If you’ve stopped by a convenience store in the past month, odds are likely you’ve seen someone huddled near the Michigan Lottery scratch offs.
A percentage of the population will dedicate time each week to hitting a jackpot on a scratcher.
While it may seem hopeless to some, these scratch-off players don’t go into things without a strategy.
Speaking anonymously, a handful of players and store owners talked me through how often they play, how much they spend, and what their end game is.
Weekly, daily routine for some on Michigan Lottery scratch offs
Let’s start with frequency of play.
While each individual has a different approach or time dedication, it’s the store owners that see the same customers each week.
One female gas station owner described how often she encounters the same players.
“I get certain customers that come in four times a week. Some ask me what the winner is, and I just pick a game,” she said. “Some will be in here for an hour at a time and spend $300-400.”
Casual lottery players may enjoy playing the actual game on the card, but for some of the hardcore players, it’s simply a business decision.
This store owner said multiple regulars simply purchase a game ticket and scratch off the barcode and then scan the ticket to see if it’s a winner.
“They don’t care about seeing if they are a winner by going through the game. They want to know right away and move on with what they are doing,” she said.
Different strategies for scratch-off lottery tickets
Through my time talking with different scratch-off enthusiasts, I was able to narrow down some of the different strategies used.
Here’s a breakdown of their approach to winning:
*It’s important to approach any form of gambling responsibly and within your means. If you or anyone you know needs help with their gambling-related issue, call the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-270-7117.
Stick to one game
While each scratch-off ticket will provide you with its odds to win, those odds can change with each winner or loser of the same game.
A few players I spoke with focus on one game each time they step into the convenience store. Their reason being that playing a lot of tickets on one game increases their opportunity to hit a big winner in their eyes. That’s opposed to buying a bunch of different games where the odds for each ticket are roughly anywhere from 1 in 3.5 to 1 in 5 of winning.
However, the Michigan Lottery provides a full rundown of what prizes remain available for instant games on their website. These players can have a better understanding of what big prizes remain and how it impacts their odds to hit one.
The Michigan Lottery also doesn’t know the locations of its prize-winning tickets. They are scattered at random.
Win and switch
Conversely, some players believe that once you win on a game, it’s time to move to another.
That was a strategy used by some regulars as well.
They began with a specific game and played one at a time until they won. Regardless of the total they won, they immediately moved on to the next game.
Their belief is that once they got a winner, a cold streak was likely because the odds of each game don’t play in their favor. Though, there are no indications that that belief is true.
Double up or split
Another strategy is walking in with a set amount of money and playing until that money runs out, or it is doubled, whichever comes first.
A player I spoke with entered the store multiple times a week with $50 and purchased various tickets of various currency. He only purchased one ticket at a time, and if his winnings reached $50 or more, he stopped. If they never got there, he played until his bankroll ran out.
Wait it out
Similar to that lingerer at a casino who is waiting to jump on your slot machine, this strategy involves other people’s failure leading to your success.
Lottery ticket enthusiasts will post up at the retail counter and chat with the workers while watching other lottery players.
Once a trend of losing forms on a particular game, the player then swoops in and jumps on that very game. They believe the odds have now turned in their favor for success.
Again, that approach doesn’t exactly reflect reality, as no retailer has a set amount of winning tickets or required prize totals at their respective store or machine.
Hopes of a better life
It’s not too surprising that all these frequent players of scratch-off games are playing in hopes of winning it big.
One, a 46-year-old mother of two, got started when her mother won $10,000 decades prior and has been hoping to recreate that magic. Her biggest win has been $1,000.
A 59-year-old mechanic is hoping to turn the instant lottery into an early retirement. He sticks to the bigger priced tickets, but also puts himself on a budget for how much he spends each time he plays. His biggest win to date was $500.
One of the younger players I encountered, just 25, plays as a way to try and help from getting an office job. An online gamer and content creator, he was hoping to avoid having to jump into the “real work force” as he put it. His biggest win was $1,000.
Players, Michigan Lottery hitting it big in 2021
People wouldn’t play the instant lottery if there weren’t any success stories.
Earlier this year, a 60-year-old Clare county man won $2 million play a Lucky X100 instant game.
Just this past fall, a pair of Michiganders won $1 million prizes on scratch tickets.
In 2021, Michigan Lottery retailers received $370.9 million in commissions, while $3.1 billion in prizes were given to players.
More than 10,000 locations in Michigan sell lottery products, and 925 retailers sold $1 million or more in lottery games.
Record contributions to School Aid Fund in 2021
In 2021, the Michigan Lottery made a record-shattering $1.419 billion contribution to the School Aid Fund.
That was more than $240 million more than their 2020 contribution, which was a record at that time. Over the last three years, the Michigan lottery has contributed at least $1 billion to the fund.
“Lottery had a record year last year as well, with the school aid fund contribution being $1.419 billion,” Jake Harris, Player Relations Manager of the Michigan Lottery, said. “If you look over the last seven years, we’ve had seven consecutive years of school aid fund contribution records. Since 2015 through last year, the contributions were up 78%.”
Recently, a $1 million winning Powerball ticket bought in Warren expired. That unclaimed money was transferred to the School Aid Fund.
Under state law, all profits from the lottery got to the School Aid Fund.