Lotteries are some of the oldest forms of gambling ever used, and they’re popular across the globe in virtually every country. While the exact specs of each lottery game can vary, the genre as a whole shares a number of commonalities that truly transcend language, location and culture.

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An Introduction to Lotteries

The idea of a lottery is really straightforward. You place a wager based on numbers that will be randomly chosen in some way, and you try to get as many of those numbers correct as you can.

Even though this is a form of gambling that’s more simple than virtually anything else out there, it still remains one of the most popular ways to play in the world.

What’s interesting is that lotteries have started to become more and more accessible online since the early 2010s, so players can buy tickets for lottos from a variety of areas and do not always need to be physically present to get in on the action.

In this way, lotteries have become an international, global way to play no matter whether you purchase a paper ticket in person or use a virtual service to buy tickets online. On top of that, there are other games that play just like lotteries available in online casinos and elsewhere.

The Basic Gameplay of Major Lotteries

No matter where you are located, there are some basics to how these lottery games are played. This goes from everything to low-stakes online keno to multi-million dollar major progressive payouts from the biggest names in the industry.

You’ll start with a range of numbers to pick from. This can be something like 1-50 to 1-90, and you’ll be asked to pick some number of values in that range. For example, you may have to pick three numbers from 1-40 or pick six numbers from 1-70. The exact values just depend on the game that you’re playing.

There’s often a secondary number or set of secondary numbers that go along with this main selection that’s scaled down significantly. For example, you could also be asked to pick one bonus ball that runs from 1 to 20.

A random drawing will then be held using some method that’s verified to actually be random. This will often be someone drawing randomly selected balls from a tumbler on a live video feed to help protect the integrity of and trust in the fairness of the game, and it usually happens at the same time every week (or multiple times each week).

Your chosen numbers are then compared to the winning numbers to see how many of them, if any, matched up. Your number of matches are then compared to a pay table, and if you’re eligible for a prize, you’re given instructions on how to receive it.

A Note on Scratch-off Lottery Tickets

There’s a whole sub-genre of scratch-off games that many people consider under the term “lottery tickets.” While we are talking about drawing-based games here, you can think of scratch-off as being a variation where the winning numbers and your decided numbers are predetermined or are otherwise determined by scratching off areas on a ticket.

While the end experience is somewhat similar, and while the gameplay is somewhat similar outside of the fact that you get an instant decision on whether you won or not, they are going to be considered a different game for our purposes. Here, we are going to focus on the number drawing-based games instead.

Major Lottery Jackpots

Across the globe, there are a few lottery games that stand out among the rest because of the size of their respective jackpots. Here we’re going to take a brief look at some of the biggest jackpots ever so that players have an idea of what’s out there.


Powerball is one of the two most popular lotteries in North America, and it had the largest top jackpot of all time of any lottery in 2016 with a $1.59 billion win. With that said, this number can be a bit misleading because that’s based on annuity concept (ie: being paid out a set amount each year for a given number of years). The amount the player won in cash was closer to $985 million.

On top of that, and unlike what is the case in the United Kingdom and many parts of Europe, North American lottery wins are taxed pretty heavily.

Mega Millions

The biggest competitor to Powerball is Mega Millions. In 2018, a lucky player took down a jackpot worth $1.54 billion. The cash amount for this payout was just under $880 million before taxes.

Like the Powerball, the Mega Millions is also played across most of the United States and other areas, and it’s one of the individual lotteries that’s available in person to the largest number of people.


The largest European lottery is the EuroMillions, and unlike the two games listed above, it has a maximum amount on how much someone can win. This cap is at €190 million, which is about $210 million or about £170 million.

The largest possible payout has been won four times to date with instances happening in 2012, 2014, 2017 and 2019.


The other major European is the EuroJackpot. Like its cousin above, it has a maximum jackpot. This one is smaller and comes in at €90 million because it’s a game that’s designed in a way that forces the top prize to be won more often.

On average, it hits about twice year. Most of the winners have come from Germany, but they have also had up to five people pick the correct winning numbers at once, which is a record for all of the major lotteries in the world.

How to Win at Lotteries

When it comes to the numerical lotteries, there is no real strategy involved outside of a couple of basic things. For example, in games where you have to split the jackpot if it’s won by multiple people at the same time, you should avoid combinations of numbers that are used commonly. The most common combination is typically 1-2-3-4-…, so avoiding that will maximize your chances of avoiding needing to split the jackpot if you win.

Other than that, a big part of the beauty of lotteries and the reason why they are so incredibly popular is that everyone gets an equal chance to win based on what they put into it. This takes strategy out of the game for the most part.


The thing that’s really important to understand about these lottery games is that there is some variation between them, but the basic idea is the same, and that’s something that resonates with people all across the world.

While the few lotteries we have looked at specifically above are known for generally having the biggest top jackpots in the world, the fact of the matter is that there are tons more, and virtually anywhere that has regulated gambling of any type will have a number of lottery-based games to pick and choose from.

If you’re looking for information about specific lotteries, we have reviewed a number of them and have broken down the rules, payouts, chances of winning and everything else that any player would want to know. We also break down your options for playing automatically, ordering tickets online, playing over periods of weeks all with one purchase and a lot other convenience-centric topics that make it as easy as possible to get in on the action in these games.


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Further Reading

More About Lotteries