By Randy Ray
The Texas Lottery offers a variety of both draw games and scratch off games. The drawing games don’t change often, and they include:
- All or Nothing
- Cash Five
- Daily 4
- Lotto Texas
- Mega Millions and Powerball
- Pick 3
- Texas Two Step
The scratch off tickets are instant games where you find out if you’ve won or lost immediately. The variety of scratch off tickets change nearly constantly.
The Texas Lottery, like most state lotteries, is a participant in the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL).
The Texas Lottery Commission, headquartered in Austin, Texas, administers the lottery on behalf of the state. Texas passed the legislation making the lottery legal in November 1991, and the first lottery tickets went on sale in November 1922.
As Texas is one of the largest states, it also has one of the largest state lotteries. In fact, in 1993, the Texas Lottery sold over $1 billion in tickets, breaking the previous record set by the Florida Lottery.
Funds from the Texas Lottery are largely paid out in prizes and commissions to retailers – roughly 70% of the proceeds from the lottery go into prizes and commissions. The bulk of the profits from the Texas Lottery are paid to the Foundation School Fund, which funds public education in the state.
This page offers a comprehensive overview for playing Texas Lottery games. It also includes specifics about where to buy tickets and claim prizes. Finally, information about the history of the Texas Lottery is included.
Total Return Figures for Texas Lottery Games
One popular way to measure the odds in a gambling game is the “total return” for the game. When you multiply a prize amount by the probability of winning that prize, you wind up with the “expected return” for that prize.
When you add the expected returns together for all the potential outcomes, you’re left with the total return for the game. That return is expressed as a percentage, and it represents the average amount of money you’ll get back in winnings when buying a lottery ticket.
Here’s an example:
You’re playing a lottery game with a 50% total return. You buy $1000 worth of tickets. On average, you’ll see $500 in prize money – which, of course, is a net loss of 50%.
This statistical prediction is based on the long-term – i.e. thousands of trials. In the short term, you can (and certainly will) see results different from the predicted return.
This is obvious when you look at the most extreme version of the short run – a single ticket.
With a single lottery ticket, you’ll usually lose 100% of your investment. The other 20% of the time, you’ll win some multiple of your $1 or $2 investment. Do this repeatedly, and, on average, you’ll eventually see an average return that mirrors the predicted return.
Since the Texas Lottery is meant to be a revenue source for the state, the total return is almost always below 100%. In some cases, when the top prize gets big enough, the return might get over 100%. That’s compensated for by the many times the return is significantly lower than that.
One of the details included on this page are the return figures for the various Texas lottery games. Choosing games with a higher return percentage is, theoretically, the smarter way to play lottery games.
How to Play Texas Lottery Games (Including Drawing Schedules)
This section looks at how to play most of the draw games available through the Texas Lottery. Each description includes information about the total return for the game.
Draw games in general are just what they sound like. You choose from a specific set of numbers, the lottery administrators have a drawing, and if the drawn numbers match the numbers you chose, you win.
The more numbers you get right, the bigger the prize is.
All or Nothing
To play All or Nothing, you choose 12 numbers, each of which must be between 1 and 24.
Here’s the twist – you can win the top prize by matching all 12 numbers OR by matching none of the 12 numbers.
An All or Nothing ticket costs $2 to play, and you can choose your numbers yourself or use the quick pick feature to have the computer choose randomly for you. Both options have the same odds; there’s no benefit of one over the other.
Drawings are held Monday through Saturday at 10am, 12:27pm, 6pm, and 10:12pm.
The paytable for All or Nothing looks like this:
- Match all 12 numbers (or none of the numbers), and you win $250,000 – the top prize. The probability for either of these outcomes is 1 in 2,704,165.
- Match 11 numbers (or just 1 number), and you win $500. The probability is 1 in 18,779.
- Match 10 numbers (or just 2 numbers), and you win $50. The probability is 1 in 621.
- Match 9 numbers (or just 3 numbers), and you win $10. The probability is 1 in 56.
- Match 8 numbers (or just 4 numbers), and you win $2. The probability is 1 in 11.
The total return for All or Nothing is 56%, and it doesn’t go up or down. The jackpot sizes are fixed for this game.
As draw games go, 56% is better than most. Generally, the higher the top prize is, the lower the return for the game is.
Cash Five is a classic example of a lottery draw game. To play, you buy a ticket for $1, and then you choose 5 numbers from between 1 and 35. As with the other draw games in Texas, you have the option of choosing your own numbers, or you have the option of letting the computer choose for you randomly.
The Texas Lottery holds the drawings for Cash Five Monday through Saturday at 10:12pm.
The paytable looks like this:
- Match all 5 numbers, and you win the jackpot, which is $25,000. The odds of winning are 1 in 324,632
- Match 4 numbers, and you win the second prize for the game, $350. The odds of winning second place are 1 in 2164.
- Match 3 numbers to win third prize, $15. The odds of third prize are 1 in 75.
- Match 2 numbers, and you get a free quick pick ticket, which has a value of $1. The odds of winning that are 1 in 8.
The total return for Cash Five is 56.37%, making Cash Five comparable to All or Nothing in terms of the predicted return to player.
To play Daily 4, you choose 4 numbers from between 0 and 9. As always, you can also use the quick pick option.
But with Daily 4, you have an additional decision to make – which way do you want to play your numbers. You have the following options:
A straight ticket is one where you’re betting that you’ll get all 4 numbers right in the exact order.
A box ticket, on the other hand, is a bet that you’ll get all 4 numbers right, regardless of what order they’re drawn in.
You can also double up and place both a straight AND a box bet on the same 4 numbers.
A combo ticket is a way to play all the possible straight combinations of your 4 numbers.
You can also bet on pairs coming up. You can take front pair, mid pair, or back pair. These are all straight bets that include a pair in them – the front pair is the first 2 numbers, the mid pair includes the 2nd and 3rd numbers, and the back pair includes the 3rd and 4th number.
After the Daily 4 drawing, the Lottery also draws a “fireball” number. This allows you to use the fireball number to replace one of the numbers on your ticket. You can only use the fireball if you take that bet, which doubles the size of your bet on the game.
The Texas Lottery holds multiple Daily 4 drawings every day, at 10am, 12:27pm, 6pm, and 10:12pm.
You can play Daily 4 for either 50 cents or for $1 per play. The prizes are based on the amount you bet.
The most basic way to play and win Daily 4 involves picking 4 numbers in order and having those same 4 numbers drawn in order. Since you have 10,000 possible combinations, your odds of winning that are 1 in 10,000.
The payoff for this is 5000 for 1, which means that the return to player is 50%. It also means that if you’re playing for 50 cents per ticket, the prize is $2500.
What if you use a box instead?
The payout depends on which box you go for. If you do a 4-way box, where you have 3 like numbers and 1 different number, the odds of winning are 1 in 2500, and the payoff when you win is 1200 for 1.
You should notice that the return to player on this bet is actually only 48% instead of 50% — from a purely mathematical standpoint, you’re more likely to win the 4-way box wager, but you’ll lose your money at a faster rate in the long run.
The easiest bet to win in Daily 4 is the 24-way box, where you choose 4 different numbers, and those 4 numbers get drawn in any order to win. The odds of winning are 1 in 417, and the payout is 200 for 1.
This bet also has a 48% return to player.
Lotto Texas is the original Texas lottery game. The first Texas Lotto ticket was sold on November 7, 1992, and the first Texas Lotto drawing was held on November 14, 1992.
Playing Texas Lotto is simple. You choose 6 numbers, each of which must be between 1 and 54. Each ticket costs $1 to play, but you can also use the “Extra!” add-on to increase your non-jackpot prize by up to $10,000.
The drawings are on Wednesays and Saturdays at 10:12pm.
The paytable for Texas Lotto is straightforward enough, too:
- Get all 6 numbers and win the jackpot; the odds of winning are 1 in 25,827,165.
- Get 5 out of 6 numbers and win $2000; the odds of winning are 1 in 89,678.
- Get 4 out of 6 numbers and win $50; the odds of winning are 1 in 1526.
- Get 4 out of 6 numbers and win $3; the odds of winning are 1 in 75.
The Lotto Texas jackpot starts at $5 million and grows until it’s won.
This means that the return to player for the game – assuming the $5 million jackpot — is 28.87%, making this one of the worst games for the lottery player. The general rule mentioned before applies here, too – the bigger the jackpot, the lower the RTP is – at least to begin with.
But, as the jackpot grows, so does the return to player. The break-even point for Lotto Texas is about $23 million. When the top jackpot gets to that point, you’re playing a positive expectation game.
The only problem is that your odds of winning are still so low that it doesn’t make much mathematical sense to play. After all, a 1 in 25 million chance of winning is about 50 times less likely than your odds of being struck by lightning this year.
Finally, Lotto Texas is a “parimutuel” game, which means that the amounts of the prizes change based on how many tickets are sold. The prize amounts listed above are the minimums, but during an active week, the prizes for each of the winning combinations might be higher.
In parimutuel games, the prize amounts are scaled to the amount of revenue brought in for that drawing.
Mega Millions and Powerball
This site covers Mega Millions and Powerball in detail on their own pages. Each of these has an arguable claim to being the biggest lotto game in the United States, but the differences between the 2 games are few and minor.
Both are available as part of the Texas State Lottery.
Texas joined Mega Millions in 2003. It’s a multi-state game with a starting jackpot of $20 million, which was reduced from the former starting jackpot of $40 million during the pandemic. As with most big-jackpot lotto games, the size of the top prize increases after every drawing until someone wins.
To play Mega Millions, you choose 5 numbers between 1 and 70 along with an additional number (the “Mega Ball”) between 1 and 25. It costs $2 per ticket t play, and drawings are held on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10pm.
You also have the option of paying an additional $1 to increase the size of any non-jackpot prize by a factor of between 2 and 5. This is called the Megaplier option, and the multiplier is determined randomly.
Texas joined Powerball in 2010. The game is similar to Mega Millions – tickets cost $2, the jackpot starts at $20 million, and you choose 6 numbers. The big difference is that for your first 5 numbers, you must choose between 1 and 69, and for your sixth number, you must choose between 1 and 26.
You can find full details on the math behind each game on their respective pages on this site. The same general rules applies to these games that’s already been discussed, though – the higher the jackpot, the lower the payback percentage for the game is (at least with the starting jackpot amount.)
In the case of Mega Millions and Powerball, the total return for each game is less than 20%,.
Pick 3 is remarkably similar to Daily 4, but instead of choosing 4 numbers between 0 and 9, you only choose 3 numbers between 0 and 9. The odds and payouts change accordingly.
With 3 numbers chosen between 0 and 9, you have 1000 possible combinations – 000 to 999.
The basic bet on Pick 3 is a straight bet, which means you’re betting that the 3-digit combination you chose is exactly the same as the 3-digit combination chosen during the drawing. That bet pays off at 500 for 1.
You can play for 50 cents per ticket or $1 per ticket. The payoff, therefore, for a straight bet on Pick 3 is either $250 or $500.
And the total return for the game is 50%.
But, as with Pick 4, you also have the possibility of any order bets, which means that the numbers don’t have to match in order. You can do a 3-way or a 6-way bet – with the 3-way bet, you choose 2 like numbers and 1 different number. With the 6-way bet, you choose 3 different numbers.
The odds of winning the 3-way bet are 1 in 333, and the payoff is 160 for 1.
The odds of winning the 6-way bet are 1 in 167, and the payoff is 80 for 1.
And, as with Daily 4, the return drops slightly here, too – from 50% to 48%.
Texas Two Step
It’s easiest to think of this game as being a lighter version of Mega Millions or Powerball, but one that’s exclusive to the Lone Star State. Texas Two Step is a draw game where you choose 4 numbers from between 1 and 35 and an additional number from between 1 and 35. The second number is the “Bonus Ball” number.
Tickets are $1, and the drawings happen on Monday and Thursday nights at 10:12pm. The jackpot starts at $200,000 and grows over time until it’s hit.
The pay table looks like this:
- Match all 4 numbers along with the bonus ball and win the minimum $200,000 jackpot. The odds of winning are 1 in 1,832,600.
- Match all 4 numbers and miss the bonus ball and win $1501. The odds of winning are 1 in 53,900.
- Match 3 numbers along with the bonus ball and win $50. The odds of winning are 1 in 14,779.
- Match 3 numbers and miss the bonus ball and win $20. The odds of winning are 1 in 435.
- Match 2 numbers along with the bonus ball and win $20. The odds of winning are 1 in 657.
- Match 1 number along with the bonus ball and win $7. The odds of winning are 1 in 102.
- Match the bonus ball but none of the other numbers and win $5. The odds of winning are 1 in 58.
One thing to keep in mind about Texas Two Step is that it’s a “parimutuel” game, which means that the prize amounts vary based on how many tickets were sold. The amounts listed in the paytable above are the minimums. During a week where more Texas Two Step tickets are sold, the prize amounts will be correspondingly higher.
The total return for the game, assuming the above prize amounts, is 37.16%.
At any given time, the Texas Lottery makes several dozen scratch ticket games available at various price points and with various prize amounts.
The price points range from $1, $2, $3, $5, $10, $20, $30, and $50. Like slot machines in casinos, scratch tickets in Texas have various themes – most of which are gambling-related. Examples include Monopoly, Route 66, and Break the Bank.
Also, like slot machines, scratch tickets offer a higher return to player when you play for higher stakes. The worst returns are the lower-denomination tickets, while the highest returns are for the high-priced tickets.
The payback percentage for the highest-priced games – the $50 games – ranges from 75% to 80%. The total return for the lower-priced games range from 50% to 60%.
Buying Tickets and Claiming Prizes in the Texas Lottery
You can buy Texas Lottery tickets at any of the usual suspects – convenience stores, grocery stores, and even vape shops. The official website offers a search tool where you can input your zip code to find the nearest locations selling tickets. It even allows you to sort by smoking and non-smoking locations.
Where you claim your prizes varies based on the size of your prize. For prizes under $600, you can just redeem your ticket at any lottery retailer, local claim center, or via the Lottery Commission in Austin.
For prizes of more than $600 but less than $2.5 million, you must make your claim via a local claim center or the Lottery Commission in Austin.
For prizes of between $2.5 and $5 million, you must visit a lottery claim center in one of the following cities:
- Fort Worth
- San Antonio
You can always claim your prize from the Lottery Commission in Austin, too.
For any prizes over $5 million, you must claim your prize at the Lottery Commission in Austin.
The History of the Texas Lottery
Before 1991, Texas didn’t have a lottery. The state began considering an amendment to the Constitution legalizing the lottery in July 1991 and approved that amendment in November 1991.
Rather than just hire a design company to create a logo for the Texas Lottery, the newly-formed Texas Lottery Commission ran a contest that individuals and design companies could enter. Susan Holten, a woman from Carrollton, created the winning design of a cowboy hat being thrown in the air.
Governor Ann Richards bought the first ticket to the first game, Lone Star Millions, in May 1992. The same day, the Lottery Commission sold over 23 million tickets – setting the record for daily lottery sales in the United States. The Lottery Commission sold 102 million tickets the first week, setting the weekly record for sales, too.
By 1993, the Texas Lottery had sold over $1 billion in tickets, setting another record.
Texas joined Mega Millions in 2003 and Powerball in 2010.
In 2013, the Texas Legislature voted not to recommission the Lottery Commission, but they had another vote later in the day that saved the Texas Lottery from extinction.
The Texas Lottery pays out over 65% of its ticket sales in prizes, and most of the rest of the money raised funds public education in Texas.
How to Contact the Texas Lottery
Depending on what you want from them, you can contact the Texas Lottery in multiple ways, all of which are detailed on the official site.
For most people, calling the toll-free number is probably the appropriate first step: 800-37LOTTO (800-375-6886).
You can also email the Texas Lottery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The street address and mailing address for the Texas Lottery Commission are listed below:
Texas Lottery Commission Headquarters
611 E. 6th Street
Austin, Texas 78701
Texas Lottery Commission
P.O. Box 16630
Austin, TX 78761-6630
The Lottery Commission also oversees the state’s charitable bingo games. You can contact that department at 800-BINGO-77 (800-246-4677).
Like most things associated with Texas, the Texas Lottery is arguable bigger and better than most other state lotteries. The total return for most of the games, while low, is still higher than in most states. Some of this relates to the parimutuel nature of the prizes in the big draw games in the state.
You’ll have a hard time finding a wider variety of scratch tickets or scratch tickets offering a better payback percentage in other states, too.