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After two years of being unemployed and living on substantially less money, I started playing the California lotto scratchers. No surprise there. The older I get the more I become like my father. He’s been playing the scratchers for years. I started playing during the holidays when the new Happy Holidays! scratchers came out. The key to being successful at playing scratchers is to start when a new game comes out. The prizes become less frequent the longer the game is out. The most I had won at one time was $20. I’m always hoping to win a pair of $500 winners to pay off the rent.
Sometimes I get a lucky streak that allows me to play multiple scratchers. I played $5 at FoodMaxx to win $1 back. Go over to CVS to play that $1 to win $5 back. Go over to Safeway to play that $5 to win back $2. (The scratcher vending machines are very much like slot machines: the longer you play the same machine, the less likely you will win.) Several times I had visited a store per day for a week before I stop winning, going through 18 scratchers from the initial $5 and entering the 14 losing scratchers into the replay website for a second chance $1,000 drawing.
I have entered 200+ scratchers over the last four months into the replay website. One-third were mine, one-third comes from my father, and one-third were found discarded in the parking lot. Being the computer guru in the family, it wasn’t surprising that I would enter my losing scratchers into the website. My father, who knows enough about computers to routinely get a virus infection after looking at some naughty bits on the Internet, gave me his losing scratchers to enter. I’m surprised by how many people discarded their losing scratchers out in the parking lot. Sometimes I find only a torn half of a scratcher that has the two control numbers needed to enter. A quick walkthrough of the parking lot usually turns up a half-dozen scratchers.
My father gave me one poker game scratcher that the replay website rejected because I either entered the numbers wrong or it was a winning scratcher. The numbers were correct but I couldn’t figure out why the scratcher was a winner. The hand to beat had three Jacks. There were two hands out of the half-dozen hands that each had a pair of pairs. Could the hand with a pair of Kings and Queens beat the winning hand of three Jacks? If so, that was a $25 winner.
I wasn’t sure since I’m a blackjack player. (My first dog—a black-and-white boxer— was named Blackjack, and, if I ever get an English bulldog, I’ll named her Blackjack as well.) The diagram on the back of the scratcher didn’t help. A Google search revealed that a pair of pairs could beat three of a kind under Texas Hold ‘Em rules. No where on the scratcher or the website does it say what poker rules were being used. It would be a scandal if the California lottery commission was using the rules from a Texas poker game. (Texas ain’t too popular in this part of the country since Enron’s Jeff Skilling cracked a Titanic joke about California during the 2001 energy crisis.) My father insisted that the scratcher was playing by regular poker rules and wasn’t a winner.
I took the card down to the store to find out that the winning hand was a straight flush (five cards of the same suit in numerical order). The winning prize was a free ticket (a $3 value).
I didn’t win the replay drawing at the end of December. The next replay drawing will be at the end of March. Scratchers from four older games will be having an end-of-game drawing in April. I’m still finding discarded scratchers out in the parking lot. My luck is still holding out that I’m winning more money than I’m losing. Maybe one of these days my rent will be paid from my winnings.