Buying a Basic Lottery Ticket
Buying in Person
1. Determine how much you want to spend before you leave. When it comes to buying lottery tickets, it's generally best to budget out the money you intend to spend before you even see your ticket. Doing this allows you to be a smart gambler by limiting your spending — this way, there's less of a chance that you' ll feel tempted to bet more money than you can stand to lose.
In addition, if you're not 100% sure about whether the lottery is legal in your state or country, you may want to check online. In the United States, 43 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have lotteries. You can check whether your state has a lottery here.
2. Go to a grocery or convenience store. If lottery tickets are legal in your state, you'll generally be able to buy them at grocery stores (especially large chains), convenience stores, and gas stations. Though not every single one of these locations will carry and sell lottery tickets, many will. A good general rule is, "if you can buy cigarettes at this place, there's a good chance you can buy lottery tickets".
Many lotteries have online tools that can help you locate licensed retailers. For instance, the California State Lottery's online retailer locator allows you to search for vendors near any given address in the state.
3. If necessary, provide proof of your age. Like smoking, drinking, and other forms of gambling, playing the lottery is usually something that isn't legal until someone reaches a certain age. This can vary from state to state and country to country. In the United States, the most common minimum age for playing the lottery is 18, though exceptions exist. When you attempt to buy a lottery ticket, you may be asked to present identification in order to prove that you're old enough to legally play.
For a list of lottery-playing ages in every U.S. state and territory, click here.
4. Pick your numbers. All lotteries are different, but most share certain qualities when it comes to how you make your bet. Generally, if you want to buy a lotto ticket, when you get to the store, you'll ask for your desired ticket (many states and countries have more than one lottery game for you to choose from), then pick the numbers you want to bet on. This is usually done by marking the numbers in a grid on an official lottery playslip. When you've picked the numbers you want, give your playslip back.
As an example, let's look at the Powerball Lottery, a lottery played in most U.S. states that often has a very high jackpot amount. To bet on this lottery, you'll need to pick five numbers from 1-59 (without repeating) and one number from 1-35. On the playslip, you'll see a grid with the number 1-59 and another section with the numbers 1-35. Mark five numbers in the first section and one in the second as directed, then turn your playslip in.
5. Alternatively, use a random betting option. If you're in a hurry or you simply don't care which numbers you pick, most modern lotteries allow you to let a computer randomly pick a number for you. Usually, in this case, there will be a box or section on the playslip for you to mark to indicate that you accept whatever set of numbers the computer picks for you. If you pick this option, you don't have to indicate any numbers on the playslip.
For example, the Powerball Lottery gives you the option to select "Quick Pick" on your ticket, which will assign you five random numbers from 1-59 and one from 1-35. You can also limit the Quick Pick to just the first set of five numbers or the final 1-35 number.
6. Indicate whether you would like to play multiple draws. When you buy a lottery ticket, you don't find out if you've won right away. Instead, you have to wait for the official lottery drawing, in which a set of winning numbers are chosen at random. If you pay only the base price for your ticket, it will expire after one draw and you'll have to buy a new one if you want to play again. However, many lotteries allow you to pay for more than one draw at once. In other words, if you buy a set of ten draws at ten times the price of a normal ticket, you'll be able to use your set of numbers for ten drawings in a row.
Most lotteries that allow you to do this will have a space on the playslip for you to mark to indicate how many draws you want to pay for. For instance, in the Powerball Lottery, this section is labeled "Advanced Play" and contains the option to indicate two through eight or ten consecutive draws.
7. Buy your ticket. When you've finished filling out your playslip, give it a quick review to ensure that everything is filled out exactly how you'd like it. Then, turn it in and pay for your bets — keep in mind that, for multiple draws, each draw will be the price of an additional ticket. You'll be handed a ticket (which serves as your receipt) in return. You may need to sign the back of this ticket to validate it.
Don't lose this ticket — it's proof that you purchased your specific set of lottery numbers.
If you notice any mistakes on your ticket, don't attempt to erase and rewrite them, as this can interfere with the computer's ability to read the ticket. Instead, most tickets will have a space for you to mark "Void" or "Cancel". Mark this box, then carefully re-make your selections on another section of the playslip.
8. Wait for the draw. When you've purchased your set of numbers and have your ticket with you, you can leave. Now, all you need to do is wait for the next official drawing. Different lotteries have their drawing at different dates and times — you can find the next drawing for your lottery by asking the clerk at your preferred retailer or checking your lottery's official website. Drawing results are displayed on official lottery websites and, for small local lotteries, sometimes on public access television.
For instance, for the Powerball, drawings occur every Wednesday and Saturday at about 7:59 PM Pacific Time. The cutoff for each draw is at 7:00 PM on the day of the draw. Tickets purchased after this point count towards the next draw.
If your numbers match the numbers drawn perfectly, you've won! If they match partially, you may have won — check your lottery's official payout rules for more information.
If you miss a draw, don't forget to look up the results online! Lottery tickets (including Powerball tickets) usually do expire. If you have a winning ticket, especially for the jackpot prize, it is best to consult a financial adviser before claiming your prize.