October 21, 2020 6 min read


How to Tell if a Lottery Ticket Is a Winner Without Scratching It

Anyone who has ever played the lottery has wished they could tell a winner ticket from all the duds before they even touched any.

Some people have even adopted personal rituals to give themselves what they believe to be a higher chance of success, but in reality, is just a habitual hope mechanism.

Of course, there are more than one Gambler’s fallacies out there.

From lucky charms to only buying your tickets at certain hours, there is a lot of mental gymnastics that can go in the choice of a lottery ticket once you start to indulge.

Yet, today we will ask and answer honestly how to tell if a lottery ticket is a winner without even scratching it.

As it turns out, one person was able to determine if a ticket was a winner in less than 45 seconds per ticket.

This is the short story of Mohan Srivastava.

Telling a Winner Lottery Ticket from the Rest

The common-sense answer is absolutely not.

All lottery tickets are uniform to the point where you can’t spot a pattern even if you wanted to.

However, for one geological statistician living in Toronto, this wasn’t the case back in 2003.  Mohan Srivastava was bored.

So, he decided to play a few lottery tickets he had bought beforehand.

The first one immediately turned into a loser, which confirmed his deep-rooted mistrust of the lottery games in the first place.

In fact, you didn’t have to do any scratching off whatsoever. The ticket could be cracked if one was privy to the secret code, the professor believed.

However, the second one won him $3. In his own words, he felt “a king of the world.”

In his daily job, Srivastava has to examine samples from a variety of gold mines around the world and determine the makeup of the soil and potential gold deposits.

It looks fairly random, but it is not.

This is when realization dawned that he might as well use his knowledge and expertise to crack the seemingly random code of lotteries.

Walking by a gas station on the same day he won his paltry $3, Srivastava overheard a conversation with one person arguing that the game is flawed and if you crack its code, you can plunder what is a multi-billion business while still being on the straight and narrow.

Srivastava decided to give it a try. He mustered his tic-tac-toe lottery ticket and discovered it was flawed.

In fact, you didn’t have to do any scratching off whatsoever. The ticket could be cracked if one was privy to the secret code, the professor believed.

He estimated that he needs 45 seconds to crack each ticket and tell if it’s a winner.

Why Didn’t Srivastava Plunder All Winning Tickets?

As it turns, spotting a winning pattern isn’t that hard if you have the background knowledge.

Yet, Srivastava figured out that traveling to different gas stations would be a full-time job and fetch him around $600 per day.

Why didn’t he do it? As he figured out, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation would sooner or later catch up to what he was doing.

Instead, he drove to the lottery’s corporate office and let headquarters know that they have designed their game with a flaw.

Interestingly, the corporation didn’t take too much interest in Srivastava’s claim. He was referred to one Rob Zufelt head of security, but Zufelt failed to get in touch over the first few days.

A little irritated, Srivastava realized how he must have sounded to the lottery people – bursting in their corporate office and telling them that he could crack their games.

Realizing that he was being ignored, Srivastava sorted out 20 tickets in two envelopes, one with the presumed winners and the other with the losers. He got 19 out of 20 right.

Upon receiving the envelopes, Zufelt phoned in two hours later on the same day and the game of tic-tac-toe was quickly whisked away from retailers.

Now, if you are wondering if what Srivastava did can be done again, the answer is yes. He actually taught his eight-year-old daughter how to spot if a lottery ticket is a winner without scratching it.

However, the far bigger challenge is to find that inherent weakness that Srivastava noticed almost half-joking and half-dismissingly.

If a game has a weakness, spotting that weakness would require good pattern recognition – but would it require a mathematical degree as well?

People Are Beating the Game and Cashing in Winner Tickets

While lottery games are designed and touted as unbeatable, there is some evidence to suggest that some individuals have been too lucky.

They have been lucky to the point where numbers don’t add up. For example, a 1999 audit revealed that a person had cashed in 149 tickets for the sum total of $237,000.  

On the other hand, the top ten prize winners had won on 842 occasions cashing out a total of $1.8 million.

During the audit, it was argued that only six out of 100,000 tickets yielded prizes in the range of $1,000 and $5,000 and that, in other words, the lucky winners must have bought millions of tickets to make this happen.

That or were they able to tell if a lottery ticket was a winner without the need to scratch it first.

In 1991, James “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious mobster from Boston, and three others cashed in a lottery ticket worth some $14.3 million.

Did Bulger have an advanced mathematical degree like Srivastava did? That is hardly the case.

As it turns out, telling winners from losers is possible in some cases. Of course, nobody is quite able to pinpoint when spotting a winning ticket is going to be the case.

And understandably, a person who has figured out the secret would probably not care much about sharing it away, unless he is much like Srivastava.

As Srivastava says, though, “there is nothing random in the lottery.” He believes that lottery games are designed to entice customers and exert some form of control.

Now, the problem with that is it can be reversed engineered and not everyone is the same do-gooder as is Srivastava.

Lead Editor

Mike made his mark on the industry at a young age as a consultant to companies that would grow to become regulators. Now he dedicates his weekdays to his new project a the lead editor of GamblingNews.com, aiming to educate the masses on the latest developments in the gambling circuit.


  • Gary
    April 17, 2021 at 8:02 pm

    On any andLottery ticket from Canada to North America in the back lower left corner you’ll see either a square, right angle, a downward right angle left downward angle up left angle or just a straight dash. If the shape is a FULL SQUARE its an automatic winner. How much? Well, that’s the gamble right there. The prize could win you your money back at the very least all the way up to the 2nd grand prize. What you can determine from a full “square“ is that it’s not a grand prize winner but certainly it is 100% a winner. So identify if the ticket is of a grand prize for example like $1 million or $15 million, there will be no sign at the bottom left in the back. There will be no sign at all listed above. Now you’re looking for this type of shape which is located right underneath the back of the ticket where if you did win you can sign your name and address etc. it’s right under your information to fill out.

    • trevor
      July 23, 2021 at 1:56 am

      I work at a caseys and all the marks are the same

    • Kayla
      December 21, 2021 at 10:06 pm

      The only mark I see is on the tickets that begin/end the books..

    • Travis
      July 4, 2022 at 11:33 pm

      I would like more information about what your talking about please. I think I understand it thanks Travis

    • Gregg Krieger Jr.
      October 3, 2022 at 10:33 pm

      I literally have a $3 Fireball Slingo scratch ticket with a full square and it is not a winner. If you were to glance at it it would DEFINETLEY look like one but its not.

    • Chuck
      February 9, 2023 at 4:38 am

      Hey do I have an example for Canadian scratch tickets? Of where and what they look like the symbols?
      I would love a picture of what you mean.

    • Sagan
      October 6, 2023 at 1:38 pm

      Why does my scratch off scan not a winner when it’s plane as day it’s a winner

  • Ron Fowler
    May 6, 2021 at 2:55 pm

    Who is going to allow you to scroll through a roll of tickets without purchasing them?

    • B
      September 7, 2022 at 3:13 am

      That part

    • Nicole
      September 11, 2022 at 4:00 am

      I found the left angle and my ticket is a winner have to try it again to see if theres any truth to it

    • Gary
      September 21, 2022 at 11:33 pm

      Ron is 100% correct with his comment. Regardless, I don’t know too many store clerks that are going to scroll through 100-something cards to tare out the ticket you want lol. The easiest way, as well as the shapes which I think many have done away with, is to play the odds of the game. You could find the odds of any particular scratch ticket on your local lottery website. Go to instant cash games, look up your ticket, and it should have an odds scale. Usually, you’ll find with $10 tickets one out of 3.75 and on most $30 tickets you’ll find one out of 2.50.

    • Christopher Brown
      December 1, 2023 at 11:51 pm

      What keeps a cashier from scrolling through the the roll of tickets

  • Charlene G Grigsby
    May 7, 2021 at 2:32 am

    Myself have bought at least $300.00 worth of them and I have won $15.00

  • Curious
    August 25, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    So is this is why Employees are NOT SUPPOSED to buy from the Store they work? They have plenty time to check them out, saying this because woman just won $100000 and Corvette from Store she WORKED come find Out, wasn’t disclosed at First,said bouth on way home from work, then couple days later she worked at the store she Purchase,but she STOPPED back by Store After she got off ,But she lived 20 to 40 In a Direction She would have to CIRCLE BACK…🤔🤔 Jus saying SOMETHING don’t Scratch Rite…🤔

    • Christopher
      December 2, 2023 at 12:09 am

      I go to the same store every day and buy scratch offs, at least 5 of the same stack and sometimes the numbers don’t come out in order. Example it skips where 3 tickets were missing on more than once. The store used to pay out good until a couple of years ago when new owners took over.

  • Madison Wetzel
    August 28, 2021 at 1:14 pm

    Gary I work at a gas station and I just checked all these tickets I didn’t say any shapes at all.. am I looking in the right spot send picture please

    • Reba bruse
      July 24, 2022 at 2:35 pm

      I was at the food city store & the stand where you scratch off tickets there was a 10$scratch off ,the winning numbers were scratched, but the winning money amounts were not, so I continued to scratch & it showed 15$ winner ,so when I tried to cash it ,it said already cashed, so the question is ,if the money amounts was not scratched, how much would they know what they had coming?

  • Angel
    June 18, 2022 at 2:32 am

    I just looked at a stack of scratchers and Gary thank you!!

  • Winner winner
    September 9, 2022 at 4:01 pm

    Angel, you just looked at a stack of scratchers and realized it’s all BS and you can’t return any of the tickets you bought to look at the back of. So don’t act like you found something that doesn’t exist. Lmao

  • Melisa
    January 19, 2023 at 9:31 am

    I am looking at a winning bingo double scratch ticket. In the back on my ticket there is that QR code square thingy. Inside this square pattern there is what looks like a tiney square. Maybe this is what he is taking about. I have about 10 other scratch tickets in front of me none of them are winners, and they also don’t have that little square in the QR code square. The only winner in my pile is the ticket with the tiny square

  • Tiffany Spencer
    February 7, 2023 at 6:05 am

    I’m trying to see if I’m a winner on this lottery ticket

  • Tracy
    March 3, 2023 at 10:53 pm

    Can the cashier scan the tickets on the machine that tells you if you won anything before ringing it up on the cash register ? Also do they have to ring them up to activate them ? Thx

  • RayTodd
    March 16, 2023 at 6:51 am

    So each scratcher has their own “tell” they don’t work on all scratchers across the board. I may be assuming too much but Gary may have found a sign for a specific scratcher. In AZ I have found 2 on separate scratchers and only works on those tickets. I will also disclaim that what I found worked 75% of the time. I believe the roll had more than one sign so possibly the other one hit a payout large enough to null the other mark. The winning tickets are randomly, at least we are told that, inserted into ticket rolls. The tell I know works in AZ shows an obvious insert of a ticket or few tickets. I believe they have the ticket rolls mass printed then bigger winners are added after the initial run.

  • Jeff
    August 3, 2023 at 6:47 pm

    I cashed in a scratch off ticket that should of paid $ 20. When the clerk scanned the ticket it said it was a $ 500 winner

  • Peggy
    August 18, 2023 at 12:32 pm

    Tracy I work at a gas station and the books are activated before they are put into the dispenser to be sold. The clerks cannot scan the tickets first before they are sold to see if they are winners because if they are winners it prints out a slip and the ticket will now be no good. As far as the marks I haven’t checked that out yet but I’m going to just for fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *