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Unlike other countries, there is no National Lottery in the United States. All Lottery games are state administered and each state selects the type of games, allocates prizes and distributes profits to various organizations such as education.
There are 43 states plus the District of Columbia that have lotteries. They are,
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District Of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia.
All these states play at least one multiple-state lottery, and except Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and North Dakota all of them have their own lottery games.
Excluding Scratch-Off tickets (or Scratchers) and some games that are drawn several times a day, such as Keno, we have identified about 203 state games and 12 multiple-state lottery games. With the exception of a game called Kicker that is played in Ohio and Kentucky, all the games allow the player to choose their numbers. Needless to say that selecting your own number has several advantages over the primitive purchase of ready-made numbers.
Classification of US Lottery Games
Although there are about 215 lottery games played in the US, nearly all of the games can in principle be categorized into four groups, namely,
- One-Number Games,
- Multi-Number Games,
- Multi-Number Games with two sets of numbers, and
- Keno type games.
One-Number Games: These are games where the player selects just one number with either 3 digits or 4 digits. More recently, a few states have introduced 5-digit lottery games.
3-digit games are known by several names in different states. Some common names for these games are Cash 3, Pick 3, Play 3 and Daily 3. The games are played by simply selecting a 3-digit number from 000 to 999. For example, 549.
Similarly, 4-digit games are known by several names in different states. Some common names for these games are Cash 4, Pick 4, and Play 4. The games are played by selecting a 4-digit number from 0000 to 9999. For example, 1038.
In both games you can choose to play the selected number as a straight (Exact Match) or as a Box (Any). When you play it as a straight, you are betting that the number will come in the exact order as you played it; you will win only if the number drawn is 549 or 1038 of our examples. On the other hand, a box play is when you bet that the three (or four) digits will be drawn without regard to the order; you will win if the number drawn contains all the three (or four) digits you have selected in any order, say 954 or 0831.
Besides Straight and Box, there are also other play types such as combo, front pair, back pair, and split pair offered by several states. You can have a look at this post on how to play 3-digit games.
5-digit games are currently played in the District Of Columbia (DC-5), Georgia (Georgia Five), and Pennsylvania (Quinto). These games have straight and box play types as well as partial match options.
Multi-Number Games : In these games, you select 4, 5, or 6 numbers from 1 to a certain maximum specified by the game.
Multi-Number Games are usually denoted by the abbreviation n/N, which means that you have to select n numbers from 1 to N. Depending on the value of n, these games may be 4-number games, 5-number games, or 6-number games. A common multi-number game is the Classic Lotto, a 6-number game denoted by 6/49, where you select 6 numbers from 1 to 49. Fantasy 5 is another game in the same category that is quite popular in many states; it is a 5-number game, denoted by 5/N, where N varies from state to state.
Note that the order in which you select the numbers doesn’t matter!! The only exception was the now discontinued Mix & Match game played in state of Pennsylvania, where the position of the numbers mattered to win prizes.
Again depending on the state, prizes are awarded to those who get more than 2 or 3 numbers correct. If you get all the n numbers correct, you will have hit the Jackpot, and, you better go out shopping for a house and a car right away.
In some states, in addition to the n numbers, another number is drawn from the same set as a bonus ball. This is usually used to increase the amount of lower prizes. As far as number selection on the part of the player is concerned, the bonus ball has no effect whatsoever. Therefore, these games belong to this very category.
Multi-Number Games with two sets of numbers : These are games where selections are made from two sets of numbers.
They are denoted by the abbreviation n/N + m/M, which means that you have to select n numbers from 1 to N (in any order), from the first set and m more numbers from 1 to M from the second set. Except the multi-state lottery game called 2 By 2, where you have to select two numbers from both sets, all US lottery games that fall into this category are played by selecting only one number from the second set (i.e., m = 1). Thus, the abbreviation n/N + 1/M can be used for these games. The number selected from the second set is usually called the Mega Ball or the Extra Ball. Depending on the game, 4, 5, or 6 numbers are selected from the first set. Two very popular multi-number games with two sets of numbers are the Powerball, denoted by 5/59 + 1/39, and the Mega Millions, denoted by 5/56 + 1/46.
Except for the fact that you have to select the Mega Ball separately, the order in which you play the numbers doesn’t matter.
Please note the difference between an extra (Mega) Ball and a Bonus Ball. A Mega Ball has to be selected by the player. A Bonus Ball is not. It is only drawn. Recall that games with a Bonus ball fall in category 2.
Keno type games: These are basically multi-number games (category 2), where the player selects 10 numbers from 1 to 80 or 82. The difference from category 2 games is that double the numbers you have to select are drawn (i.e., 20 drawn).
The games that do not fall into the above categories are:
Daily Derby : A horse racing game played in California.
The Kicker game which is actually a primitive game where ready-made numbers are sold to the players.
Multiple-state (Interstate) Games
Multiple-state (Interstate) games are games common to more than one state. Note that the term ‘Multi-State’ is used by the ‘Multi-State Lottery Association’ which manages the Powerball, Hot Lotto, Wild Card2, and 2By2 games. For this reason we shall use the terms multiple-state and interstate, interchangeably, to refer to lottery games played in more than TWO states. The following is a list of the games played in multiple states.
- Multi-State Lotteries are Powerball, Hot Lotto, Wild Card 2 and 2 By 2.
- Powerball: This game falls into the 3rd category (a Multi-number game with two sets of numbers). It is denoted by 5/59 + 1/39 and is played in all lottery playing states except California.
- Hot Lotto: This is also a category 3 game, denoted by 5/39 + 1/19. It is played in District of Columbia, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia
- Wild Card 2: This game also falls into category 3, but with a slight variation. The ball number is selected from cards J, Q, K, and A and their faces, like Jack of Hearts, Ace of Clubs, etc. If we assign numbers from 1 up, it will basically be like selecting a ball number from 1 to 16. It can therefore be represented by 5/31 + 1/16.
The game is played in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota
- 2 By 2: Again, a category 3 game, but with two numbers to be selected from the second set. The game consists of two sets of numbers: Red numbers and White numbers both ranging 1 to 26. It is played by selecting two numbers from each set, thus a 2/26 + 2/26 game. The 2 By 2 game is played in Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota
- Tri-State Lottery Games are Pick 3, Pick 4, Megabucks and Paycheck.
- Pick 3 : A one-number, 3-digit game (category 1). It is drawn twice a day.
- Pick 4 : A one-number, 4-digit game (category 1). It is drawn twice a day.
- Megabucks Plus : A 5/41 + 1/6 category 3 game.
- Weekly Grand : A 4/35 + 1/35 category 3 Multi-number game.
Tri-State Lottery games are played only in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. These states play also one or more multi-state games.
- Mega Millions: This is a category 3 game (5/56 + 1/46) played in all lottery playing states except Florida and Louisiana.
- Win For Life: A 6/42 category 2 game played in Georgia, Kentucky and Virginia. In addition to the the 6 numbers, a bonus ball is also drawn.