Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a huge list of Frequently Asked Questions about ScratchSmarter & our Best Games to Play report.   We suggest that, before you comb through these questions,  start by reading our Scratch-off 101 pages.  These will give you a good basis about scratch-off games, odds and how we track and analyze all games:

https://www.scratchsmarter.com/scratch-off-101/

Then, review all of our Video Secrets:

https://www.scratchsmarter.com/scratch-off-secrets/

If you want to know specifics about how ScratchSmarter analyzes your state, click on your state from the green map on this page:

https://www.scratchsmarter.com/lottery-corporations/

 

Finally, our FAQ section has all of your other questions already answered below!

About our reports (21)

 

We’ve spent years writing custom software code to collect data from each state’s website.  We gather all of the critical data we need for our reports to work.

 

When a state doesn’t publish enough detail for our reports to work, we file a FOIA (freedom of information request) to each state on a regular basis to go the extra mile & get the data we need for you!

 

YES- this means we are getting data that is not available on the state’s website.

 

Currently, we get FOIA game details for NY, MA, CO, NM, and WI.  All other states provide sufficient data for our reports to work.  We still scrape data from these states and add that daily data for top prizes remaining into our database.

 

The FOIA data is added to the daily data we gather.

We strive to ensure our system runs consistently and accurately based on the data published on your state lottery’s website.

We scrape data from every states’ website on a daily schedule.  Then, we process this data into our database ever day and watch for data quality issues and anomalies.  We compile this data into a weekly report we publish every Friday.  Our reports are up to date as of every FRIDAY morning based on what the state has published on their site as of that morning.

 

 

 

New games occasionally take 1 to 2 weeks to make it onto our reports because we need to complete all of our data checks. But don’t worry – new games will ALWAYS have a SmartFactor rating of 1.0 or lower. In other words – a truly brand new game is ‘OK’ to play. All things being equal, it’s a new game with pretty standard odds of winning for a game at that price point.

 

Our customers win big because they know that a brand new game is usually NOT the best game to play.  They’re looking for the games where the odds of winning a top prize have moved in their favor.  Those are the games they want to play!  Those are the games YOU should want to play too!

THE SIMPLE ANSWER TO THIS IS THAT ALL LOTTERY RETAILERS DO NOT CARRY EVERY GAME!!

Just because a Lottery Retailer doesn’t have the game for sale doesn’t mean it isn’t for sale somewhere in the state!   Retailers only make about 5% on the sale of a scratch-off ticket.  In other words, selling scratch-off tickets is a waste of their time.  They want you to just pick from what they have in stock and go buy something else in their store!

Yes, some games do get pulled from the retailers early, but the reason ‘why’ will probably surprise you!  See Video Secret #3 in our FREE VIDEO SECRETS TO learn WHY you may not be able to find some of the top games.

Then, decide for yourself if you just want to waste your money on any game the lottery and your retailer wants you to play, or if you’re ready to really try to start Scratching Smarter!?!

We’ve been getting this question a lot!  Unfortunately, there is not a database that we have access to that carries the best games in stock.  Inventories are continually changing and the state lotteries will not share this data with us.

 

We use the top three prize levels for each game.  This is usually down to a $1000 prize level for most games, but the prize value isn’t part of our calculation.  We look at prizes remaining for the top three prize levels no matter what the prize $ value is.

There are two main reasons why a game may not be on our report.

  • The game is brand new and our scraping code just hasn’t picked it up yet.  Please wait until the next weeks report to see if it shows up.   Most new games end up with a SmartFactor rating of 1.0.  This means they aren’t good or bad to play, they’re just new and the odds from the original print haven’t changed significantly to make the game REALLY good to ply.

PLEASE NOTE: If it doesn’t appear on the next weeks report, please email INFO@scratchSmarter.com so we can investigate it.

  • The game has expired. This means it is past the date to claim a prize and the game should not be played at all.

Either way, if you come across a game that isn’t on our list, you should avoid it temporarily until it can be investigated.  There are SO many good games to play in every state that you should be able to find a ‘green’ game to play at any given retailer.

‘Last scrape date’ is the date that our code LAST SCRAPED the data from that state lottery’s website.

In other words, this is the last date we gathered data and refreshed our database for our analysis into our reports!   This information is most easily found on our Free Report pages HERE.

Why is this important?  Having the most up to date information from your state’s lottery website means our analysis is as accurate as it possibly can be!  We work extremely hard to ensure that our data is properly and accurately gathered every day and put into our data base for processing.

Our programs run nightly and we verify that everything is gathered and double checked before we compile our reports for our members every Friday!  We put a lot of data validation and processes together to ensure we’re providing you the most up to date analysis possible!

Overall Ranking is our rating for which game is the best game to play this week.

On Report 1 the best game to play is #1, and it ranks down from there. The best game is the game with the HIGHEST SMARTFACTOR rating across all games.

On Report 2, we rank the best game by each price point – The best game is #1 and ranks down from there. The best game is the game with the HIGHEST SMARTFACTOR rating compared to all games at that same price.

Our SmartFactor is the results of our algorithm that calculates the proportion of top prizes remaining vs the total number of ticket sold.  The higher the SmartFactor rating, the better the chances are of winning a top prize compared to when the game was initially released.

The Est % Sold is our calculation to show what total % of the tickets for that game have sold.  Generally, the SmartFactor increases as the Est % sold also increases and top prizes remain unclaimed.  However, it’s just as important to note when the SmartFactor goes down (below 1.0) because this means the odds of winning a top prize are WORSE than when the game was originally printed.  This means more top prizes have been claimed than what would be expected for that game based on the estimated % of tickets sold.

Finally, it’s important to note that the higher the SmartFactor AND the Est % Sold values, the more difficulty you might have in finding that game, because the Lottery may pull that game from circulation early.  You can read more about this dirty trick in our two articles:

Can’t Find the Top Game?

Buyer beware- Lottery’s dirty trick

 

 

We definitely see what you’re stating.  The FL lottery website has an asterisk next to game #  1339 –  $10,000,000 World Class CASH
 
Looking at their defining on the asterisk below states: 

*Denotes games that have been reordered or have been delivered to the Florida Lottery in more than one shipment.

I’m underlining the second half of that statement because it isn’t truly a definition for a reprint if there is another possible meaning.  This is just another SNEAKY SNEAKY TRICK that the lotteries play to try to minimize their risk in having to pay out top prizes.
We do not go by FL lotteries indication (their asterisk) for identifying reprints.
ScratchSmarter independently tracks ‘reprints’ by tracking when the lottery changes the number of top prizes remaining.  For example, if one week we see the number of $1,000,000 top prizes for a game = 2 and the next week it goes up to 7, we automatically flag is as a reprint.
I would venture to guess that the game above has been ordered as a print job in multiple printings.  This means that the FL lottery has requested that their scratch-off game vendor physically print the tickets in several batches.  Most times the tickets are all printed in one batch and then distributed.  In this case, they ordered one game in multiple batches and asked for delivery of the games to their warehouse in multiple shipments after each printing.  The game specifications for the odds haven’t changed because they ordered a set number of tickets (for example 20 million tickets) with the odds being fixed over those 20 Million tickets.  A reprint is when the total number of tickets has doubled, but so has the total number of prizes.

Yes, you can, if you have the time and the discipline!

We have taken years to build and perfect our database to analyze scratch off games.

At the same time, we’ve invested a lot of money to write custom code to gather all of the data for EVERY GAME on your state’s lottery website.  And we invest in continuing to update this code as the lottery websites change how they publish their data!

For some states, we’ve taken the time to develop our Freedom of Information request process with the state lotteries office.

So, if you know exactly what data to collect to do card card counting, it would still take the average person 3 to 4 hours just to gather the data on every game and put it into a spreadsheet to analyze it. Then, it takes another hour or two to analyze the data to figure out which is the Best Game to Play.

That’s a total of a 4 to 6 hours EVERY TIME you want to analyze the data just to go scratch off a few games!   And hopefully, you didn’t make any mistakes in all of that hard work you just did!

Our reports cost just 38 cents a week and we do all of this work for you!  This includes all of our data quality checks and our perfected card counting algorithm.  Really, it’s just 38 CENTS every week if you subscribe for a year!

You would have to earn LESS than 9 cents an HOUR to make it worth your while to do this analysis yourself! 

Our reports pay for themselves the very first time you use them because we help you avoid the games that aren’t worth playing!

Quite frankly, we can’t understand why anyone WOULD NOT subscribe today!

This type of data is usually available on your states lottery website, in fact, this is some of the key data we use to generate our reports, however, this limited data and only provides you part of the analysis that ScratchSmarter Best Games to Play reports provide you.

The information for how many TOP prizes remaining exist for a particular game is available in Report #4 on your weekly subscription.  This lists the total number of top prizes available for any active game in your state and is sorted from Highest number of top prizes remaining to lowest.

We think there’s a smarter way to buy tickets – it’s our SmartFactor rating where we calculate the prizes remaining for the top three prizes for every game vs the estimate total number tickets remaining.  This calculation tells you, without a doubt, where the odds of winning a top prize has changed significantly in your favor.  The SmartFactor rating is the critical formula for Report #1 and Report #2 in our Best Games to Play weekly analysis.

Get your report today!  https://www.scratchsmarter.com/shop

 

 

QUESTION:  I don’t understand the Smart Factor for the games. For example: “In the money” and “Maximum Payout” are both $20.00 games. This week, “In the Money” has a SmartFactor of 1.628 while “Maximum Payout” has a 9.645 SmartFactor. Could you please explain?

The SmartFactor calculation is exactly like a card count when counting cards in Black Jack.  Card counters keep track of the number of ‘good cards’ (aces, face cards & 10s) remaining in a deck as a deck is played over time.  The higher the card count, the better the odds are of playing a hand and getting a 21 combination. In this case, the deck is considered “Hot”.   The lower the card count, the lower the odds are of getting a 21 or blackjack combination.  In this case, the deck is considered ‘cold’.   Card counting only works because there is a set number of cards in play to begin with = 52 and only 4 aces, 4 kings, 4 queens, 4 Jacks, 4 tens etc.  When the deck is first shuffled, there is an equal probability of getting any one of the cards,

However,  as cards are played in each hand, players can count the number of cards dealt and can remove those from the probability of getting those cards in the next hand being played.  Card counters simplify the count to being +1 or -1 for each of the best cards in the deck (Aces, Face Cards & 10s).  To oversimplify this – every time they see a good card, they subtract 1 from the count.  Every time they see a non-face card they add one to the count.  The higher the count the ‘hotter’ the deck because it’s a better probability of getting a good card in the next deal.

Card counting at a blackjack table ONLY works over time, so you have to sit and observe the table AND it only works if you know the total number of decks of cards in play.

Well, the exact same concept counts for scratch-off games, except you don’t have to do any of the calculations OR sit at a table losing money until you figure out if the deck is hot or cold.

The SmartFactor IS the card count.  We determine the total number of tickets printed by the data published on the lottery’s website.  Then we track the number of prizes awarded over time.  The proportion of Top Prizes remaining VS the Estimate Ticket sold gives us the SmartFactor rating.  The higher the SmartFactor, the better the odds of winning a top prize have changed in your favor!  The lower the SmartFactor rating, the worse your chances are of winning a top prize.

The key is to know the total number of tickets printed when the game starts.   You can read about that here: https://www.scratchsmarter.com/total-number-of-tickets-printed/

The answer to this question comes down to two things:

  1. our algorithm
  2. the frequency of data collection

Our SmartFactor algorithm takes into account the detail of data we’re able to collect for each state.  In the case of NY Lottery, we collect data two ways  – by scraping it from the lottery website every day AND by submitting a freedom of information request on a regular basis. They do not publish the Est % of tickets sold through either of these data sources.  But this is where the FREQUENCY of data collection becomes important.

The frequency of data collection allows us to gather and store the game data on a regular schedule in our database.  We do not just look at the game data at one point in time.  We collect it, store it, and use it over time.  We’ve been doing this since 2011.    The more data we collect over time the more confidence we have for our estimated % of tickets sold calculation.

We start by scraping the games from the website every day.  This tells us when there are new games released.  We then ask for the detailed prizes remaining through the freedom of information request (FOIA)

The FOIA report the NY Lottery sends out provides the total prizes paid and the total prizes unpaid for ALL prize levels for all games.  With this information, our algorithm will work backward, using each games overall odds to calculate the total number of tickets printed.  At that point, we have everything we need to determine the estimated % of tickets sold for the date of that FOIA Report.

We’ve invested a lot of time, energy and experience to automate this process and perform it every time we collect the data.  By doing this over and over again, and tracking all of this data over time, we’ve become very accurate and confident with our Estimated % sold for NY lottery.

However, to be completely honest, the NY lottery is one of our toughest states for processing lottery data.  Most states publish everything we need on their website.  NY Lottery does not.  For our analysis to work, we are not 100% automated.  The FOIA step requires manual intervention in our automated processes.  Because of this manual step in our process, we have a team of data stewards who focus on reviewing and validating the NY lottery data we collect every week.

Once in a while, we’ll repost a NY report when we catch an error.  This has happened 3 times over the last 2 years, so we are not perfect.  Even with our occasional ‘reposts’, we know we have the very best process and detailed data for NY Scratch-off games that anyone is going to get.

The % of Tickets sold on our Best Games to Play report is just an estimate, but a fairly accurate

For most states, we use this equation:
Sum of all prizes claimed for each game DIVIDED BY the SUM of all Potential prizes from the game details page.
For states that don’t publish as much data for ALL prize levels, we have to use a SUM of the top six prizes claimed divided by the sum of the potential prizes for the published prize levels.
This is why it’s only an estimate.  If we cannot get the exact number of prizes available for all prize levels OR the exact number of prizes remaining or prizes claimed, we use the data that is available.
Why do we provide it?  Customers asked for that calculation explicitly.  It helps customers realize how difficult a game might be to find in their local area.  Usually, anything above 90% Est sold, will start to become difficult to find.

Sorry, but we do not support any downloads other than PDF at this time.

11/19/18

We reviewed the OH Best Games to Play report for the last 5 weeks and you’re correct – the top games haven’t changed position.  However, the SmartFactor rating has changed for every game every week and the games in the 4th and 5th spots (and lower) have changed position.
So, why do games get stuck at the top of the list?  There are two reasons:
1) Primarily because these games may have been ‘pulled’ from retailers OR the lottery is selling off all remaining tickets and there are no more to distribute to retailers.
But, there is still some top prizes that are unclaimed.  So, IF you can find any of these games you should play them because the odds of winning a top prize for these games are way better than when the game started.
2) We keep all the games on our reports until the LAST DAY TO CLAIM date has passed. Retailers will tell you these games are ‘over’.  This means the ‘end date’ is set.  The last date for retailers to get tickets from the lottery is called the END DATE.  The LAST DAY TO CLAIM date is the day you want to worry about, because, if you can find these games, you should buy them because you can still claim the prize.
Please read through our INFO page to learn more!

Yes!  Most states do have this DATA for free on their website, but DATA is not INFORMATION.  It isn’t analyzed and you can’t make a smart decision based on data alone.  All data has to be analyzed to become actionable information!

Think about getting the temperature for where ever you are on any given day.  You get the piece of data that says 65 degrees.  That is just data.  You mentally process that data to decide if 65 is good or bad.  If you’re in Alaska, 65 is a HOT summer day!  If you’re in southern Florida, 65 is freezing!!  (I have a sister who lives there, trust me, 65 if cold for her!0

The same goes for instant games.  Knowing that a game is NEW is just a marketing ploy.  Knowing that a game has 1 top prize left – is that good or bad?  What if it has 5 top prizes left?  these numbers are JUST RELATIVE – you need to analyze it to determine if 1 or 5 is good – relative to how many tickets are left for that game and relative to all of the other games for sale that you can buy from!

That is what ScratchSmarter does for you!  We give you that analysis to tell you if a game is, statistically, better to play than last week AND relative to all of the other games you could possibly play today!

The GAME NUMBER is NOT the ticket number.   The ticket number is simply the number ticket on that roll for sale and it has limited value for determining a winner.  Unfortunately, you cannot find out the ticket number on a roll until you buy two tickets.  We say ‘two tickets’ because you don’t know if the tickets were loaded into the machine forward or backward.  IF it’s at ticket 003, you don’t know if there are only a few tickets left or a lot.  If the next ticket is 004, the roll is counting up and there a lot of tickets left.  If its 002, the roll is counting down and there are only 2 tickets left because all rolls we’ve seen always start at 000.

Regardless, the value of the ticket number on the roll is good if you’re ‘watching’ a roll.  If you just won $100 on a $10 ticket numbered 005 on the roll, and you know the roll is counting up, try not to buy from that roll again until it’s past 015 because the odds are, after winning $100, that the next 10 tickets are losers.

But, that’s really the only reason to know that ticket number.   The GAME number, however, is the REALLY important number to understand because almost every state lottery does a REPRINT of games.  (Watch our video secrets to find out about REPRINTS.  Also, read our INFO page about the GAME NUMBER to understand what that is:

What is the Game Number?

We do not provide gameplay directions on any of the games we analyze.
The very best place to find this information is on each of the state lottery websites.  There is usually a page set up for each game with instructions on how that game is played.  For example:
You’ll have to search for each game the lottery website.
For Wisconsin – start here:
For Michigan – start here:
For your particular state, start at your state lottery’s website and go to the INSTANT or Scratch-off games section and look for your game there.

We do not consider the ‘2nd chance drawing’ option for any game when analyzing games.   We do, however, consider the top 3 prize levels when calculating our algorithm.  So, even if there is a small number of the very top prize left, there is probably a disproportionate number of 2nd and 3rd level top prizes still available that would make a particular game rank highly in any given week.

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