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You Have to Play to Win: How to & What to Do If You Win Big

Photo by: Ian Barbour (Flickr)

Photo by: Ian Barbour (Flickr)

Before I jump into this, I just want to take a minute to make clear that I don’t have the secret to winning the lotto – I wish I did – but, here’s my two sense on it anyway.

In 2012, Zippy Vonier won $50 million from a Quick Pick ticket after playing the same lotto numbers every day for years, and Clarence Seay ended up with winning lotto numbers on a scratch-off ticket worth $5 million. These and other lottery winners share fairytale stories of riches won, and I’m waiting for my own rags to riches story to take off! You might too; but, we have to play to win, and here are my thoughts on how to do it and what to do after you win big.

Buy a Ticket

It’s obvious, isn’t it? You have to play to win. So, run to your nearest grocery or convenience store and buy a ticket.

Every state has a different lottery system with a variety of games, and I’ve found that I sometimes have to sift through my options to find the one I’m looking for.

Remember that your chances of winning increase when fewer people play – forgive me if I don’t disclose all my playing tricks and preferences, protecting my odds, lol. Consider sticking to small jackpots; this strategy helps your budget too. The other day, I really wanted to buy tons of tickets for the big prize, but I needed to eat that week too! No one can afford to blow all their money on lotto tickets, no matter how big the payout is. Don’t lose your grip on reality, play smart.

Choose Winning Numbers

If you decide to play a daily six game, pick a lotto winning number combination. Some players let the lotto machine choose for them, but you may have a string of lucky numbers based on tips from a fortune cookie or a special birthday or anniversary. Other strategies involve:

  • Choosing numbers that make an X, M, diamond, cross, square or a zigzag pattern on the card.
  • Mixing high and low numbers.
  • Staying away from popular sequences that list numbers in a row or include all the same number.

Picking winning numbers is how to win the lotto, but you’ll also want to check your ticket before you leave the store. It must include the right numbers and date if you want to win.

Save Your Ticket

You can’t claim your lotto winnings if you don’t save your ticket. Store it in a safe place, and get ready to check the winning numbers. They’re posted on the lotto website, printed in the newspaper and sometimes televised during your local or national news. You can also take your ticket to a store that sells lotto tickets, and ask the cashier if you have a winning ticket.

Redeem Your Prize

When your lotto winning number choice is called, get ready to celebrate! For small prizes, simply sign the ticket and redeem it in a lotto sales store before the deadline expires.

Bigger prizes require a few additional steps that safeguard your winnings:

  • Sign your winning ticket.
  • See a tax attorney who will advise you on whether an annuity or lump sum distribution makes better financial sense.
  • Pay taxes. The IRS usually withholds 25 percent from prizes above $5,000, and you’ll owe state and local taxes too.
  • Arrange with your state’s lotto department to visit their headquarters. Here, your ticket is validated, and you redeem your ticket.

Enjoy Your Winnings

You can probably think of a million ways to spend your earnings – I’ve got my own all mapped out! First, I’d splurge on expensive sushi. I wouldn’t tell too many people about my winnings, though; they’d just want a piece of the pie, and I’d end up losing most of my winnings – I’m a softy, I know. After sushi, I’d meet with a financial advisor and prepare a plan that wisely invests the majority of the winnings. You might want to do the same. While it’s okay to indulge in a new car, repay debt or buy jewelry, remember that your money won’t last forever. Guard it carefully as you make it last. Make good, long term financial decisions.

Now that you know how to win the lotto, buy a ticket today. I know I can’t wait to try out my winning lotto numbers. Here’s hoping we all win big!

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