is it better to buy separate lottery tickets

Never Buy Two Lottery Tickets

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29 thoughts on “ Never Buy Two Lottery Tickets ”

Well you won me just one is sensible

Oh, Ben: you can’t talk sense to people who buy lottery tickets. But it’s sure fun to read your attempt.

Thanks – though I suspect that lottery-ticket buyers are no more immune to sense than most people (which is to say, like the rest of us, they are probably *very* immune to it).

My mother lived in World B. Lottery, horse race, free admission,extra night’s stay, youname it. BUT: always small. Ten dollars max. Or a free stay at a hotel she hated. She got as much fun as if she’d won big.

The Mega Millions is now $285 million. Probability of hitting the jackpot is 1 in 225 million. The expected value of a $1 ticket is about $1.27, assuming only one winner. Therefore, you should buy as many tickets as you can afford! Where else can you get a 27% return.

So you should buy 0, 1, or all the tickets. (It has been tried before.)

John Cowan makes a good point below (lots of these jackpots wind up getting split, which spoils the rate of return); but even if there’s no shared jackpot, the fact that we don’t all go do this seems like good evidence that expected value isn’t a very complete tool for decision-making!

Ha ha, I love it. I tell people who urge me to play the lottery “but if I don’t play, I’m a winner every time. I win the money I would have spent on the lottery.” I’m really not so interested in the voluntary taxation that the lottery system is.

True – small jackpot, but very high probability!

Reading between the lines, the advice is to buy one lottery ticket, as you cannot be sure which world you really belong to – how persuasive!

Brett Parker: The kicker is “assuming only one winner”, an unsafe assumption.
Multiple winners are common.

Ben: I think you are wrong about buying two tickets. I compare lottery tickets to roller-coaster tickets. In each case the payoff is excitement, but people are excited by riding the roller coaster twice, though probably not twice as excited. Likewise, in a boring life a bit of excitement each time lottery numbers are announced makes sense. But perhaps you mean “Don’t buy two tickets for the same lottery.”

Yes! I should have been a little clearer – that’s more what I was going for.

Although perhaps, as with roller coasters, too many iterations will lead to nausea…

I disagree with the analyses. You should purchase (or not purchase) lottery tickets based on their expected value. If the payout is high enough, you should buy, and if it is not (which is almost all the time) you should not.

I’ve never bought a lottery ticket, but there exist situations where buying would be a better decision than not.

Yeah, I see the argument – the problem is that you can never buy enough! Like, if I’ve can pay $1 for a 1 in a billion chance at $10 billion, then the expected value is great ($10 per ticket!), but even if I spend all my money on it, the 99.99% likelihood is that I’ll just go bankrupt.

So I’m a “Math Guy”, and unsurprisingly, I’ve always told people to not buy lottery tickets, for all the usual reasons. However, I’ve recently told my wife the opposite. Here’s why:

(1) I’m 45 and have been retired since I was 41. Part of being a “Math Guy” is that I was a good engineer and understand personal finances well. I married my wife when we were both 40 and we agreed to keep our finances separate. She still works, but plans to retire around age 52.

(2) She’s somewhat glum that we have to wait until she retires to begin our travels around the world, etc., since her job just doesn’t give enough vacation time to do so now. Don’t bother recommending that I just pay her way; SHE wouldn’t allow it if I wanted to.

(3) We live in NC, and there’s a lottery called Carolina Cash 5 that (a) is 1-in-750,000 to win — $1 to play, match all five numbers from 1 to 41, (b) the jackpot is usually in the $100k-$300k range, but pays up to $1M-$2M if no one wins for a while, and (c) it pays the whole amount at once, rather than in installments. So, knowing that splitting the jackpot is a risk and that taxes would take about half of it, it starts making sense to play from an expected value standpoint at around $2M.

(4) You can greatly reduce the odds of splitting your potential jackpot by picking at least two or three numbers in the 32-41 range, which rules out all the players who want to pick days of the month as their numbers. You still run some risk of sharing with an “easy pick” winner, but I’ve looked at past jackpots and split prizes and sure enough — there’s extra value in the higher numbers.

(5) We both realize that the utility of winning $2M is about the same to her as winning $200M, because we don’t have expensive tastes. So this is definitely the right lottery to play, if she’s going to play one (as opposed to PowerBall or any of the gargantuan-prize lotteries). That’s because . . .

(6) The real prize is earlier retirement. If she buys 50-100 lottery tickets per year, she has a chance — maybe better than 1-in-2000 or so over the next few years — of actually winning and being able to gain 3-7 years of additional retirement. The alternative, not buying tickets, saves her $500 or so, but that gives her ZERO chance of earlier retirement. There’s no investment strategy I can think of that could even have a chance, however small, to provide her with a 2000x return on investment. Not penny stocks, not digital currency gambling — nothing (if you have any ideas, I’m all ears!). I suppose she could take the money to a casino and put $500 down on the roulette wheel and try to hit a number, twice, and then go double or nothing — but we’d have to travel to a casino to do so.

So that’s what I told her: when the jackpot gets big enough, buy a bunch of tickets (all different and not the easy-pick — so the number of tickets she buys is limited by her patience). If this strategy works out, I’ll be sure to come back and let you know! 🙂

A little cartoon gambling advice.

is it better to buy separate lottery tickets

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Is It Better to Buy Separate Lottery Tickets?

Everyone fantasizes at least once in their life about winning the lottery and quitting the job they hate. That fantasy inspires many to buy multiple lottery tickets. How do you increase your chances of winning – buying separate tickets or several of the same game?

It’s better to buy separate lottery tickets from several different games. Buying multiple tickets for the Powerball won’t increase your odds of winning. If you buy tickets from multiple games, however, you might have a better chance of winning something, even if it’s small.

Some might think that the lottery is based on pure luck, but really, it’s based on mathematical odds. This article will explain those odds and why it’s better to buy separate lottery tickets from different games instead of throwing all of your money toward the Powerball.

It’s Not About Your Luck

“They’re so lucky!” everyone says when the Powerball winner is announced. Maybe it seems like they were lucky, but that’s not how the lottery works.

Luck is the belief that things happen randomly. You have a random chance of finding a penny on the ground, getting that amazing job you applied for or getting an extra chicken nugget in the 10-piece box. A lucky person would experience these random good fortunes.

An unlucky person, on the other hand, will probably lose a penny, won’t get an interview for the job, or will have nine nuggets instead of 10. There’s no clear reason why all these things happen to a person. They’re just unlucky.

The lottery doesn’t work this way. While it may seem like luck has bestowed a 1 in 292,201,338 chance of winning the Powerball jackpot onto the luckiest person in America, these odds can be determined by math. Mathematical explanations and luck just don’t quite add up together.

How the Odds Work

Let’s say there are 100 candies in a bowl. Ninety-nine of them are Skittles, and 1 of them is an M&M. If you draw only one candy, you have a 1% chance of getting the M&M. You can increase your odds by drawing more candies. Drawing a total of 10 means you have a 10% chance of getting the M&M, and the percentage will rise as you grab more candies.

Lotteries don’t work this way. There isn’t a set number of tickets that are going to be sold, with one of them being the winning number. If that was the case, everyone would be buying as many tickets as they possibly could. Instead, numbers are drawn at random, and you have to guess those numbers correctly in that order.

There are several things working against you with this system:

  • The odds are fixed – you can’t increase your odds with more tickets.
  • Multiple people can end up with the same numbers.
  • There are too many combinations to try to find them all.

In the Powerball, there is always a small chance of winning. Even if you buy ten tickets, it’s still a tiny chance that you might win.

Why It’s Better to Buy Separate Tickets

Buying separate tickets means buying from multiple lotteries or not buying the tickets in order. For the Powerball, the order that you buy your tickets doesn’t really matter since it’s about the numbers drawn. For scratch-off lottery tickets, you might have better chances of winning by buying in order if every 3rd, 4th, or 5th ticket is a winner. In his book, the famous lottery winner, Richard Lustig also mentions buying lottery tickets in bulk as one of his winning strategies. (The secrets of Lustig’s winning system is available on

But, it’s better to buy separate tickets from multiple lotteries, so you have a chance of winning something, even if it’s just $20, $50, or $100. The more money you spend on lottery tickets is the more money you’re losing. Maybe you’ve spent $1,000 on tickets throughout the years, and you finally win $2,000. But, it took half of that just to win that much.

While you wait for the Powerball, play other lotteries to increase your chances of a payout. If there are small local lotteries, you have a better chance of winning on those because fewer people are playing them. Consider that the payouts are likely to be smaller with these, however.

You’re Probably Better Off Not Playing

While discussing odds and “luck,” it should be noted that you’re better off not buying any tickets at all. That might not be what you want to hear, but in terms of mathematics, the logic checks out.

Let’s say have $50 to spend on lottery tickets, and you’re hoping to at least break even. So, you go out and buy some lottery tickets. You could either buy all your tickets separately or all from the same game.

You have a chance of losing money. Maybe you get $4 from one ticket and $25 from another, but that’s all you get. Or, maybe you’re an “unlucky” person, and you didn’t win anything at all. So, you’re out $50, and you’re not getting that back.

If you hadn’t bought any lottery tickets, you didn’t have any chance of winning. But, you also didn’t have a chance at losing $50, either. By not playing, you still have $50 that you could spend on other things.

Some people like to play for the thrill of it, understanding that they probably won’t win anything. The idea of possibly having your life changed overnight is enough of a reason to go out and buy several tickets, and that’s okay. But if you want to use math to better your odds, keeping your money might be the better option for you.

How to Increase Your Chances of Winning

While there’s a mathematical explanation for winning the lottery, there are a few ways you can increase your chances of winning.

Be Smart With Your Money

Only spend as much money on lottery tickets as you can afford to lose. More often than not, you’re going to lose money on tickets while waiting for the big payout. Sometimes you might be feeling lucky and want to spend a little extra, but it might not be wise. Set up a weekly or monthly budget and don’t stray from it.


Consistently buying tickets gives you a greater chance of winning. This is why budgeting is important – it will allow you to continue playing without overspending. Try to buy one or two each week to increase your odds of winning something.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the Same Basket

It’s an old saying, but the idea still holds true. Don’t put all your money toward the same lottery. Increase your chance of winning by purchasing multiple tickets from different lotteries. That way, you have a better chance of winning something from one of the games, rather than losing everything from one game.

Another aspect is to play all the numbers. Many people choose birthdays because they think it’s lucky, but that limits you to specific numbers. Plus, since many people play birthdays, you risk sharing the winnings with several people. Choose numbers above 31 for a better chance to win.


It’s better to buy separate lottery tickets to increase your chance of winning something. The odds of winning are purely mathematical, so it’s better to use multiple lotteries to try to win something. The chances of winning the big lotteries like the Powerball are so slim that it actually might be better to not spend money at all because you have a better chance of losing all of your money than you do winning some.

Everyone fantasizes at least once in their life about winning the lottery and quitting the job they hate. That fantasy inspires many to buy multiple lottery tickets. How do you increase your chances of winning – buying separate tickets or several of the same game?

Does Buying Multiple Lottery Tickets Increase Your Odds of Winning?

Thanks to the massive prizes available and delays between buying tickets and the actual draw for a winner, the lottery is ideal for players who like to fantasize. What would you do if you won? How would your life change?

But the chances of winning are absurdly small. You have a greater chance of getting hit by lightning than winning the lottery. So, is buying another ticket like standing on a golf course during a thunderstorm? Will you boost your odds by buying more tickets, or are there better ways to improve your odds?

The math behind multiple lotto tickets

In theory, buying more tickets will give you more chances to win. In smaller lottery set ups, for example, a random ticket drawing at your local school or community center, there is a set number of tickets available and buying more of them boosts your chances.

So, if there are 100 raffle tickets and you buy 5 of them, you have a 5% chance of winning compared to a 1% chance of winning with a single ticket.

However, when it comes to lotteries, the math gets a bit more complicated. That’s because there aren’t set tickets sold, but rather a series of numbers that are drawn. Any number of people could pick the same series of numbers that you have, splitting the prize with you.

More than that, the odds of getting the full set of correct numbers are incredibly small. As in, even statisticians say that the number is so vast that it’s hard to visualize for most people.

They try to explain it this way. Imagine sitting in a packed stadium, with a prize given to someone in a seat at random. You can look around the stadium and imagine your odds. Now imagine another stadium, and another, and another few thousand. Even if you had a seat in multiple stadiums, your odds are fairly small.

If you’re playing the Powerball lottery, you need to match 5 numbers, plus the Powerball to win the grand prize. Those are odds of 1 in 292,201,338 according to the Powerball website. Buying 2 tickets gives you odds of 2 in 292,201,338. Even if you buy 100 tickets, your odds are still better for getting killed by a vending machine or getting dealt an opening hand of a Royal Flush in a poker game.

Tips to help you win the lottery

Okay, so buying as many lottery tickets as you can afford isn’t going to give you a better chance of winning the lottery. What does? Here are some top tips from players who have enjoyed multiple lottery wins:

    Play the whole board.

When you’re picking numbers, many people prefer to use birth dates and anniversaries, hoping that special days will be lucky in the lottery. But this means you’ll only play numbers 1-31, leaving the rest of the board empty. By spreading your numbers, you have a better chance of being the only winner, or splitting it with fewer people.
Be consistent.

You’ve got to be in it to win it, so if you really dream of winning the lottery, be consistent about buying your ticket.
Stick to a budget.

Sure, winning millions can be tempting, but don’t get carried away buying hope at the expense of being able to afford your rent or food. No matter how many friends are buying tickets or how hyped up things get on the news, your chances remain the same, so don’t get caught up in the lottery fever.
Try multiple lotteries.

If you want to buy more than one ticket to keep your hopes alive, why not try playing a couple different lotto games? Play the Powerball and Mega Millions, or pick up tickets to smaller lottery games while waiting for the massive payout on the lowest odds games.

This winner bought ONE ticket

Wondering if those tips really work? Well, they did for Lerynne West.

She won half of a $687.8 million Powerball jackpot, getting a split of $343.9 million. She opted for the lump sum payment of $198.1 million, which is generally seen as the best option for any winner who doesn’t have a spending problem.

Before winning the jackpot, she played twice a week when she could afford it. The most she ever won was $150. She didn’t have a strategy or even pick her own numbers, figuring “If I was meant to win it, I was meant to win it”.

So, if you’re a fan of the lottery, why not buy a ticket? It could be your lucky day…

Is It Better to Buy Separate Lottery Tickets? Everyone fantasizes at least once in their life about winning the lottery and quitting the job they hate.