Home to the latest information and tips about increasing your winning odds in lotteries!
Posted: Friday, Jun 05,2020 | Time: 07:01 am | Edited by: The Lottery Lab Staff
Are you interested in playing lotteries but confused by the terminology? Don’t worry, we are here to guide you to a detailed understanding of lotteries so you can improve your gameplay. Do not miss your winning chance! Here you will find short and accurate definitions for many of the lottery terms you will run across. Your improved understanding will lead to a more enjoyable, simpler, and safer lottery playing experience.
Disclaimer: Different lottery organizations may use similar terms with slightly different meanings. The definitions here are intended to improve clarity, but may not accurately reflect legal terms in your local lottery.
➤ Add On Game – An optional, additional wager offered for a specific lottery that is available to players as an additional purchase. Add On Games frequently have rules and prizes independent of the Primary Game, but use the same drawing results as the Primary Game. See also: Primary Game, Secondary Game.
➤ Annuity Option - A payout option available from some lotteries for their largest jackpots. An Annuity Option distributes the jackpot prize to the winner over a set number of years. The number of years is set by the lottery rules. The amount of the annuity is based on the size of the jackpot and certain economic factors at the time of the win. See also: Lump-Sum Option, Cash for Life
➤ Any Order - A play option offered in number games. The player selects a set of digits equal to the number of digits to be drawn in the game. The winning condition for this play option is that the digits selected by the player are drawn in any order. See also: Box, Ways, Wheel
➤ Advance Bet - A ticket purchased for a drawing that is further in the future than the next regularly scheduled drawing for the game. See also: Consecutive Bet.
➤ Advertised Jackpot - The jackpot amount for a lottery which is displayed in advertisements. This amount is frequently the total cash value of the annuity option. Therefore, the advertised jackpot may be greater than the cash prize winners receive if they collect their prize as a lump-sum. See also: Annuity Option, Lump Sum Option
➤ Back Pair - A play option offered in number games. The player selects two digits. The winning condition for this play option is that the last two digits in the drawing result match the digits selected by the player in the same order. See also: Front Pair, Split Pair
➤ Ball Draw Machine - A device that mechanically scrabbles a set of numbered balls and then randomly draws from that mix to determine the winning numbers for a specific game. Some games utilize more than one ball draw machine. See also: Random Number Generator
➤ Bonus Lotto - A lottery game in which a player chooses “X” numbers from a field of “Y” numbers and one number from a field of “Z” numbers. A bonus lotto uses two lottery machines. The first machine contains “Y” balls and the second contains “Z” balls. The order in which the balls are drawn from the first machine is not part of the winning conditions; however, the bonus ball is part of the winning conditions. These games usually have a large jackpot (either fixed or progressive) along with second-tier prizes which are almost always fixed. Bonus Lotto games usually offer only one play option with multiple winning conditions. Note: There are individual lotteries with the market name of “bonus lotto” which may not conform to this general definition.
➤ Bonus Ball - A ball drawn from the second machine of a bonus lotto game.
➤ Bonus Number(s) - An aspect of exotic lottery games. In some exotic lotteries, players select “X” numbers from a field of “Y” numbers as in standard lotto; however, more than “X” balls are drawn from the field. These additional numbers are referred to as “bonus numbers” and significantly impact the odds of the game.
➤ Box(ed Bet) - A play option offered in number games. The player selects a set of digits equal to the number of digits to be drawn in the game. The winning condition for this play option is that the digits selected by the player are drawn in any order. Notice that the winning condition of a box is the same as the winning condition of a wheel. However, the price of a box ticket is usually the same as the price of a straight ticket and the prizes of a box are different than the prizes of a wheel. See also Any Order, Ways, Wheel
➤ Ball - A numbered object used in physical drawing machines to randomize lottery results. See also: Ball Draw Machine
➤ Bearer Instrument - A financial document whose holder is assumed to be its owner. An unsigned lottery ticket is presumed to belong to the person who possesses the ticket.
➤ Beneficiary - An organization or group of organizations that receive a portion of lottery revenues. Lottery beneficiaries are determined by the lottery commission. Most lottery commissions have a single beneficiary (for example, education or the elderly) while some large lotteries support a range of beneficiaries.
➤ Combo – This term is used loosely across different lotteries. It can mean a 50/50 play option or a Box or Wheel play option.
➤ Cash for Life - A lottery game that offers a set prize payment that can ONLY be received in installments to the winner for the duration of the winner’s life. Note, that this does not refer uniquely to the multi-jurisdictional game Cash4Life.
➤ Cash Option - A single payment, rather than an annuity paid over a multiple-year period, awarded as a prize to a player. The lump-sum value is determined by bond rates under which an annuity is purchased. See also: Lump Sum.
➤ Commission – The governing body of a lottery, which operates in either an advisory or authoritative capacity.
➤ Combination Bet - A wager option in which a player selects a box bet and a straight bet for one set of numbers. A 3- or 4-digit lottery number is played straight and every combination of that number is covered. Cost depends on the number of combinations.
➤ Consecutive Bet(s) - An option to play the same set of numbers over multiple, future drawings. For example, some numbers games offer a consecutive bet option to play the same set of numbers for the next 14 drawings. See also: Advance Bet, Multiplay
➤ Drawing Format – The number of machines, the field of balls in each machine, and the number of balls drawn from each machine. Notably, the drawing format is not related to the available wagers or the payout table. The drawing format determines the odds of each wager.
➤ Digit Game - An alternative name for a numbers game.
➤ Drawing - The official event during which the winning lottery numbers are drawn for a specific lottery. Lottery drawings are closely managed by lottery commission officials.
➤ Draw - The official act of establishing lottery results.
➤ Drawing Results - The outcome of an official lottery drawing.
➤ Draw Game - A game of chance in which the winning results are drawn from a random process. This term is important because, in many jurisdictions, the term “lottery” includes instant games and raffles. See also: Instant Game, Lottery, Raffle
➤ Exact Order - A play option offered in number games. The player selects a set of digits equal to the number of digits to be drawn in the game. The winning condition for this play option is that the drawing result matches the digits selected by the player in the same order. See also: Straight
➤ Exotic Game - A lottery which uses a non-standard format or set of winning conditions.
➤ Fixed Jackpot - Fixed Jackpots neither grow nor change in the size. These jackpots do not depend on the number of tickets purchased or the results of past drawings. See also: Progressive Jackpot
➤ Fixed Payouts - The number and amounts of prizes regardless of how many tickets are sold. Typically this is the case for daily numbers games such as Pick 3 and Pick 4.
➤ Front Pair - A play option offered in number games. The player selects two digits. The winning condition for this play option is that the first two digits in the drawing result match the digits selected by the player in the same order. See also: Back Pair, Split Pair
➤ Game – May refer to a lottery, a drawing, or a wager.
➤ Group Play - A group of lottery players who combine their funds, share the cost of purchasing tickets, and share the winnings. See also Pool, Office Pool
➤ Hot Numbers - Numbers drawn most frequently during a particular period of time. These numbers vary for the same lottery over different time periods.
➤ Instant Game - A game in which the results are instantly presented to the player. Scratch off tickets are a classic example of an instant game; however, some lottery kiosks offer instant games which simulate a lottery drawing.
➤ Jackpot - The ultimate prize offered by a lottery. See also: Fixed Jackpot, Progressive Jackpot.
➤ Kiosk - A self-service electronic sales point for lottery tickets. Kiosks are typically located at lottery retailers. Kiosks allow players to select their numbers without filling out a play slip. Most kiosks provide a number checker function so players can determine if their tickets have won. See also: Terminal
➤ Lottery - This is a legal term established by most local jurisdictions as a game with three components for the players: a prize to be won, a chance to win and not win, and an element of consideration (such as buying a ticket) to enter the game. Notice that this legal definition includes such games as draw games, instant games, and raffles.
➤ Lottery Commission - The members of a board who have oversight of the entire lottery organization. The Commission typically is selected by the governor of the state.
➤ Lotto - A lottery game in which a player chooses “X” numbers from a field of “Y” numbers. A lotto uses a single ball draw machine containing “Y” balls and the order in which the balls are drawn is not part of the winning conditions. Lotto games are sometimes referred to using “X of Y” – such as Lotto 6 of 49. Lottos usually have a large jackpot (either fixed or progressive) along with second-tier prizes which are almost always fixed. Lotto games usually offer only one play option with multiple winning conditions. Note: There are individual lotteries with the market name of “lotto” which may not conform to this general definition.
➤ Lump-Sum - A single prize payment, as opposed to an annuitized payment. The lump-sum value is determined by bond rates used to purchase an annuity. See also: Cash Option
➤ Multi-Jurisdiction Lottery - Lottery games that are offered in more than one jurisdiction. These games generate larger jackpots than jurisdictions could achieve individually. Jackpots may be paid in lump sums or annuities. The prize revenue is shared by all participating jurisdictions. Examples include Powerball, Mega Millions, Hot Lotto, Tri-State Megabucks, Cash4Life and Lucky for Life in the United States, and Lotto 6/49 and Lotto Max in Canada.
➤ Multiplier - An add on game feature in which the payout table is randomly selected before the lottery results are drawn. Typically, multipliers multiply some second-tier prizes; however, a progressive jackpot is never multiplied.
➤ MultiDraw - An option for players to play the same numbers in multiple future drawings. See also Advance Bet, Consecutive Bet
➤ Market Name - The advertised name of a unique lottery game or element of a lottery game. Lottery commissions in different jurisdictions routinely operate identical lottery formats independently of one another. To avoid confusion, they use market names to distinguish the games from each other. For example, Indiana operates a “Daily3” numbers game while Illinois operates a “Pick3” numbers game.
➤ Minimum Jackpot - The initial jackpot offered by a progressive jackpot lottery immediately after there has been a winner. See also: Starting Jackpot Minimum Increase - The smallest amount that a progressive jackpot increases by if no winning ticket is drawn.
➤ Numbers Game - A type of lottery in which 2 to 5 ball machines each draw a single ball numbered between 0 and 9. These games typically offer a fixed payout table and a variety of play options. Examples of these games include Pick3 and Daily 4. See also: Digits Game
➤ Number Checker - Any device or tool for comparing a player’s selected numbers with the drawing results.
➤ Number Generator - Any device or tool for generating a selection for a given lottery. Most number generators simply select a random number from the set of all possible options. See also: Random Number Generator
➤ Odds - The ratio between the chances of a prize being won and not being won. The odds are fixed as the chances of winning a specific prize remain the same for every drawing.
➤ Office Pool - A lottery pool which is operated among a group of co-workers. These types of pools have unique legal considerations. See also: Pool
➤ Pari-Mutuel - Pari-mutuel refers to games in which jackpot prizes are equally shared and awarded to numerous players holding winning tickets. The prize payment is determined by the number of winning tickets for that drawing. For example, the POWERBALL® game is a pari-mutuel game, so if there are two winning tickets for a jackpot prize for the same drawing, then the total jackpot prize amount would be shared equally between the two winning tickets.
➤ Player - A person who purchases or holds a lottery ticket. See also: Winner
➤ Progressive Jackpot - A jackpot that increases when there is no winning ticket. Progressive jackpots frequently have a minimum value that the jackpot is reset to after the jackpot is won and a minimum increase value that the jackpot increases by when there is no winning ticket. See also: Fixed Jackpot
➤ Payout Table - A list of prizes associated with each of the winning conditions for a specific lottery.
➤ Payback Rate - The percentage of gross lottery revenue which is paid back (on average) in the form of prizes. Typical payback rates for numbers games are 50-60%. Lotto and Bonus Lotto games with progressive jackpots often have a payback rate as low as 33% for the minimum jackpot; however, they can exceed 100% when jackpots are high.
➤ Primary Game - The basic wager offered in a lottery. Lotteries frequently offer additional options to enhance the primary game. Typically, the primary game must be purchased in order for a player to qualify to purchase any additional options. See also: Add-on Game, Second Chance Game, and Secondary Game
➤ Prize - Any valuable award that a winner receives from a lottery. Prizes may include cash, free tickets, and non-monetary awards such as vehicles and vacations.
➤ Passive Game - A game which requires no decision on the part of the player other than the purchase of a ticket. While passive games are not the focus of TheLotteryLab.com, some secondary games or second chance games are passive.
➤ Playslip - A form which a player fills out to select their play options, numbers, and additional features. Playslips are usually scanned into a retail lottery terminal which then produces a ticket. Playslips are not proof of entry into a lottery. See also: Ticket, Bearer Instrument
➤ Play Option - A specific winning condition chosen by the player at the time of ticket purchase. Typically, only number games offer multiple play options. See also: Winning Conditions
➤ Pool - A group of lottery players who combine their funds to purchase tickets which are jointly owned. Lottery winnings are generally distributed within the group of players based on a set of agreed-upon rules. Pools present unique legal challenges that should be addressed before establishing the pool. See also: Office Pool
➤ Payout Option - A choice given to lottery winners concerning how they receive their prize. Typical options are an annuity payout and a lump-sum payout; however, not every lottery offers these options.
➤ Quick Pick - A feature in which the lottery kiosk or terminal randomly chooses numbers for a player.
➤ Random Number Generator (RNG) - A secured computerized system, used in place of ball draw machines in certain jurisdictions or for certain games, which draws random numbers for a lotto-type game.
➤ Rollover - The continued accumulation of a jackpot when drawn numbers are not matched by any ticket sold. See also: Progressive Jackpot
➤ Retailer - A vendor licensed to sell lottery tickets. Typically, retailers can also pay out lottery prizes up to some cash limit.
➤ Raffle - A game of chance in which the winner is randomly drawn from all entries. Raffles differ from draw games in that there is always a winner and the probability that a given ticket will be drawn is based on the number of entrants.
➤ Secondary Game – An additional aspect of the lottery that is not part of the primary game, but is available at no cost. See also: Add On Game.
➤ Second Chance Drawing - A feature whereby non-winning lottery tickets provide an additional opportunity to win prizes other than those offered in the primary game. Second Chance Drawings typically use the player’s original selection in a drawing that produces new drawing results.
➤ Split Pair - A play option offered in number games. The player selects two digits. The winning condition for this play option is that the first and last digits in the drawing result match the digits selected by the player in the same order. See also: Back Pair, Front Pair
➤ Straight - A play option offered in number games. The player selects a set of digits equal to the number of digits to be drawn in the game. The winning condition for this play option is that the drawing result matches the digits selected by the player in the same order. See also: Exact Order
➤ Second-tier prize - A lower value prize offered in a lotto or bonus lotto game for meeting simple winning conditions. Second-tier prizes are typically fixed regardless of whether the jackpot is progressive or fixed. See also: Payout Table
➤ System - A formal method of purchasing multiple lottery tickets in order to increase the likelihood of certain outcomes. Systems are frequently applied as part of a pool.
➤ Selection - The numbers chosen by a player and indicated on their ticket.
➤ Terminal - An electronic device used by lottery retailers for printing tickets, checking results, and managing payouts.
➤ Ticket - The bearer instrument providing proof of entry into a lottery along with the player’s selected numbers, the drawings which the player has entered, and the play options selected.
➤ Unclaimed Numbers - A winning ticket that has been legally sold but not claimed by a player before its expiration date.
➤ Underdrawn - Underdrawn is also known as the ‘cold’ or overdue numbers that appear less frequently than expected.
➤ Validation - Validation is the process every lottery ticket undergoes to confirm that it is a winning ticket, has not been claimed before, and that the prize amount is correct.
➤ Wager - An agreement between two parties to use the outcome of an uncertain event to determine a financial transaction between the parties. The terms of the financial transaction are established before the uncertain event occurs. See also Play Option.
➤ Wheel – (numbers games) A play option offered in number games. The player selects a set of digits equal to the number of digits to be drawn in the game. The winning condition for this play option is that the digits selected by the player are drawn in any order. Notice that the winning condition of a wheel is the same as the winning condition of a box. However, the price of a wheel ticket is usually based on the number of “ways” that the player’s selection can be reordered and the prizes of a wheel are different than the prizes of a box. See also Any Order, Box, Ways
➤ Wheel (lotto games) - A system for purchasing tickets in a lotto or bonus lotto game in which the player selects all possible combinations of a subset of the field of numbers.
➤ Winner - A player whose valid ticket has a selection which meets the winning conditions of the lottery game.
➤ Winning Conditions - The conditions under which a player’s selection qualifies for a prize. In numbers games, a single ticket typically only has a single winning condition which is determined by the play option selected at the time of ticket purchase. In lotto and bonus lotto games, a single ticket may have multiple winning conditions which include those required to win the jackpot and those required to win second-tier prizes.
➤ Ways - A term used in numbers games in reference to the play options of box or wheel. Under these play options, a player wins if their selected numbers appear in any order. Depending on the number of duplicate digits in the selection there are different numbers of “ways” that the winning condition can be met. For example, if a player selects 1-2-3 in a three-ball numbers game and chooses the box play option, there are six “ways” they can win (1-2-3, 1-3-2, 2-1-3, 2-3-1, 3-1-2, 3-2-1). However, if the player selects 1-2-2 in the same game, there are only “three” ways they can win (1-2-2, 2-1-2, 2-2-1). Thus, the number of “ways” is based on the player’s selection, not the play option or the drawing results.
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