How We Rank Lotteries
Deciding what the best lottery to play isn’t easy, as there are quite a few factors to consider. Although some of these factors are objective, like the odds of winning the lottery and the price for an entry ticket, others are subjective, like how important a straightforward game format and really big lotto jackpots are to you. Therefore, in this section we’ll go over all the factors that we considered when compiling our reviews of the most popular lotteries in the world. This will help you better understand our lottery reviews and also know what to look for when considering what international lottery you should try playing online next.
While the specific formats of different lotteries can vary slightly or greatly depending on the game, most lottery games fall into one of two types of formats: single matrix or double matrix.
A single-matrix game means that just one set of numbers is drawn from one drum. For example, in the popular 6/49 format, which many of the world’s best lotteries use, players must choose 6 numbers from a range of 49. If the 6 numbers that you choose match the 6 that are drawn, you would usually win the jackpot prize. Some famous lotteries that use this format are Canada Lotto 6/49, Polish Lotto, and Spain Bonoloto.
A double-matrix game, on the other hand, uses two drums and two sets of numbers. The first drum is usually the primary one because it has a larger range of numbers (45, 48, 49, 90, etc.), so the main group of numbers that players must choose would come from this range. The second set usually involves picking just 1 but sometimes 2 numbers from a much smaller range (usually less than 10 but can be as many as 26).
Popular lotteries that use the double-matrix format include US Powerball, Mega Millions, France Lotto, and Swiss Lotto. Taking US Powerball as an example, its format would usually be written like this: 5/69 + 1/26. This means players must correctly match 5 numbers from a range of 69 in the first set and 1 from a range of 26 in the second set.
There are other games, such as Italy Lottomatica, that use different formats, but they are quite rare and not worth mentioning here. In the end, what type of format you prefer is up to you, but generally double-matrix games have tougher odds and therefore bigger jackpots. However, this isn’t always the case, so finding a game with simple mechanics and great jackpot prizes is always a treat.
# of Prize Tiers
Prize tiers refer to the prize levels that exist for any given lottery and include everything from the top jackpot all the way down to the smallest secondary prize. The bigger and tougher a lottery is, the more prize tiers it usually has. This makes sense because if the odds of winning a jackpot are super tough, then the least the lottery can do is give you a fighting chance at scoring a smaller prize.
Some lotteries that have a generous amount of prize tiers include EuroMillions (13), EuroJackpot (12), France Lotto (10), US Powerball (9), and Mega Millions (9). On the flipside, lottery games with few prize tiers include Polish Mini Lotto (3), Hungary Hatoslottó (4), Polish Lotto (4), and UK Lotto (5).
Odds refer to your chances of winning the lottery, and they are definitely something worth looking at when considering which lotteries are worth your time and money. The toughest lottery odds in the world are those of Italy’s SuperEnaLotto, and they come in at a mind-boggling 1 in 622,614,630. The second toughest lottery is Mega Millions, with odds of 1 in 302,575,350, and third is US Powerball (whose odds are 1 in 292,201,338).
To put that into perspective, the likelihood of you being hit and killed by an asteroid are 1 in 74,817,414, while the odds of you getting bitten by a shark are 1 in 8 million. And, in case you’re wondering, the odds of you being struck by lightning at some point in your life are 1 in 12,000.
While knowing this might make you want to all but give up on ever winning the jackpot, never underestimate the power of Lady Luck. After all, the majority of the biggest jackpot winners never expected they would win the incredible windfalls that they did, and that’s why their first reaction is usually complete and utter disbelief. These people were just lucky—that’s all it really boils down to.
Although there is no such thing as an “easy” lottery—if there was, too many people would win and it wouldn’t be profitable for the operator—some offer much better odds than others. The Polish Mini Lotto, for example, has odds of 1 in 850,668, while Hungary Hatoslotto's chances are 1 in 8,145,060. Of course, a lot of the time the jackpots will be proportionally smaller as the odds get better, but that’s not always the case. There are some lotteries, such as Ukraine Megalot, that have unimpressive jackpots AND very tough odds, which is why Megalot is probably our least favourite lottery in the world. Meanwhile, lotteries such as Canada Lotto 6/49 (1 in 13,983,816) and Austria Lotto (1 in 8,415,060) offer relatively great odds and often incredible jackpots as well.
All other factors aside, let’s face it: the size of the jackpot is the main thing that convinces people to play the lottery. That’s why whenever a big jackpot is announced, it makes national and even international headlines that make people flock in droves to their nearest lottery kiosk or favourite online lottery site. This phenomenon happens several times a year, and it’s exactly what happened in October 2018 when both Mega Millions and US Powerball’s jackpots began climbing to dizzying heights. The Mega Millions jackpot hit US $1.537 billion and, right after, the Powerball jackpot reached US $687.8 million. As the news spread around the world, even more people wanted to play. After all, that kind of money—if it is spent wisely, of course—could set up anyone’s family for many generations.
That is why if a jackpot reaches record-breaking levels, it’s a pretty safe bet that millions of people would still play it even if the odds of winning it were 1 in a billion. Each and every player would hope that maybe, just maybe, they’d be the lucky one. As a result, the adage “you’ll never know if you don’t try” perhaps doesn’t apply to anything more accurately than it does to lotto.
But a good question to ask yourself is how much money is enough? Do you really need $1 billion or would you be just as happy if you won $50 million or $20 million or $5 million? If any of these latter amounts would suffice, then it might make more sense for you to play lotteries that offer smaller jackpots and much better odds. For example, Canada Lotto 6/49 jackpot has previously reached CA $64 million, while Swiss Lotto has climbed as high as €62.3 million. Heck, even the Austria Lotto 6 aus 45 record jackpot hit €14.9 million.
Minimum Jackpots & Jackpot Caps
Minimum jackpots and jackpot caps are closely related to the last topic, as they determine the lowest and highest jackpots that a lottery might have. Knowing what minimum jackpots lotteries have is useful because that way you’ll know whether they’re worth playing immediately after a big jackpot has been won or if you should wait until the new jackpot reaches a truly impressive level after several weeks or months.
US Powerball and Mega Millions, for example, have very generous $40-million minimums—amounts that are higher than many other lotteries’ largest jackpots ever! Meanwhile, Canada’s Lotto 6/49 and Lotto Max lotteries have $5 million and $10 million, respectively. Italy SuperEnaLotto and France Lotto's minimums are both set at a respectable €2 million, while Polish Lotto's is about €470,447.
While most big lotteries have minimum jackpots, most luckily don’t have caps (limits) on how big their jackpots can grow. This is the case with US Powerball and Mega Millions and a big reason why their jackpots get as crazy as they do. However, the lotteries that do have jackpot caps vary in their approach from reasonable, like EuroMillions' €190 million and EuroJackpot's €90 million, to stingy, like Italy Lottomatica's €6 million.
Rollover caps often go hand in hand with jackpot caps, but not necessarily. A rollover refers to whether or not a jackpot can keep growing—“rolling over” in lotto terms—from one lottery draw to the next. If it can roll over, it might do so indefinitely until there is a winner—something that is common to Mega Millions and US Powerball.
Other lotteries have caps on how many times the rollovers can occur. For example, UK Lotto permits 5 rollovers, German Lotto allows 13, and Hungary Hatoslottó offers an extremely generous 52 weeks. When the rollover limit is reached, then the jackpot prize “rolls down” to the next prize tier, meaning it will be split among all of that tier’s winners. In some ways, this is an ideal situation because the odds of the secondary tier are usually much better, meaning it’ll be quite a lot easier to win. The downside of this is that if there are multiple secondary winners, the jackpot will need to be split equally among all of them. Some lotteries even have rollover limits on the secondary tier, meaning the jackpot could roll down to a third prize tier, but in reality this kind of thing happening is extremely rare.
Whether or not winnings are taxed is a worthwhile consideration, as that ultimately decides how much of whatever prize you win you’ll actually end up taking home with you. This is usually determined on a federal/national level, but in some countries, like the US, it can also happen on a state and even city level.
Therefore, if you win the US Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot, as an example, you could be hit with as little as one tax (the federal tax, which can be as high as 37% on its own) if you bought your ticket in California, or up to three separate taxes (federal, state, and municipal totalling as much as 49.7% together) if you bought yours in New York City. While the US tax on lottery winnings varies depending on where you live and where you bought your ticket, it is still among the highest in the world overall.
Other countries that have high taxes on lottery wins include Switzerland (35% on wins above CHF1,000,000), Latvia (31.4% on whatever amount exceeds €55,000), and Romania (25% on any amount exceeding RON445,000).
Luckily, quite a few countries don’t tax lottery wins at all, meaning you get to keep every last penny/shilling/coin you win from the lotto games offered by these countries. Countries that belong to this list include Canada, Hungary, Austria, France, Germany, Spain, South Africa, Australia, and the UK. However, just because a country doesn't take a cut of the winnings at the time you're paid out doesn't mean you won't be liable for any capital gains and other types of charges. Understanding how the UK taxes lottery prizes is a good example of this.
Furthermore, an important caveat to mention is that if you’re playing international lotteries online and your country of residence taxes lottery winnings, you’ll still need to pay taxes after you transfer the money into your bank account. This applies to lottery winnings that were tax-free at the source (meaning the country you won them in) and winnings that the source country already taxed (meaning you could be double-taxed), so you can see why considering taxes is important if your main concern is trying to maximize your wins.
Payout options refer to how a lottery pays out its winnings, and this usually comes in one of two forms: lump-sum cash payments or annuity payments.
Lump-sum cash payments mean that all the money gets paid out to you in a single payment. This is the way that all lotteries’ secondary prizes and even the majority of jackpot prizes are paid out. What’s nice about this is you get all your money upfront, so you know exactly how much you’re getting and you can enjoy it right away. The downside is that, just like these infamous lottery winners did, there’s a much higher chance that the money will go to your head and you’ll blow it irresponsibly. Tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars might initially seem like a practically infinite amount of money, but never underestimate people’s greed and lack of common sense. Plus, you’ll likely have everyone you’ve ever known knocking on your door looking for a handout at one point or another.
Annuity payments, meanwhile, are an option that a few lotteries offer to their jackpot winners. What annuity means is that the money is paid out to you on an annual basis over a predetermined number of years—usually 20 to 30. There are several advantages to this method, starting with a lesser likelihood that you will squander your winnings in a short amount of time. In addition, if you win a huge jackpot in a country like the US, then the amount you’ll collect with annuity payments will be considerably bigger than the lump-sum payment, which will be heavily taxed in that first year. However, 20 to 30 years is a very long time, and a lot could happen, including tax laws changing, wars breaking out and lottery companies folding, or you getting sick, injured, or passing away before the payment period is complete and you ever got to enjoy all that hard-won money. Nevertheless, financial experts advise that annuities, which are contractually guaranteed, are ultimately the wisest option.
FAQ - frequently asked questions
- This is a somewhat personal question that really comes down to which factors you value most. Though we consider US Powerball, Mega Millions, Canada Lotto 6/49, Austria Lotto, and Polish Mini Lotto to be some of the best lotteries in the world, other lottery games might have certain elements that appeal more to you. We recommend you read the “How We Rank Lotteries” section above to know exactly what to look for.
- Some of the lotteries that offer the best chances of winning a jackpot are Poland Mini Lotto, Austria Lotto, Hungary Hatoslotto, Canada Lotto 6/49, Spanish Bonolotto, and Polish Lotto.
- Value really comes down to how balanced the ticket price and likelihood of winning a prize are. Therefore, in that regard, the number of prize tiers can also be an important consideration because some of the lotteries with the hardest jackpot odds might have 10+ prize tiers. Nevertheless, the best-value lotteries in our opinion are Polish Mini Lotto, Hungary Hatoslotto, and Canada Lotto 6/49.
Though there is no such thing as “the best lottery numbers” since no one truly knows what numbers will be drawn next, some people believe that the best way to maximize your chances of winning are to choose the most frequently drawn numbers. These might be the numbers that have been drawn most frequently in the past few years or even the game’s entire history, and they will obviously vary from lottery to lottery. In the US Powerball, the most frequently drawn number in the past decade has been 20, and other numbers that have drawn frequently include 37, 2, 31, and 35. Statistically speaking, this approach makes a lot of sense, but it’s also entirely possible that the next big jackpot will be the result of a set of numbers that are rarely drawn, so it's worth keeping that in mind.
- Playing strategically by choosing the most frequently drawn numbers (as discussed in the answer above) is certainly one way to increase your chances, but there are other ways to do so. One of the most popular ways is to play in a lottery pool. This can be done with a group of friends, family members, or co-workers, but it can also be done with a bunch of strangers through a lottery syndicate. Many online lottery sites offer this feature, and it’s absolutely the best way to increase your chances of winning a great prize. Another way to do so is to play more lines per draw and play more frequently, which is why lottery subscriptions are also a very popular feature of playing lotto online.
- We’re lottery experts and not fortune tellers, but we sure hope so! Though the above strategies will definitely increase your chances, being lucky is ultimately the #1 thing that you’re going to need. If you do win, please drop us a line and share the good news.