based on significant dates like birthdays and ages, are less predictable. Harvard statistics professor Mark Glickman says that if you play numbers like that, you’ll likely have to share the prize with other winners, reducing your own chances of success. To make the most of your odds, he suggests picking random numbers or buying Quick Picks.