How To Play The Lottery - 5 Simple Steps

To play the lottery you need to choose a set of distinct numbers; for example, 5 numbers out of a possible 45. In many lotteries you also need to pick bonus numbers, usually one or two from a smaller set. To win the jackpot, all your chosen numbers need to match the drawn numbers.

5 simple steps to play the lottery

  1. Choose a lottery 
  2. Pick your numbers
  3. Buy a ticket
  4. Check drawn numbers
  5. Claim your prize

Although there are lots of strategies to win the lottery, many lottery winners go for a random or quick pick, but it's the odds that matter the most and help you understand the likelihood of winning the jackpot.

1. Choose a lottery to play

Choosing the right game from thousands of lotteries around the world can be overwhelming if you don't know where to start, but once you learn some basics, you will have the confidence to choose the right game for you.

What is a lottery and how does it work?

A lottery is a game of luck: a game that draws numbers at random in order to win a prize. 

Although it might not look like it, lotteries are a form of gambling, even though there is little evidence linking lotteries and gambling problems, which most likely originates from stories in which lottery winners have gone broke shortly after winning their fortune. 

On the other hand, this is the only form of commercial gambling that a majority of adults report having played (National Gambling Impact Study Commission Report, 1999).

What are the rules for playing the lottery?

Age: Besides restrictions on age for the respective country, this is usually from 16 to 21 years of age. 

Ticket: Participants need to choose their own numbers from a large set of possibilities, with it being recommended to check tickets before leaving the retailer. Keep in mind that a ticket can become void if stolen, illegible or damaged. The lottery is not responsible for the ticket, the ticket holder is.

Draw: Draws of winning numbers take place at regular intervals, mostly a few times a week. To win the jackpot, all drawn numbers need to be matched. There are also smaller prizes in addition to the main prize, with at least three numbers usually needing to be matched.

Jackpot: This is the main lottery prize. To win it, match all drawn numbers. There are usually smaller prizes in addition to the jackpot.

Multiplier: Some lotteries draw an extra number to increase the payout of non-jackpot prizes. The drawn number multiplies the odds of winning prizes, and usually costs extra.

Second Chance: This is an additional opportunity for holders of non-winning lottery tickets to win extra prizes. 

Joker: Thisis an additional game that cannot be played separately. A randomly generated number is assigned to the ticket, with at least the last two digits needing to be matched in order to win. The more you match, the bigger the prize.

What are the lottery types and what are the differences?

Although most lottery games are very similar, the main differences are in the odds, prizes and how often you can play them. 

Lotto is the most popular game in the world with the biggest jackpots, requiring distinct numbers to be chosen from a set. For example, 6 numbers out of 45. 

To increase the jackpot, which also decreases the chances of winning, many lotteries have a Bonus Number in additionto the main draw, which is usually 1 or 2 numbers from a smaller set. Draws take place once or twice a week. 

Lotto Game Examples: Powerball, Mega Millions, Euromillions and Eurojackpot


Daily games or dailies are popular due to how often they take place. Draws are made multiple times a day, with tickets being cheaper than lotto. The main prize is fixed.

Daily game Examples: Pick 3 and Pick 4


A scratcher, scratch card or an instant game is a lottery ticket that wins an immediate prize. Wins are indicated by the symbols and words revealed by scratching the latex layer. The odds of winning could be as low as 1:3.

Scratcher Examples: Scratch 777 and $100,000 CASH


A raffle is a game in which numbers are pre-selected and then assigned to you. You cannot choose them. Unlike other lottery games, there is always a winner because the draw comes from a set of sold tickets. This type of game is mostly used for charities or fundraising.

Raffle examples: UK Lotto Raffle and the famous Loteria de Navidad in Spain


2. Pick your numbers

The most simple way to pick your lottery numbers is to use the quick pick or easy pick options for randomly chosen numbers. If you have preferred lucky numbers, it's a good idea to check the statistics.

Hot numbers are drawn more frequently than cold numbers, and even though all numbers have the same odds of being picked, some are drawn less frequently. Check if your lucky numbers are among these. 

These are the basics for choosing your numbers. You can go further and use a number of lottery strategies that are available out there (even though none of them really work from a mathematical point of view). 

But one strategy did work for Stefan Mandel who has won the lottery 14 times. To cut a long story short, he calculated that he would still be in profit after buying tickets containing all possible combinations, so he did. This strategy is not legal anymore and the odds of winning jackpots are now much lower (Powerball odds are 1 in 292,201,338 and Mega Millions odds are 1 in 302,575,350).

3. Buy a ticket

The days when you could only purchase lottery tickets in a store are definitely over, although this option is still available. The most convenient way to buy tickets is online. Many of theofficial lotteriessell tickets online via websites or mobile applications, but you will need to be a citizen of the respective country.

If you want to play lotteries in a country that you don't live in, here's some good news: you can play some of the biggest lotteries such as US Powerball, Mega Millions, Euromillions or Eurojackpot by buying tickets at one of these verified websites.


4. Check your numbers

Many lottery draws are broadcast on TV; however, this option might not be as convenient as checking the numbers on a website or a mobile app. Each lottery has a different draw time, and by playing online from home in a different time zone it could be literally in the middle of the night. 

Lottery Guru displays the results for most of the world's lotteries as soon as possible after the official draw. You do not need to visit the official lottery website to check winning numbers, but it is recommended that you do so when you match at least two numbers. 

Remember that some games have a second chance feature for non-winning lottery tickets for an additional opportunity to win prizes. Do not throw your ticket away until it is directly checked by the official operator. 

There were $2.89 billion in unclaimed lottery prizes in 2017, with the biggest ever unclaimed prize being $77 million in 2011. Crazy, right?

5. Claim your prize

You've checked your number and you have won! Congratulations. Claiming your prize is an easy process. 

Be aware that every lottery has a time limit for making payouts, which is usually around 30 to 180 days. Smaller prizes can be claimed directly from retailers or are transferred to you automatically when you play online.

The really big jackpots can be paid out in two ways: 

A lump sum or a cash option is a one-time payment that is equal to the cash in the lottery jackpot prize pool, which is usually around 60% of a publicized jackpot.

An Annuity option is when the prize is paid out as an immediate payment followed by 29 annual payments. 

That's all for now. If you've finished reading and want to play, check the biggest lottery jackpots that can be played online from home right now. Good luck!