How To Win (or Lose) Scratch-Off (Scratch It) Cards

What Is Scratch-Off Game Cards?

Scratch-off game cards are game cards wherein you scratch off a covered area of the card to reveal the game that you are to play. A type of UV ink, silver but can also be colour coated, cover an area of the card to hide a group of characters such as numbers, letters, figures or shapes. Depending on the type of game, usually a matching game, if you match similar characters or form a pattern or puzzle pieces, you win a certain prize.

Scratch-off game cards are printed with pre-determined prize. Unfortunately, not all cards are winning cards. Most of them are losing cards. It is even possible that not a card is a major winning card. It is also possible that only a few cards are winning cards and only pay out minor prizes.

How To Play Scratch-Off Game Cards?

When you buy a scratch-off card, you scratch the UV ink off an area of the card to reveal the game or the prize amount. Scratch-off game cards vary. Common type of scratch-off game cards are matching games. For example, if the card reveals three the same prize amount, you win that prize. Another example is a tic tac toe game wherein you match the same numbers or figures horizontally, vertically or diagonally.

What is the Probability of Winning from Scratch-off Game Cards?

Your chance of buying a winning scratch-off card depends on a number of factors.

  • Target profit or target fund to raise
  • Quantity of printed cards to sell, which also depends on the volume of target market.
  • Volume of possible target market who are willing to buy the cards
If the purpose is to raise funds for a certain cause, whether noble or otherwise, the selling price of the card, the payout prizes, and the quantity of printed cards depend on the organizer's target fund, volume of target market, and purchasing capacity of the buying market.

If the purpose is to earn profits, capitalists produce scratch-off game cards in large quantities, like a million prints. The big major prize is a tease to attract gamers but you'd be lucky if such prize exist. Purposely, only the minor prizes are given out.

Your Odds of Winning

The number of winning cards and the price amounts are pre-determined even before the cards are printed out. Unlike the lottery, the numbers are not actually random but only a simulation. Theoretically, the smaller the payout prizes, the chances of winning are more probable; but of course, the chances of losing is much more possible. In a game of chance such as the lottery and scratch-off card games, the probability of losing is always 99.9% or even lesser.

Think in the point of view of a capitalist. Are you willing to risk your money without a 100% return? The lottery and other game of chances were invented to accumulate funds. It is always for profit and never for charity. Therefore, each time you buy a ticket or a scratch-off game card, be prepared to lose because most likely you are not going to win. That's the reality.

The very slim chance of winning relies heavily on luck. Play for fun, not for money. Don't risk so much cash. For each ticket or card you buy, counterpart it by saving the same amount.

Busting the Scratch-off Cards

The following is a hypothetical view why playing scratch-off game cards is more like losing than winning the game. As subject of the study, the Red Hot 7's scratch-off game by PCSO is used for the study.

For a similar study, read this post to find out why your chance of losing is greater than winning when playing scratch-off cards.

You may also read this extended study of scratch-off cards by testing a series of 10 cards and 20 cards.

Further Assumptions

For the reason that we have no access to factual data, the following theories are presented.
  • There are 998,000,001,999 cards that are printed out and released per job order per game type. This is based on the series 000-000000-001 to 999-999999-999 that you can see printed on the card. The number of cards are calculated with this formula: 999 x 999999 x 999.
  • If all cards are sold at 20 each, that's a huge sale equivalent to 19.960 trillion pesos. 
  • If you're a capitalist, you would want to profit, at least, ₱10 for each card. ₱5 goes to overhead. ₱5 goes to winnings.
  • A total of ₱4.99 trillion amount of winnings based on ₱5 x 998 billion cards.
  • If you are going to distribute the major and minor prizes based on the calculated total payout, 2.55 billion of the cards are considered winning cards. That means, only 0.26% of the cards are winning cards. That means further, for every 391 cards is a winning card. If that is the case, the scratch-off card game will not be commercially effective for the reason that only a few customers are going to experience winning the game. 
  • In this type of game, it is important that the customers experience winning the game even if it is only a minor prize. A solution therefore is to increase the volume of winning cards (minor prizes) by allotting around 76 billion cards as minor winning cards; and only 10 million cards for the major prize. In such case, for every 13 cards is a winning card of a minor prize. 
  • The higher the prize payout, the greater the chance of losing.

Summary of Tests Conducted

The following is a summary of the tests done involving scratch-off cards.

The objective of this study is to find out the interval of winning cards. To say it in another way, how many scratch cards should you buy in order to profit? Not just win, but to profit.

Test #1. Five (5) Red Hot 7s Scratch-off Cards

The highest payout prize for Red Hot 7s scratch card game is ₱77,777 – the lowest among the scratch game cards available in the market. Playing Red Hot 7s is based on the game Tic Tac Toe. Match three 7s horizontally, vertically, or diagonally to win a prize.

In this type of game, the most essential position is the number 7 in the middle. If the middle box is not number 7, you will miss any chance of winning the major prizes. Notice that for every batch of card, there's only one card with 7 in the middle.

To find out the chances of winning, start by trying 5 cards with consecutive numbers in a series.

Batch 1. Series 109-352610-031 to 035

For the first test, the cards tested were numbered 109-352610-031 to 035.

The Result.

None of the cards were a winning card. At this point, straight you lost ₱100.

Batch 2. Series 109-352807-071 to 074

For the second test, five cards numbered 109-352807-071 to 074 were tried.

The Result.

Two of the cards were winning cards. One card won ₱40; the other won ₱20. In this batch, though there were winning cards worth ₱60, the losing cards were worth ₱40. At this point, you may have won ₱60 out of ₱200 risk – a lost of ₱140.

Batch 3. Series 109-373666-027 to 031

The next batch of cards are numbered 109-373666-027 to 031.

The Result. 

One card was a winning card worth ₱20. In this batch, losing cards cost ₱80. At this point, you may have already risked ₱300. You have won so far ₱80. But all in all, you lost ₱220.

Test #2. Ten (10) Red Hot 7s Scratch-off Cards

If buying 5 scratch cards would only give you 27% return (not the ROI), how would you fare with 10 cards? Let's find out.

Batch 1. Series 116-010187-091 to 100

In this batch, not 1 card contained 7 in the middle. That means no chance of winning a major prize. However, two cards (#093 & #099) matched three 7s both horizontally and vertically equivalent to a total prize winning of ₱80 for both cards. Card #096 also match three 7s vertically equivalent to a prize winning of ₱70. All in all, this batch produced 3 winning cards equivalent to a total of ₱150. Ten cards is worth ₱200. Therefore, for this batch, you lost ₱50.

So far, you have risked ₱500. Total winning so far was ₱230. Total lost was ₱270.

Batch 2. Series 116-011035-091 to 100

The second batch produced 2 winning cards. One card won ₱70; the other ₱20. Total winnings for this batch was ₱90. However, despite winning ₱90, total lost was ₱110.

So far, on the average, 10 cards may produce 2 winning cards but that doesn't mean you actually profit. Theoretically, for every ₱200 you play, you may recover 60% of it, or ₱120. Yet still, you lose ₱80.

Total risks at this point - ₱700. Total winnings, ₱320. Total lost, ₱380.

Preliminary Conclusion

Are you going to profit by buying 5 Red Hot 7s scratch-off cards? The answer is NO.

Theoretically, for every 5 cards you buy, you lose ₱73.33.

If one trillion cards are produced, that is equivalent to 20 trillion pesos sales or roughly $433 billion. If 60% return is true, the capitalist gives away 12 trillion pesos and keeps 8 trillion pesos less cost and overhead. Granted that 12 trillion pesos is the total of prizes to be given away, there is still no guarantee that you would win-a-profit unless luck favours you by winning a major prize.

Let's say the only payout prize is ₱20 per card. Following the theoretical 60% return, it means that for every 10 cards, 6 cards are winning cards, in which each card wins ₱20. Yet, the bottom line is, you still lose ₱40.

Hypothetical Conclusion