Watch Out!! The Hidden Danger in PA's Millionaire Raffle

GiveFive's avatar - Lottery-026.jpg

If you're anything like me, you look forward to the time of year when The Pennsylvania Lottery announces it's Millionaire Raffle.  What's not to love about it? Where else can you take a chance on winning one million dollars with odds as low as 125,000 to 1?   It's very difficult to find that deal for your lottery ticket buying dollars anywhere in the USA.  Sure tickets cost twenty bucks, but that's the premium players must pay to enjoy lottery odds as low as that. 

But there is a hidden danger with buying millionaire tickets that few think about or realize.  If you're familiar with how the raffle works, then you know there are a maximum of 500,000 tickets that can be sold.  You also know that when you buy a ticket, the lottery terminal assigns the most recent unsold number to your ticket(s).  Tickets are numbered 000001 to 500000.  If you bought the very first ticket that was sold for the upcoming raffle, the number printed on the ticket would be 000001. The next ticket sold would be 000002, and that process repeats all the way up to 500000.

So for instance, suppose I bought a ticket and the number printed on it is 123456.  What if ticket number 123455 or ticket 123457 won a million dollars?? How bad would that make you feel?  Some one located elsewhere in Pennsylvania that bought a raffle ticket at approximately the same time you did won that million dollar prize!  This has happened in each and every PA Millionaire Raffle since it began back in 2003.  And..  because there are four one million dollar winners, there could be as many as eight players who got to experience feeling pretty badly about their luck.   

And there's more bad news!  If you buy multiple tickets all at once during this particular time in December (just before Christmas ticket sales per hour skyrocket) you will most likely get a gap in the ticket numbers.  I used to run a pool of eight people and we each threw in 20 bucks. I'd then go buy eight tickets. But because tickets were selling at a very high rate per hour, I usually did NOT get eight consecutively numbered tickets. They would look something like this: 311120, 311121, 311123, 311124, 311126 etc. So while I was buying my tickets, someone else located elsewhere in PA was buying their tickets at the exact same time I was, and they received numbers 311122 and 311125 on their tickets. How would it feel if ticket number 311122 won a million dollars?  There are plenty of raffle players around that know all to well how bad that feels.

And one more thing; Don't do your buddy a favor and buy a ticket for him. What if your buddy gave you twenty bucks and you did him a favor and picked up a ticket for him and he won a million bucks??  Yeah, he'd probably give you some vigorish, but whatever he gives you will pale in comparison to what he's got in the bank.  You don't wanna know how bad that feels, do you??  I don't.  G5

Todd's avatar - Cylon 200.jpg

<Moved to Lottery Discussion forum>

Please post in the appropriate forum ... thank you.

Todd's avatar - Cylon 200.jpg

I think the PA Raffle drawings are awesome!  I don't benefit in any way from saying so.  I just think that playing a lottery ticket with literally the best chance of winning $1 million of any game in the state is a no-brainer.

GiveFive's avatar - Lottery-026.jpg
In response to Todd

Todd, you're correct, the PA Raffle is an awesome no-brainer. 

I should have added something to my initial post, and that's that I never pass up the chance to buy Millionaire Raffle tickets.  I have some now, and I'm probably going to buy a few more.

While I might find myself in the situations that I described, that wont deter me from buying tickets for this raffle. Also, it's true that odds of it happening to someone are very small, but it's definitely going to happen to some players who bought tickets for the upcoming raffle.  I just hope one of them isn't ME!! G5

cottoneyedjoe's avatar - cuonvFT
In response to GiveFive

I completely empathize with you. If I bought tix 111116 and 111118, and the winner was 111117, I might cry! It's not like a draw lottery where you get a small prize if you are close.

Thinking about how the lottery could mitigate sour feelings of people holding ticket numbers adjacent to the winning numbers, the best solution I came up with is for the lottery to divide a small portion of the prize pool equally among people who hold ticket numbers that are 1 off or 2 off from the winning numbers. Up to 8 second place prize winners for 1 off, and up to 16 second place prize winners for both 1 & 2 off. Mathematically it's no different than conducting a second random drawing for runner-up prizes, but psychologically, it feels better to get something for holding a ticket number that's close to a winner.

If you've enjoyed buying into the raffle in the past, I hope the fear of experiencing overwhelming bad feelings doesn't stop you from playing again.

GiveFive's avatar - Lottery-026.jpg
In response to cottoneyedjoe

As I mentioned in my post immediately above yours, possibly getting a 1-off ticket doesn't stop me from buying PA Raffle tickets. I'm a big fan of the PA Millionaire Raffle.

Here's why I made my initial post...

Last week my wife and I attended a large holiday dinner party where there was a door prize of $2,500 to be given away. One thousand raffle tickets costing five dollars each were sold.  At a table located at the entrance to the event was a lady selling the tickets, and I bought one.

Towards the end of the evening, the winning ticket was drawn.  A young woman sitting far across the dining room jumped up excitedly yelling "I won!  I won!" and ran to the front of the room towards the emcee.  I noticed at the table immediately adjacent to the table my wife and I were sitting at, the people were smiling and saying "Oh! That's too bad" and "What a shame" as they passed around one of the raffle tickets. I know one guy who was sitting at that table so I asked him what was going on.  He pointed to a man at his table, and said "He missed winning the $2500 by one number!".  A minute or two later, the guy who had bought the ticket that missed by one stood up with a big smile on his face and announced "Who wants a drink?  I'm buying!"  He then summoned the waiter and bought a round of drinks for everyone sitting at his table. 

In the car while we were driving home, my wife and I were talking about what a nice night out we had enjoyed.  (It really was a nice affair - dinner, drinks and dancing)  My wife then casually said "I bet that guy who just missed the door prize wouldn't have been so happy if he had just missed winning with one of those million dollar raffle tickets you like so much."   That's when a light went off in my head.  In all the years I've bought PA Millionaire Raffle tickets, I've never had a number on my ticket even remotely close to the winning numbers.  It was the very first time that I realized there is a hidden danger in buying PA Millionaire raffle tickets, so I decided to put a post on The Lottery Post about it.   

I could shrug off missing $2,500, but a million dollars?  I don't thank that's an easy thing to do.  Especially in the case where I bought multiple tickets at one time and I had two one-offs because someone else was buying tickets at the exact same time I was.  G5

Sum Buddy's avatar - Horseshoe 20avatar.jpg

Hey G5!  At least you still have the opportunity to miss by one digit.  Florida hasn't had a raffle since 2017, when tickets failed to sell out.  Best odds of hitting a million on those tix, too, and people wouldn't bite.  I guess the $20 price tag scared them away...

GiveFive's avatar - Lottery-026.jpg
In response to Sum Buddy

It's all about the $$$ 'Buddy!

A couple of years ago The PA Lottery terminated the millionaire raffle they formerly held on July 4th.  Those didn't sell out either and I suspect that was the reason why the plug was pulled on them.

The point I've been trying to make in this thread (but haven't done such a great job of doing it) is that depending upon a players personal financial situation, the negative psychological impact of having bought a one-off can vary widely.  A person of minimal financial means who dreams of a million dollar win solving many of life's problems will very likely take having bought a one-off a lot harder than someone who is well off financially.  G5

Coin Toss's avatar - shape barbed.jpg

Just my $.02 but I fail to see the thrill of raffles.

Here's why, in a state lottery game $1 is capable of winning a million or more.

In the multi-state games of Mega Millions and Powerball $2 or $3 can win anything from $40,0000 on up.

In a raffle with a $20 buy in, if the ticket wins $1,000,000 each dollar wins $50,000, pre tax.

Excellent marketing hype but that's about it.

GiveFive's avatar - Lottery-026.jpg

I'd like to meet someone that has bought a one-off in the raffle.

I'd ask them how long ago it happened, how they felt about it at the time, and how they feel about it now.  I'm sure they'd at least say it's something they'll never forget.

I bought three more tickets yesterday, and I bought them all at the same time.  The clerk took them off the terminal, but before she handed them to me she looked at them and said "Uh-oh.  You didn't get three numbers in a row."   I looked at the tickets and saw these numbers: XXX516, XXX518 and XX519.  I said "How bad would it suck if XXX517 wins a million dollars?"  She replied "Oh!  I'd hate that!"

I didn't stand there any longer to talk to her because other people were standing in line behind me.  Maybe players are more aware of getting a one-off than I think they are.  G5

GiveFive's avatar - Lottery-026.jpg
In response to Coin Toss

Agree about the marketing hype, but to me, it's simply this: When I buy a raffle ticket I feel like I've got a very decent shot at winning the top prize.  I never feel that way when I buy PowerBall or MegaMillions tickets.  Before I'll play those games the jackpot has to very big, and actually I'm more interested in a second place win. 

Many people must feel the same way as I do because I cant tell you how many times clerks have handed me my raffle ticket and said "You can win that." G5


So here is what happened to me -

We, new wife & I, went to an event which the X wife was also at.  We are friendly with her so we ended up sitting at the same table.  Well the 50/50 raffle came around and we bought tickets and the x bought the ones RIGHT AFTER us.  And YUP! You guessed it, SHE won.  Mad


I did get my one PA Raffle ticket around Turkey Day.  Didn't win anything on the weekly draw, so now waiting for 1/4.

Raven62's avatar - binary

Here's the List of Winning PA Millionaire Raffle Ticket Numbers:

Tucker Black's avatar - Kleber Vieira.jpg

What difference does it make if your ticket number is one away from the winner? They pick a ticket at random to win, and you either have that ticket number or you don't. It makes no difference whether yours is one away, two away, or 12,562 away. You either WIN or you LOSE, period, end of story.

Consider this.... suppose you buy a $20 scratch-off ticket, you go home and scratch it off, and you see that you've lost (you should still scan it next time you're at the store just to make sure). The next person, or the previous person, who bought a $20 scratch-off from that same roll at the same store you were at won the top prize (say $1 million). That's the same thing as holding a raffle ticket that's "one off". Your scratch-off ticket still lost just like your raffle ticket lost. The difference, though, is that you wouldn't know that you bought a $20 scratch-off that was just one ticket away from the million dollar prize.

Clearly most people who play the PA raffle are not so obsessed with this or sales would crash and the state would have to change the way they assign numbers to please illogical people. The way to do that would be to assign a ticket number from 1 to 100 billion with plenty of space between assigned numbers. Then there is no chance of being one away, or even close to it, from the winning number. The probability of winning is exactly the same (1 in 125,000), so what would be the point?

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