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United States Lotteries

Common Tpes of Lottery Games

The major types of lottery games are scratch-Off tickets (or scratchers), ready-made numbers printed and sold as lottery tickets, user-selected number games, and, as of lately, video based games. Mainly because of lack of a complex communcation network, user-selected number games are rarely available in less-developed countries, while scratch-Offs and ready-made lottery tickets are popular. On the other hand, more developed countries like the US, Canada, UK and others paly user-selected number games extensively.

User-selected number games are easy to analyze and their odds can easily be calculated by the user. On the other hand, with ready made games, we are forced to believe the odds they tell us and buy just what they sell us . This web site is only about user-selected number games.

The most common user-selected number games can be divided into four groups, namely,
1. One-Number Lottery Games,
2. Multi-Number Lottery Games,
3. Multi-Number Lottery Games with two sets of numbers, and
4. Keno type Lottery games.

  1. One-Number Lottery Games : These are games where the player selects just one number. Theoretically the number may have any number of digits, but the most common ones have 3 and 4 digits, thus we call them 3-digit games and 4-digit games, respectively.

    3-digit lottery games are known by several names in different states and countries. Some common names for these games are Cash 3, Pick 3, and Play 3. The games are played by simply selecting a 3-digit number from 000 to 999. For example, 160.

    Similarly, 4-digit lottery games are known by several names in different states and countries. Some common names for these games are Cash 4, Pick 4, and Play 4. The games are played by selecting a 4-digit number from 0000 to 9999. For example, 8174.

    In both games you can choose to play the selected number as a staright (Exact Match) or as a Box (Any Order). When you play it as a staight, you are betting that the number will come in the exact order as you played it; you will win only if the number drawn is 160 or 8174 of our examples. On the other hand, a box play is when you bet that the three (or four) digits will be drawn without regard to the order; you will win if the number drawn contains all the three (or four) digits you have selected in any order, say 016 or 1478.

    The chance of winning in a straight game is 1:1,000 in 3-digit games, and 1:10,000 in 4-digit games. The chance of winning in a box game depends on whether some digits are repeated. Numbers with non-repeating digits have a better chance of winning than numbers that contain one or more repeated digits.

    Besides Staright and Box, there are also other play types such as combo, front pair, back pair, and split pair offered by several states. We have here separate pages for a complete description of 3-digit games, and for a complete description of 4-digit games.

  2. Multi-Number Lottery Games : In these games, the player selects 4, 5, or 6 numbers from 1 to a certain maximum specified by the game.

    Multi-Number Games are usually denoted by the abbreviation n/N, which means that you have to select n numbers from 1 to N. Depending on the value of n, these games may be 4-number games, 5-number games, or 6-number games. A common multi-number game is the Classic Lotto, a 6-number game denoted by 6/49, where you select 6 numbers from 1 to 49.

    Note that with very few exceptions, the order in which you select the numbers doen't matter!!.

    Again depending on the state or the country, prizes are awarded to those who get more than 2 or 3 numbers correct. If you get all the n numbers correct, it is said that you have hit the Jackpot.

    In some cases, in addition to the n numbers, another number is drawn from the same set as a bonus ball. This is usually used to increase the amount of lower prizes. As far as number selection on the part of the player is concerned, the bonus ball has no effect whatsover. Therefore, these games belong to this very category.

  3. Multi-Number Lottery Games with two sets of numbers : These are games where selections are made from two sets of numbers.

    They are denoted by the abbreviation n/N + m/M, which means that you have to select n numbers from 1 to N (in any order), from the first set, and m more numbers from 1 to M from the second set. Except a few games, the major part of the lottery games that fall into this category are played by selecting only one number from the second set (i.e., m = 1). Thus, the abbreviation n/N + 1/M can be used for these games. The number selected from the second set is usually called the Mega Ball or the Extra Ball. Depending on the game, 4, 5, or 6 numbers are selected from the first set. Two very popular multi-number games with two sets of numbers are the US Powerball, denoted by 5/55 + 1/42, and the Mega Millions, denoted by 5/56 + 1/46.

    Except for the fact that you have to select the Mega Ball separately from another set, the order in which you play the numbers doesn't matter.

    Please note the difference between an extra (Mega) Ball and a Bonus Ball. A Mega Ball has to be selected by the player. A Bonus Ball is not. It is only drawn. Recall that games with a Bonus ball fall in category 2.

  4. Keno type games : These are basically multi-number games (category 2), where the player selects 20 numbers from 1 to uaually 80. The difference from category 2 games is that you do not have to get all the 20 selected numbers right in order to win the top prize. In most cases, 10 correct entitles you to the top prize. If it is a spot game, you can even pre-indicate how many correct to expect.

Obviously there could be some lottery games in the world that do not fall into one of the 4 categories. Having looked at the various 'user-selected' lottery games in the world in their respective web sites, we can confidently say that 95% (if not more) of the games belong to one of the categories listed above.

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