State Lotteries: Just a Dollar and a Dream, But the Dreams Seem to Outweigh the Dollars

You heard the slogan, “all it takes is a dollar and a dream”. Well, with the odds you’re about to see, it’ll take a lot more of your dollars before you, if ever, realize your dream.

That’s the ad pitch that you see and hear for many state lotteries in the nation. The problem is that your dollars keep disappearing and your dreams are still in limbo. More than $70 billion is bet annually on lotteries in the United States, and that does not include money spent on scratch-off tickets at the super market!

Most lottery games between states are similar, I’ll list the specifics for all the New York State games, because it’s the most profitable lottery in the nation.

The varieties of games vary slightly between jurisdictions but they all have one thing in common: You pick numbers in hopes that your lucky numbers will be the ones drawn. Here are the specifics of the New York games:

Take 5

One dollar per game, offered daily. Pick 5 numbers from a field of 39. The odds of picking all 5 correctly is 1 in 575,757. Prize amounts vary. Pick all 5 you could win about $60,000. 4 of 5 around $400, 3 of 5, 20 bucks, 2 of 5 gets you a free play.

Pick 10

One dollar per game, offered daily. Pick 10 of 80 numbers. The odds of hitting all 10 are 1 in 8,911,711. First prize, $500,000. 9 of 10 nets you $6,000, 8 of 10 collect $300, $40 for 7 numbers, and $10 for 6 numbers. If none of your numbers show up, win $4.


Play two games for one dollar on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Pick 6 of 59 numbers. The jackpot varies depending on the number of players. If more than one player hits all 6, the 1st place prize of $ millions will be divided equally among the winners. A bonus number is also drawn which will pay a hefty sum to anyone that picks 5 correct numbers plus the bonus number. Smaller prize amounts are awarded to players for hitting 5, 4, and 3 numbers. Your chances of hitting the big one is 1 in 45,057,474.

Mega Millions

A multi-state lottery played on Tuesdays and Fridays costing two dollars per game. Pick 5 numbers from 1 to 75 and 1 (Mega Ball) from numbers 1 to 15. The top prize varies and can reach into the hundreds of millions. So, what are the odds? 1 in 258,890,850, but you can win a buck if you picked the MB and none of your other numbers were drawn.

Power Ball

Another multi-state lottery played on Wednesdays and Saturdays for two dollars per game. Pick 5 numbers from 1 to 59 and 1 Power Ball from numbers 1 to 35. Jackpots can also top hundreds of millions. The odds of taking home the big one is I in 175,223,510. There is also a Power Play option for an extra dollar for which you can win two million if you hit 5 numbers without hitting the PB, but you can win $4 if you select the PB and none of your other numbers come in.

Cash 4 Life

This NY game is played on Mondays and Thursdays at two dollars per game. Pick 5 numbers from 1 to 60 and 1 Cash Ball from numbers 1 to 4. Hit the jackpot and win or share $1,000 a day for life. The odds? 1 in 21,846,048. Hit 5 of 5 with no CB and collect $1,000 a week for life. The odds? 1 in 7,282,016. Win $2,500 for 4 of 5 plus the CB. The smallest prize is $2 for 1 number plus the CB.

Two items worth noting, you can select a quick pick if you don’t feel like choosing your lucky numbers, however you’re relying on an apparatus to pick your numbers twice to win. Also, pick at least one number over 31 so you have a lesser chance of sharing your prize as many people pick birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

Good Luck!