LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The smart money says the lottery is better at helping you go broke than get rich. But the smartest money knows the odds are always changing, if you just know where to look.
Several companies have produced websites that claim their analysis can help you strike it big when it comes to the lottery. But, is it really worth it?
"She let me take a picture with that big ole ticket with 10,000 on it. I said, 'yes!'" Russell Hill said, referring to the $10,000 winning scratch-off he just cashed.
Hill knows that the lottery can make dreams come true.
"Well, I think Arkansas players are smart, number one. They know that those pay out more," said Bishop Woosley, Director of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery.
Hill buys a ticket every day, but he's one of those "smart players" that Woosley's referring to. He uses data on the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery website to find out which tickets will pay out the most
"I go online and I look up the $10 or $20 ticket, and then you click on it, and it'll tell you what's left," Hill explained. "Even the big ones, the little ones, and you know, the $5,000, the $20,000, the $1,000 -- it tells you how many of those are left. And I usually go for those ones that's got a lot more of the winners."
One of several sites out there that crunches the numbers to help players find the best odds is ScratchOffOdds.com. It pulls public data from most of the states that offer lottery games.
"Arkansas does it daily. Texas does it daily, as well. But there are some states that make it a little more difficult. New York, for example, it's not easily accessible," said James Carmer, creator of ScratchOffOdds.com.
There are other sites that offer a similar analysis. Some also sell strategies they claim will help you win at Powerball and MegaMillions.
"And the reality is, no one has that ability, and when they say those things, they're being quite dishonest," Carmer said.
So, why exactly are there so many sites claiming to help you find winning tickets?
Because people love the lottery.
In 2016, people spent billions on movies and music. They spent four times as much as both of those on scratch-offs.
"We're up about 1.5% this year, I believe, which, the last two years have been record years, so 1.5% above a record year is pretty good," Woosley said.
Carmer said he tries to give players the most honest advice he can.
"I always tell people, you know, don't play the lottery. You're almost 99.999% going to lose. But, if you do have a few bucks to waste, at least pick the best games possible," Carmer said.
Hill said he has no plans to stop playing and scratching, searching for the best odds and biggest payouts.
"But, I try to tell people that's what I do. If they listened to it, they would figure it out," Hill said.
We bought three of the tickets that websites claim have the best odds of making you money. We spent $50 on these tickets and only won $20, so it was still a $30 loss. These might have had the best odds of the tickets available, but still, not going to be enough to fuel a retirement.
So as they say, play responsibly.