Scratchies and Pokies

You may have seen our seagull friends talking about the scratchies and pokies on the Know Your Odds’ Facebook page.

The Pokies

You hear a lot in the news about the pokies these days. But how do they actually work?

The pokies, also known as electronic gaming machines, or EGMs, are controlled by computers. A computer randomly selects the symbols that will appear when the ‘reels’ stop spinning. It’s impossible to predict or influence the results of the spin. Nothing the player does can change the outcome. You can read more about this here: How do pokies work?

To understand how pokies work, and why players lose over time, not win, it’s important to understand the House Edge.

The House Edge is a term used to describe the mathematical advantage that the gambling game, and therefore the commercial gambling venue, has over the player, over time. This advantage results in an assured percentage return to the venue over time, and for players an assured percentage loss.

It’s important that people don’t think that they can win, because you can’t win in gambling. You can win for a little while but you can’t win in the long run.”

– Michael Piggot, spokesman for Tabcorp, one of Australia’s largest betting agencies, on the National 9 News, September 2005.

The House Edge assists the gambling provider as a commercial business to cover its costs of providing the game, paying for the staff, maintaining the casino or club etc. It also helps to turn the business a profit.

The House Edge built into a poker machine in Tasmania means that on average around 10% of every bet, that is, every time you press the button, goes back to the venue.

How does it work? In poker machines there is a mechanism called a Random Number Generator. It’s actually a computer and it’s programmed to select the combinations of symbols – at random – when you press the button.

There is a short video, and other information here, to help you understand the House Edge, and the pokies. You can find out about the sorts of misunderstandings that people have about the pokies here

The most important thing to remember about the pokies is that, because of the House Edge, the longer you play, the more you lose.

If you or someone is having some difficulties with gambling, you can access information and support here:  Getting help


Instant Lotteries, commonly known as scratchies, involve revealing numbers or symbols on a ticket by scratching its surface. It’s easy to buy scratchies – but how easy is it to win?

Not very, unfortunately.

The chances of winning and the prize level vary, depending on which game you play.

There is no playing strategy that will increase your chances of winning.  All lottery results are completely random.

The guy in this video thought he might win if he bought 200 scratchies (but he didn’t). He did get a sore arm though.

The odds of winning a big prize are very long. For example, the chance of winning the top prize in a $1 scratchie game in Tasmania is between 1 in 1,000,000 and 1 in 1,500,000!

People sometimes give a scratchie to a friend, or family member as a present. “Wow I could be rich” they might say.  They might also start to get interested in gambling, and eventually develop a problem – like Carlos in this video.

If you or someone is having some difficulties with gambling, you can access information and support here:  Getting help