Throughout Australia, state lotteries basically offer two kinds of games: lotteries, by which we mean the kinds of games where you pick numbers and then see if the same numbers are chosen in a random drawing, and scratchies, the instant play tickets that can immediately award you a prize. Since both types of games are offered on behalf of the government and both can be played through the same agents and vendors, many people assume the two types of games are basically identical.

However, there are several major differences between lotteries and scratchies. These differences could mean that one of these games is right for you, while the other might be one you want to avoid. Here’s a look at the key differences between scratchies and the lottery.

Frequency of Play

The Difference Between Lotteries and ScratchiesOne of the most obvious and important differences between these games is how frequently you can play them. The major state and national lottery games run only once a week, while smaller lotteries may run on a daily basis. This means that you may decide to play at any time, but you’ll have to wait until the drawing takes place to find out if you’ve won or not.

The big advantage that scratchies have is that you can purchase one and know if you’ve won a prize in just minutes. Scratchies have a level of immediacy to them that lotteries just can’t match. Of course, that’s not necessarily a benefit to all players: if you feel like scratchies are over too quickly and make you spend more money than you want to, or if you like the anticipation of a major drawing, then lotteries are the game for you.

Fixed vs. Variable Payouts

When you play a scratchie, the odds are pretty much fixed. Sure, we’ve mentioned before how the odds on scratch cards can vary if many of the jackpot tickets are already out of circulation, but in the vast majority of cases, you’ll always be playing with the same odds, and always be trying to win the same prizes each time you play a particular scratch card.

Lotteries, on the other hand, have odds and payouts that can change based on a few different factors. Mainly, this occurs when a jackpot isn’t hit and the jackpot total carries over to the next drawing, which can eventually cause the jackpot to rise as high as $100 million or more on games like Powerball. Of course, this comes with an increase in the number of Australians who will be playing these games as well, which means your chances of splitting a jackpot are also higher. It’s worth noting that the odds of you winning a prize won’t change when a jackpot gets bigger–the numbers are as random as ever–but the returns to you are theoretically better because of the increased top prize.

This is also a great place to point out that if you like these types of games, you’ll want to try playing online scratchies. These games have much better odds than their traditional counterparts, as an online casino only has to make a modest profit to make offering these games worthwhile.

Size of Prizes

When it comes to how big the prizes in these games can get, there’s absolutely no comparison: lotteries can offer massive prizes that you’ll likely never see on a scratch card. This is due in part to what we just mentioned in the payouts section above: lottery jackpots can roll over and increase in size, while scratch cards pretty much just offer the prizes advertised.

That’s not to say that you can’t win life changing money on a scratchie. In recent years, the stakes have risen on Australian scratch games to the point where some now offer prizes of $1 million or more. But with the record jackpot in Oz Lotto being nearly $112 million, and Powerball offering as much as $80 million, it’s clear which game gives you the better chance at retiring on one lucky ticket.

Strategic Differences

One of the more interesting areas of difference between these two games is in the opportunities they provide for players to utilize strategies while playing. While both scratchies and lotteries are almost entirely based on luck, one offers at least some chance for you to improve your odds slightly.

Opportunities to use strategy in scratchies are very limited, if they exist at all. Arguably, you could say that knowing your games well, checking the printed odds, and paying attention to when games are no longer worth playing are all forms of strategy. However, this is really just about game selection: once you’re actually playing the game, it’s pretty much entirely down to luck.

That’s not quite the case when it comes to lotteries. Now, to be certain, you can’t win at the lottery by using a betting system, and you shouldn’t buy into any service that claims you can. But there are a few ways in which you can try to tilt the odds ever so slightly towards yourself.

First, when it comes to the big jackpot games, avoid picking common lucky numbers, and instead be certain to choose at least some numbers that will make it likely that your number combination is unique (or at least shared by as few players as possible). To be more specific, you’ll want to be careful about choosing numbers of 31 and below, as these numbers occur in the kinds of dates–birthdays, anniversaries and so on–that many people want to play. Every number combination is just as likely to win, but you want to pick numbers other players aren’t playing so that you won’t have to share the jackpot if you should be so lucky to win it.

One Australian lottery game that does have some basic strategy is the Soccer Pools. We’ve talked about how to get the most out of the Pools before, but we’ll repeat the basics here. While the numbers are chosen based on the results of soccer games in as unpredictable a fashion as possible, there’s a critical rule that says if two games are otherwise tied in terms of being chosen, the higher number is picked first. This means that higher numbers are significantly more likely to be chosen than lower ones. It’s a small effect, but it really shows when you compare how many of the highest few numbers are chosen each year when compared to games numbered one through five. The lesson: your picks in the Soccer Pools should be biased towards higher number games.

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