Which Lottery Has the Best Odds of Winning?

Not all lotteries are created equally. Some offer huge jackpots but the chances of winning them are very small. Other lotteries have more modest jackpots but they seem to be won in every draw. It’s obvious that the odds of winning are not the same for every lottery.

To answer the question which lottery gives you the best chance of winning, you should understand two different definitions of 'odds'. Lottery odds are the odds of your winning any prize in a lottery, while jackpot odds refer to your chances of winning a specific prize - the jackpot.


Which Lottery Has the Best Jackpot Odds?

The size of a lottery jackpot is what attracts most people to play the game. When the Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries offer billion-dollar jackpots, people everywhere will brave long lines to purchase tickets. When jackpots are that big, many who have never previously played the lottery will be among the most enthusiastic customers.

It’s important to note that the bigger the jackpot, the lower the odds of winning it. How can Powerball and Mega Millions afford to offer such incredible jackpot prizes? Because the odds of winning them are not that favorable. As a result, the prizes rollover from draw to draw, getting bigger and attracting even more players. No matter how bad the jackpot odds, people will continue to play these games because they realize that eventually, every Powerball and Mega Millions jackpot will be won.

On the other hand, smaller lotteries offer smaller jackpots which are far more likely to be won. Consider the Cash Five lottery. The Cash Five jackpot is set at every draw at $25,000 and your chances of winning it are just 1:324,632.

In the table below you can compare the odds of winning the jackpot in several Texas lotteries. The lower the jackpot odds, the higher your chances of winning the jackpot.

Lottery

Jackpot Odds

Texas Cash 5

  1:324,632

Texas Two Step

  1:1,832,600

Lotto Texas

  1:25,827,165

Powerball

  1:292,201,338

Mega Millions

  1:302,575,350

Jackpot odds reflect how many distinct combinations of numbers can be selected in a draw. For example, if you purchased 302,575,350 Mega Millions tickets, each of them with a unique selection of numbers, one of them would win the jackpot.

Which Lottery Has the Best Lottery Odds?

Each lottery ticket you buy gives you one chance of winning the jackpot. But that same ticket also gives you a chance to win the lottery’s secondary prizes. The lower the prize, the better the odds of winning it. In short, lottery odds are the odds of winning any lottery prize in the draw.

The odds for winning any lottery prize are based on formulas considered "lottery mathematics". This math determines your chances of matching the numbers drawn. Formulas for calculating lottery odds and jackpot odds are too complicated to explain here, but it’s easy to understand that they consider how many numbers there are in total; how many of them are selected in each draw; and whether there is an additional 'powerball' included in the draw.

Below, you can compare the odds of winning any lottery prize in different Texas lottery draws. The lower the odds, the higher your chances of winning.

Lottery

Lottery Odds

Cash Five

  1:7.2

Mega Millions

  1:24

Powerball

  1:24.9

Texas Two Step

  1:32.4

Lotto Texas

  1:71.1

It should be noted that in some Texas lotteries, such as Cash Five, there is an option to win a free ticket. The overall odds of winning any prize in Cash Five are 1 in 7.2 (including free ticket prizes). A further piece of information to fully understand what this means – the odds of winning specifically the free ticket playing Cash Five (matching 2 of 5 for the fourth prize) is 1:8 and the slightly better odds of 1:7.2 are for winning any of Cash Five’s prizes, including those in the top three prize categories.

Similarly, in Mega Millions, for example, the odds shown above include the possibility of winning “break even” prizes.

How the Guess Range Affects Chances of Winning

When you play Cash Five, you choose five (5) numbers from a 1 to 35 guess range. When you play Lotto Texas, in comparison, you choose six (6) numbers from a 1 to 54 guess range. It is much more difficult to win the Lotto Texas jackpot, as well as other prizes in that lottery, and this is because of two factors: how many numbers you choose and how big the guess range is.

The other factor determining the odds of winning lottery prizes is whether a game includes an additional number such as those in Powerball and Mega Millions. Because of this additional number, it is very difficult to win the jackpot when you play Powerball and Mega Millions. As a result, the jackpots in these two lotto games roll over repeatedly, frequently reaching record-breaking amounts.

Take a look at the guess range and how it relates to the jackpot odds in Texas lotteries:

Lottery

Guess Range*

Jackpot Odds

Cash Five

  5/35

  1:324,632

Texas Two Step

  4/35

  1:1,832,600

Lotto Texas

  6/54

  1:25,827,165

Powerball

  5/69 + 1/26

  1:292,201,338

Mega Millions

  5/70 + 1/25

  1:302,575,350

*Guess range refers to the number of balls drawn from a given guess range. For example, 5/35 refers to a draw of 5 numbers from a 1-35 guess range. In Powerball, on the other hand, the table also shows the additional number as 1/26, referring to one additional number drawn from a 1-26 guess range.

It is quite clear that the bigger the guess range, and the more numbers you must match, the more difficult it is to hit the jackpot.

Jackpot Odds vs. Lottery Odds

When you choose which lottery to play, take into consideration both the jackpot odds and the lottery odds. Obviously you would love to win the jackpot but winning one of the lottery’s other prizes would be very nice as well.

If you’re wondering why there are some lotteries with better odds than others it’s because lottery organizers tend to seek a balance between games with relatively favorable lottery odds (with low ticket prices and a better chance of winning prizes) and games with less favorable jackpot odds (resulting in many rollovers and higher jackpots). Higher jackpots lead to increased ticket sales. Still, many regular lottery players prefer the better odds of the smaller lottery draws.

Ticket sales, by the way, do not affect the odds of winning a lottery jackpot or any other prizes. If 1,000 tickets are sold or 10,000 tickets are sold, the odds remain the same.

In the case of certain smaller lotteries, such as Cash Five, the jackpot prize is fixed. No matter how many tickets are sold, the Cash Five jackpot is $25,000. If there are 3 jackpot winners, each of them will receive the $25,000 prize. If there are more than 3 winners, the top prize is paid out on a pari-mutuel basis with a liability cap of $75,000 that is divided equally between the winners.

On the other hand, in the bigger lotteries ticket sales do impact the amount of a rollover because a percentage of the ticket sales goes to the jackpot prize. The more tickets sold, the higher (and faster) a jackpot will rise. Also, the more tickets sold for a draw, the greater the likelihood that the top prize will be shared by more than one winner.

So, Which Lottery Has the Best Odds?

The high jackpots offered by Powerball, Mega Millions, and even our own Lotto Texas may be what attracts you to play the lottery but there are several other factors you might want to consider:

  • The price of a lottery ticket

  • Game options

  • Extra features

  • Secondary prizes

  • Frequency of the draws

  • When the next draw will take place

No matter what leads you to buying a lottery ticket, you should play with realistic expectations. Understanding a lottery’s jackpot odds and the overall odds of winning any prize is very important. That said, if you feel like playing, go ahead. Your ticket has just as much of a chance at winning the jackpot as anyone else’s ticket. And, as you probably realize, no matter what the odds, every lottery jackpot is eventually claimed by a winner. If you want a chance at winning, you need to play the lottery, so take the next step and play!