Overall Odds

What do the “overall chances” of winning mean for Scratch-Off games?

What does the lottery mean when it prints “Overall Odds” for a game?

We urge players to review and fully understand the chances of winning before playing any scratch-off game from any state!

Overall odds of winning are calculated in this way: the total number of tickets printed for a game is divided by the total number of prizes in that game.

To calculate the overall odds for a game, simply look for the total number of tickets printed. This is sometimes hidden on your state lottery’s website but it is published for each game. HINT: Its usually hidden in a PDF file called “complete game rules” on most websites. Sometimes its estimated….for example, from the PA Lottery game “Ho Ho Holiday 100X game”, the complete rules PDF states “6. Approximate number of tickets printed for the game: Approximately 4,800,000 tickets will be printed for the Ho Ho Holiday 100X instant lottery game.”

Once you have the total number of tickets printed, then find the total # of prizes for each prize level and add them all up. For the Ho Ho Holiday 100X game, there are a total of 1,558,442 winning tickets. Which means the math looks like this:

4,800,000Total ticket printed
-1,558,442Winning tickets
         3,241,558Losing tickets
OR 4,800,000 / 1,558,442 = 3.08 Overall Odds. Note you don’t need to know the number of losing tickets to calculate the overall odds, but some states will publish the number of losing tickets and the number of wining tickets. OR they’ll publish the number of winning tickets and the overall odds. Any of these combinations of data will allow you to get to one critical data point = Total Tickets Printed!

The overall chances of winning any prize are printed on the back of pretty much every state lottery’s Scratch-Off game. Overall Odds vary by game price and by each unique game. Make sure you go to our next page for DETAILED ODDS to see how the total number of Winning tickets get distributed throughout a the different prize levels.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW:

OVERALL ODDS DOES NOT RELATE DIRECTLY TO TICKETS SOLDER PER PACK OR PER ROLL!

For example, overall chances of winning a prize might be stated as 1 in 3.08 (usually printed as “1:3.08”), would mean that approximately one out of every 3.08 tickets sold for a game would be a winner of some prize. These are the overall odds of winning any prizes on that unique game across the entire state.

The chances of winning are not influenced by where a ticket is sold. Scratch-Offs are distributed at random, meaning the state lottery and its retailers do not know where winning tickets will be sold. We learn that only after a prize has been claimed.

As would be expected with random distribution, regions with larger numbers of players tend to have a proportionate ratio of players winning.  This does not mean those regions are any “luckier” than other areas.


Prizes are also distributed randomly throughout each game.

Here’s an illustration of the over all odds concept:

Let’s say there are 100 marbles in a bag.  Twenty of them are red marbles and 80 of them are white marbles. The red marbles represent prizes. In order to calculate the chances of reaching in and getting a red marble, divide the total number of marbles (100) by the number of red marbles (20). Since 100 divided by 20 equals five, there is a 1-in-5 chance that blindly reaching into the bag of marbles will produce a red marble.

It’s important to know that although the chances of getting a red marble are 1 in 5, it is possible to reach in and grab a big handful that contains no red marbles. It’s also possible to reach in and get a handful that contains one or more red marbles. It’s a matter of random chance – and that is part of the fun and excitement of Scratch-Offs.

ITS EQUALLY IMPORTANT TO KNOW:

OVERALL ODDS DO NOT CHANGE OVER TIME. They stay the same from the day the game is first release until the day the lottery ends the game.

OVERALL ODDS PERTAIN ALMOST COMPLETELY TO THE BOTTOM PRIZE LEVELS OF A GAME. Learn more about this in our next lesson – Detailed Odds.

LOTTERIES ADVERTISE OVERALL ODDS AS A MEANS TO CONVINCE YOU TO BUY A GAME.

This is one of the most interesting things about overall odds. When you hear that the odds of winning are better for one game vs another, most people naturally think that is must also be easier to win a big prize if they’re playing a game with better overall odds. This is definitely not the case. Click on the next lesson to understand more.

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