By Randy Ray
Lucky for Life (formerly Lucky4Life) is a lottery drawing game available in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Unlike most other multi-state lottery games in America, Lucky for Life is a daily draw game. The other features of Lucky for Life that set it apart from other big American draw games are the two annuitized top prizes at fixed levels, both of which are sold as “lifetime” prizes.
Lucky for Life doesn’t have a long list of enormous jackpots to boast of like Powerball or Mega Millions. It isn’t that kind of game.
Since re-branding and launching in a larger state network in 2015, Lucky for Life has rewarded its top prize of “$1,000 a day for life” to 23 players.
And another 350+ players have won the second-tier top prize of “$25,000 a year for life.”
A standard $2 Lucky for Life ticket is available to 90 million people through the state lottery systems, and now that Lucky for Life embraces online ticket sales, it’s an easily accessible game with an attractive set of top-tier prizes.
This page contains information about the Lucky for Life multi-state lottery game. It includes a complete overview of game rules and the way the game is played.
Quick Guide to Lucky for Life
Available In: 22 states and the District of Columbia
Lucky4Life Drawings: Nightly @ 10:30 PM EST
Ticket Purchase Schedule: Ticket sales for the current day’s draw are cut off at 9:04 PM EST. Ticket sales for the next day’s draw are available at 9:05 PM EST.
Lowest Prize: $3
Lowest Prize Odds: 1:15
Top Prize: $1,000 a day for life (or cash option of $5,750,000)
Top Prize Odds: 1 in 30,821,472
Odds of Winning Any Prize: 1 in 7.8
States Where Lucky for Life is Sold
You can buy Lucky for Life tickets in the following jurisdictions:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
How to Play Lucky for Life
Though the game’s top prizes are unusual, the rest of the game is played according to standard lottery draw rules.
Lucky for Life players are tasked with picking five numbers ranging from 1 to 48 as well as one Lucky Ball number ranging from 1 to 18. The five numbers correspond to the drawing’s five white balls, and the Lucky Ball corresponds to the drawing’s one golden ball.
The goal is to match all five white balls along with the golden ball to claim the game’s top prize, but there are nine other ways to win. These pay out between $4 and “$25,000 a year for life.”
Players in all participating states can also choose to have a random number generator select their numbers. This is called the Quick Pick option.
An easier way to place this wager is to simply order a Lucky for Life Quick Pick, and the clerk will do all the work.
Every ticket for Lucky for Life costs $2, though the game allows a player to play up to five sets of numbers on each payslip. Players can also choose the Multidraw option and enter numbers between 2 and 28 consecutive times, for up to almost a month of daily play.
Lucky for Life Prizes
Here’s a guide to each of the game’s ten prize amounts.
$1,000 a Day for Life
The game’s top prize is advertised as “$1,000 a day for life,” but that comes with some caveats.
First, that prize is only guaranteed for twenty years. If a player earned the entire prize payout over those twenty years, it would be worth $7.3 million.
Players can also choose the cash-out option, worth $5.75 million.
The odds of winning this top-tier payout are 1 in 30,821,472.
The top jackpots of most multi-state lottery games carry far longer odds than that, though those prizes often go far beyond the $5-$7 million level of Lucky for Life.
Players win this top prize by matching all 5 white balls and the golden lucky ball exactly.
“$25,000 a Year for Life”
A second-tier jackpot worth “$25,000 a year for life” pays out more frequently, with odds of 1 in 1.8 million.
This jackpot also comes with a twenty-year limit, representing a total cash prize of $500,000 if a player collects it for the entire term.
The cash-out option for this prize is $370,000.
Players win this second-tier top prize by matching all 5 white balls but not matching the golden ball.
The game’s third-highest payout is worth a one-time payment of $5,000. Odds of winning this prize are 1 in 143,356. Players win this prize by matching 4 of the 5 white balls along with the golden ball.
Next up, a $200 payout for matching 4 of the 5 white balls without the golden ball. Odds of winning are 1 in 8,433.
The rest of the prize payouts are:
These prizes require different combinations of white balls and the lucky golden ball.
For more detailed odds and payout information about Lucky for Life, check out their website.
Expected Return for Lucky for Life
The expected return for a gambling game is based on the odds of winning compared to the size of the prizes. If you bought every possible combination of tickets, the expected return represents the amount you’d get back in winnings.
In the case of Lucky for Life, the expected return is 63%, which sounds terrible compared to the expected return for most slot machine games.
But since most players are only putting $2 or so per day into action on the game, the actual dollar amount of the expected losses are dramatically lower.
A player who plays 365 days a year only puts $730 per year into action. On average, that player would get back $730 X 63% in winnings, or about $460. This means the average loss per year is $270.
Take a slot machine with a 90% expected return though and consider than an average player is going to make 500 spins per hour. Such a player is putting $1000 per hour into action. Such a player gets an average of $900 per hour back as winnings and loses an average of $100 per hour.
On a single trip to Vegas, an average player might spend eight hours playing slot machines, losing an average of $800.
And most lottery games have an expected return of well below 50%. The multi-state games with the huge jackpots, like Powerball and Mega Millions, have expected returns of below 20% until the top jackpot reaches a high dollar amount.
And the odds of winning one of those jackpots is so absurdly low that you’d be better off finding a bookmaker who’s willing to take a bet that you’ll be struck by lightning this year.
Lucky for Life is one of the best lotter games available in the United States.
How to Buy Lucky for Life Tickets Online
All participating states and the District of Columbia now allow online lottery ticket sales. Lucky for Life tickets are available as part of all these state’s online lottery sales programs.
Generally, players access Lucky for Life online tickets by going to the state’s lottery website, creating an account, signing in, and buying the ticket the way one would buy anything else online.
Each state participating in Lucky for Life has different restrictions and ways to access the tickets.
If you’re interested in buying online Lucky for Life tickets, check with your state’s lottery organization to find out the specifics of how to buy online lottery tickets in your state.
Lucky for Life Strategy
To some lottery players, the idea of playing with strategy may seem strange.
Lottery play is gambling, and all forms of gambling can be approached strategically.
One important aspect of playing the lottery is bankroll management. Those $2 bets add up.
One way to strategize for this or any lottery game would be to figure out how much you want to spend playing Lucky for Life and other games in a year, then divide your lottery plays up so that you don’t break your budget.
For example, if someone wants to play Lucky for Life every day but doesn’t want to spend more than $500 a year playing, then they need to work out a play schedule.
$500 a year means one can buy 250 tickets, or about 4.8 a week.
Since they can’t buy 0.8 of a Lucky for Life ticket, a player would round that number down to 4.
So long as they don’t buy more than 4 tickets a week, they won’t blow their budget.
As for the people who investigate past winning numbers to determine numbers that are either “hot” or “cold,” don’t believe them.
Each Lucky for Life drawing is an independent event, with each white ball carrying the same probability of being drawn as every other white ball.
If looking at past winnings numbers and working to figure out which numbers you think are “due” increases your enjoyment of the game, you might continue to do so.
Lucky for Life gives players access to a CSV file of all past winning numbers going back to 2016 on the official website.
Strategic lottery play is mostly about managing a budget and making sure not to spend too much chasing those “for life” prizes. Any tactic that increases the entertainment value of a $2 ticket is a good idea.
Tracking numbers, investigating past winners for trends, and whatever else keeps Lucky for Life and other lottery fresh are fine strategies.
But don’t spend the mortgage money hoping for a longshot jackpot.