When you're feeling lucky and you're willing to lay down some money for scratch-offs at a New Jersey Lottery retailer, do you just randomly choose which tickets seem to be calling your name?

You may have a better shot at winning big bucks if you do your research before selecting which scratch-offs you'd like to purchase.

While the tickets themselves let you know the most you could possibly win, a quick search online can let you know exactly how many of the big prizes are still left — if there are any at all.

What are my odds with scratch-offs?

The top prize for any New Jersey Lottery scratch-off may be much lower than the jackpot prize for a Powerball or Mega Millions drawing, but your odds of hitting the top scratch-off prize are much better.

We can use the most recently released New Jersey Lottery scratch-off as an example — a $10 crossword game that offers a top prize of $250,000, released on June 15, 2022.

Of the 3,707,430 tickets printed, six are good for the $250,000 prize. That means that there's a big-winner ticket for every 617,905 printed. The odds of winning the Powerball game, which offers prizes in the millions, is more than 175 million to 1.

On that new crossword game, another 10 tickets feature a prize of $20,000. Twenty-four other tickets are good for $1,000. Better than 1 ticket in 5 wins a prize, from $10 to $250,000.

The scratch-off odds for the big prize vary from ticket to ticket, and the odds seem to dwindle as the price of the ticket decreases.

For example, a $2 Big Money Spectacular game released on June 6 features five top prizes of $30,000, but out of more than 12 million tickets.

Compared to draw games, more money goes to prizes with scratch-off tickets.

Check this page for specific details on every active New Jersey Lottery scratch-off.

Screenshot from njlottery.com
Screenshot from njlottery.com

How do I know if the big prizes are still available?

New Jersey Lottery doesn't only tell you how many tickets of each prize have been printed; it also keeps its site updated to let you know how many tickets of each prize are still out there.

As of June 27, only one of six $50,000 tickets were available for a $5 Super Crossword game that hit stores in March 2022. At the same time, more than 38,000 $10 prizes were still out there, and more than 10,000 $100 prizes.

So, before you tell the retailer what you want, or before you select your games at a ticket machine, a visit to this site can help you determine which games have the most top prizes still available.

What if there are no top prizes left?

Townsquare Media
Townsquare Media

Even when all of the top-tier prizes of a certain game have been claimed, you could still see that game for sale. For example, all three of a $5 20x The Cash game's top prizes had been claimed as of June 27, but the ticket was still considered active.

According to Jim Carey, executive director of the New Jersey Lottery, when a game's top prizes have all been claimed, NJ Lottery will stop shipping the game and will ask retailers to return it.

But, that doesn't always happen instantaneously — tickets may still be on sale for a couple of weeks after the last top prize is claimed.

"Some retailers have opened up a pack already and might want to sell through the pack," Carey said.

How long do I have to claim my prize?

When a scratch-off's run ends, the countdown starts at one year for all prizes that have yet to be claimed.

This site gives you a rundown of every game that has "ended." Click on the game's details to learn the exact last date for prize redemption.

Some games end their run before all top prizes have been claimed, mainly because they are special releases for holidays.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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