It's time for the Second TV Tropes Halloween Avatar Contest! Details here
Never Win the Lottery
aka: Lottery Ticket
The Rule of Drama
ensures that nobody will get a legitimate winning lottery ticket and just cash it unless "character wins the lottery" is the core premise of the work (in which case, see Rags to Riches
). Traditionally Status Quo Is God
kicks in and ensures they either lose or something comes up
to make sure they remain in their original financial state.
For example, one character is mistakenly convinced they've won the lottery (or some other big prize, like tickets to a big concert or sporting event) and make an ass of themselves before learning it was a practical joke.
Or, other characters may start lavishing fake love and attention on the lotto winner hoping for a share of the prize, with the exact same humiliating outcome when the ticket turns out to be a loser, or worth far less than previously thought.
In a third and even rarer variant, the ticket will be legit, but will turn out worthless because the characters will spend so much time arguing amongst themselves and not notice the deadline for cashing it in has passed.
See Also: On One Condition
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Hayate the Combat Butler, Hayate enters the lottery, loses his grip on the ticket in the wind. Yukiji gives it back to him because it's just a ticket and he's not likely to win anyways. Later when they realize that they've won a small prize, Yukiji storms the mansion to try and get it back. While they're fighting, Nagi tosses the ticket into the fire, since it's a tiny sum for her, and they're destroying her mansion. Hayate and Yukiji stop fighting and cry over the ashes.
- When the title character of Shinryaku! Ika Musume discovers a lottery ticket worth 100 million yen, Eiko's first response is to rattle off a list of reasons why it's fake. Upon discovering it isn't, she still has difficulty accepting it - particularly the fact that she gave Ika that ticket. The two bicker about it so much that Chizuru burns it to settle things. Or at least she pretends to.
- In the last arc of Monster, a couple wins and wants to cash the ticket but becomes paranoid as other happenings around town suggest something very bad is going to happen. Surprisingly, the two bringing so many guns ends up helping the good guys as they never get the chance to act on their paranoia and are then just happy to be alive by the end.
- Bibbo Bibbowski from Superman comics actually did win the lottery. Although in his case the ticket was one he found on the street. The ticket was lost by Jimmy Olsen, who was going through a Chew Toy phase.
- In a later issue Mr Mxyzptlk made everyone believe they'd won the lottery.
- more than one "The Bash Street Kids" story (in The Beano) used this trope. Regardless of what else happened, they usually followed the same basic plot: Teacher comes into a lot of money, quits his job (usually doing something to anger the headmaster in the process), then he would end up losing all the money (usually because of the Kids, though not always) and end up having to crawl back to the Head and his old job.
- In the first volume of Lucifer, a lottery winner sprays his boss with shaving foam. Little does he know that a supernatural power is granting wishes, and he has to share the cash with 800 other people. Can I have my job back, please?
- Averted in Wally West's early years as The Flash: He did win the lottery, and spent the money foolishly. (E.g., the fastest man alive bought an Italian sports car.) Poor planning and an economic downturn caused him to lose the money not too much later.
- Comes up once or twice for The Three Stooges.
- 'The Brideless Groom', the favourite of the public domain reprint crowd, features Shemp about to win a large inheritance if he's married. After finding a bride, the ones who rejected him turn up for a brawl.
- Another featured Curly winning a drawing, and the three moving into a ritzy hotel. A Gold Digger or three try to bilk him for all he has. Thne he sees the winnings. After, of course, the natural result of having the Three Stooges in a ritzy hotel room.
- In Bruce Almighty Bruce answers "Yes" to all the prayers in an attempt to get them to shut up and leave him alone. This includes everyone praying to win the lottery. Result? 400,000 lottery winners, each getting about $17. Oops.
- The movie The Lottery Ticket is built on this trope.
- Preston Sturges' Christmas in July involves a guy whose coworkers prank him by sending a telegram congratulating him for "winning" $25,000 in a commercial slogan writing contest he's entered...which fools not only him but also the owner of the coffee company sponsoring the contest, who's unaware that the judging committee is still deliberating. In a twist, however, the movie ends with him winning the contest for real.
- The title story of the short story collection Yuck!, by Joe Schrantz, features a woman swallowing a multi-million-dollar winning lottery ticket after a fight with her husband over what to do with the money; the ticket is later recovered from her feces, but is swallowed again by somebody else, which can't be very healthy.
- Requiem for a Dream uses a very dark variant. The protagonist's mother receives a prank call telling her that she's been chosen to be on a TV gameshow. She starts taking and becomes addicted to diet pills to get into shape, which turn out to be uppers. In combination with her isolation, she goes completely off the rails and ends up a shadow of her former self; enough to reduce her old friends to tears.
- One of the Sweet Valley High books has Winston winning the lottery when he mixes up his jacket with a man he met at the convenience store. Jessica and Lila start lavishing Winston with attention. Elizabeth realizes that the jacket does not belong to Winston and convinces him to give the jacket and the ticket back to the old man. Funny how she didn't point out that Winston is 16 and is ineligible to win the lottery, much less buy a ticket.
- The premise of the book One In A Million. The main character wins the lottery, but before she gets a chance to tell her husband, he announces that he is leaving her for another woman.
- In the Calendar Mysteries book January Joker, Nate says he sent postcards to Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose saying they had won a million dollars in a contest. The three kids seek revenge by creating a Scooby-Doo Hoax.
- In the backstory of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the Weasleys won a modest lottery. This doesn't immediately give them bad luck, but it does give Sirius Black impetus to escape Azkaban and make his way to Hogwarts, as the newspaper article had a picture of the family, including their pet rat Scabbers, whom Black recognized as his treacherous former friend.
Live Action TV
- Spanish show Aquí no hay quien viva had a an episode in which a lottery ticket, won by the whole building, (a Christmas tradition) won the (third) price. The community president's wife attempts to convince her husband to keep the money, and Hilarity Ensues. One of the rare examples where the ticket is legit and it does get chashed.
- NUMB3RS had an episode that dealt with people using math to predict the appearance of winning scratchcards (due to a printing error, one batch of cards were not randomized properly and yielded a much higher likely hood of winning).
- Are You Being Served?, the episode "Goodbye Mr Grainger". Old Mr Grainger resigns after a bad depression, but the depression lifts when he discovers that he won a First Drawing tin the football pools. He buys the entire staff farewell gifts, and they discover that he didn't win anything. So they just club the money together that the gifts cost, tell him he just won that much, and manage to intercept his resignation before the Boss reads it.
- The Connor family in Roseanne actually did win the lottery during the final season (at least, until we find out that it, and much that came before it, was All Just a Dream). Commonly considered to be the show's Jump the Shark moment.
- Hey Dude: Someone with money wants to invest in the dude ranch; it turns out to be Ted, who left the show last season and has won the lottery in the meantime. He spends most of the episode waving his money around, before the lottery commission finds out at the end that he's under 18, and thus, ineligible.
- In an episode of Kenan & Kel, Kel wins the the Illinois Lottery and $64 million. The ticket is legit, and all arguing is avoided when Kel generously agrees to split the money down the middle with his best friend Kenan. Just before Kenan and Kel head out to cash the ticket, a customer enters the grocery store where Kenan works and insists to be served. In their haste to fill the woman's grocery bags, the duo accidentally places the lottery ticket in the woman's grocery bag, and Hilarity Ensues as they try to get it back from her house. They fail.
- An alternate take on this was featured in an episode of Sabrina The Teenage Witch: Sabrina is allowed access to a crystal ball that can answer any question. Her first question was, oddly enough, "What if Kenan and Kel won the lottery?". We then see a short segment of the two losing the ticket and coming to the conclusion that is was inside a sandwich that Kel just took a bite out of.
- They also had another episode in which they made Chris think he won the lottery as an April Fools joke.
- Inverted in LOST: Hurley, having won a very large pot in the lottery, quits his McJob after his boss mistreats him, and his friend and co-worker Johnny - not aware of the lottery win - quits as well in a gesture of solidarity. Hurley's inability to come clean to Johnny about his newly-acquired riches has more to do with the ruin of their friendship than the riches themselves.
- The Ur-example is probably the classic episode of I Love Lucy where they win a lottery prize, but Lucy leaves the ticket in the clothes that go to the laundry. After they pay off the traffic tickets and everything else, they have nothing to show for their efforts.. except what happened to Lucy while chasing the clothing on a conveyor belt...
- It wasn't a lottery ticket but rather a $1 bill with a serial number selected for a special cash prize.
- On Suddenly Susan, Todd tricks Vicki into thinking she has won the lottery. She quits The Gate after telling everyone in the office what she really thinks of them, and must beg for forgiveness when she learns of the ruse.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - As an act of revenge, Will and Carlton tricks Geoffrey into thinking that he had won the lottery. This leads to Geoffrey leaving as the family's butler, insulting them when he announced his departure. After Phil finds out what had happened, he forces Will and Carlton to convince Geoffrey to return, which he does after Will and Carlton humiliate him during his new job as a waiter.
- Subverted in the pilot of My Name Is Earl- Earl gets a scratchie ticket worth a considerable amount of money (not in the millions, but it may as well be to him), but loses it- part of the chain of events that cause him to discover Karma, and he eventually gets the ticket back and cashes it in.
- Later in the series, Earl gives all of his winnings to the person he believes should have had the ticket - making Earl practically penniless. Randy tries to help Earl by buying another scratch card, but just as they think they're about to win another quarter of a million, they find it is a joke ticket.
- Corner Gas has a variant where Hank actually wins, but only $490. Being Hank, he makes an ass of himself anyway.
- One of Ed's cases involved coworkers who played a practical joke on a co-worker by using a year old lottery TV drawing tape to make him think he had the winning ticket. Unfortunatly before they could tell him it was a joke he told the boss off and quit his job.
- Meet The Browns The Colonel borrows a dollar from Brown (who borrowed it from Cora) and purchases a lottery ticket. It's a $100,000 winner. Brown and Cora want half of the money and soon, they are fighting with The Colonel and his fiancee Edna. Hilarity Ensues. At the end, The Colonel and Edna decide to give Brown and Cora half of the money. The Colonel's winnings were a mere $500. Edna explains that he had to split the jackpot with 199 other people who also had the winning numbers. Brown and Cora's half came to $250. They didn't take the money.
- The Wayans Bros.: Marlon wins a trip to the Caribbean. At first, the family is excited because they want to escape the brutal winter that New York is having. Marlon then finds out that the trip is only for two people. This causes the family to shower him with gifts and (obviously) fake love and attention in the hopes of going with him, while they undermine each other. In the end, Marlon gets tired of the attention and decides that being with his family in the cold is more important and gives the trip to Dee because she didn't treat him differently. Of course, the rest of the family now tries to gain Dee's favor, which she relishes.
- On Martin, he and Gina win the lottery and buy all sorts of extravagant things before collecting any of the money. But while they did legitimately win, so did about 300 other people in the largest tie in Michigan Lottery history. Martin and Gina only got a couple thousand out of the whole thing, which wasn't even enough to pay off the things they bought on credit, leaving them a grand in debt.
- The revival of WKRP in Cincinnati did a similar episode; Les even announced the multiple winners story on his newscast, but who ever listens to Les?
- Another WKRP example: A record rep buys Irish Lottery tickets for the staff, with Johnny & Venus handing them out. Later they look up the numbers and they think that Herb's ticket won $1,000, but he can't find the ticket or even remember that they gave it to him. It turns out that he gave it to a client, who is no longer a client because Herb's drinking made him foreget all about making the ads that he had promised the client.
- In the Doctor Who episode "School Reunion", the Doctor made a teacher win the lottery in order to investigate a school where the staff members were suddenly replaced.
- In "A Christmas Carol", the Doctor made Kazran's staff win the lottery, even though Sardicktown never had a lottery.
- A winning lottery ticket was the Doctor's wedding present to Donna in The End of Time (one he bought with a bit of cash he borrowed from her deceased dad the day before he died).
- In "Rose", Rose was delivering money for lottery tickets to one of her shop's chief electrical officer, but some Autons got in the way of that.
- In one episode of El Chavo del ocho, Professor Girafales believed to have won the lottery but Chavo explained that the tickets he bought were good for the day after tomorrow's drawing.
- In an episode of Friends, the characters buy a large number of tickets for a big lottery - and nearly come to blows over what they'd do if they won. In the end, it turns out that not only did none of them win, but despite Rachel's belief that "Somebody has to win," there actually was no big winner. But there was a $10000 win on a ticket they'd lost outside earlier in the episode.
- An early episode of The Steve Harvey Show has Bullethead winning a pair of Chicago Bulls tickets. Sophia, Sara, and Romeo pay a lot of attention to him and treat him nice in the hopes of going to the game with him. In the end, Bullethead chooses to take Steve to the game because Steve didn't treat him differently.
- An episode of Due South had Ray Vecchio and his sister Frannie arguing over a winning lottery ticket, with each claiming it was his or her money that actually bought the ticket (they had each put in $5). In the end no one got the money because the ticket was ruined by chickens pecking at it.
- An episode of Tv Colosso featured Capachão winning the lottery. Several people tried to win his favor until mathematician Ossaldo de Souza announced that each one of the several winners would get only $ 1.50.
- Gilligan's Island: Gilligan has what everyone thinks is a grand prize winning Irish Lottery ticket, so the Howells invite him to join their "country club" (where he used to be a waiter). But it ends up it's an oudated ticket from the previous year.
- Early Edition: Gary uses his "tomorrow's paper today" to buy a winning Lotto ticket because a corrupt official has been gaming the system so nobody would win; if Gary hadn't gotten the winning ticket, the rollover money would have gone into a slush fund. Gary anonymously gives the winning ticket to an orphanage in need of money to stay open.
- A sketch on The Tracy Ullman Show was about a pair of waitresses at a greasy spoon who always buy a set of tickets together, promising to share the winnings. Then when one of their tickets hits the grand prize, the purchasing waitress claims that she had bought an extra ticket with her own money so the other waitress doesn't get any.
- An episode of Good Luck Charlie has Gabe pulling a prank on his father with a fake lottery scratchcard. He doesn't allow for Bob immediately telling Amy, though. After being told off by her boss for slacking, Amy gets herself fired. Gabe is of course horrified and pleads with the boss for her to forget about it, but she laughs in his face. Gabe accidentally-on-purpose drops another fake ticket in front of her, she claims it, immediately acts in a similar way as Amy, gets herself fired, and Status Quo Is God again.
- On Just Shoot Me!, Jack has Dennis play his lotto numbers every day, and on the one day Jack wins, Dennis neglects to buy a ticket and tries to cover it up with a Zany Scheme.
- In Happy Endings, the gang trick Max into thinking he won the lottery to get back on all the pranks he had played on them. When he finds out, Max swears revenge on all of them.
- Averted in The Office (US) when the entire warehouse staff wins the lottery and quits their jobs. Played straight with Darryl, who would have been in their lotto pool had he still been working in the warehouse and not been promoted to an office job.
- Cold Case has a depressing variant. A humble garage mechanic named Ed wins big in the lottery. He's eventually murdered by his own family, who are in financial distress, and hope Ed's lotto money will pass to them when his estate is dissolved. Turns out Ed managed to spend the entire $8 million in just six months, and they end up with nothing.
- An episode of 227 has Mary scolding Rose and Pearl about wasting their money on buying lottery tickets, only to find that Mary herself bought a ticket, using their numbers. Pearl and Rose are rightfully upset, and Mary offers to split the winnings. Mary wins the lottery, but so did everyone in the building and over 13,000 others in the Washington, DC area! In the end, Mary's winnings were $266 and after splitting it with Rose and Pearl, only pocketed $88.67.
- In an episode of Life we meet a support group for lottery winners; they've all lost all their friends because of the wealth they've gotten.
- On Mama's Family, Iola buys a lottery ticket and takes Mama's suggestion of using the birthdays of Mama's children for the number. When the ticket wins, a huge argument ensues about who it actually belongs to, until they finally decide to split the winnings. When Mama goes on the show to spin the wheel to determine the prize, the ball lands in the $2 million dollar space, and they all begin celebrating—but then the ball moves a few more spaces, meaning they win a paltry $200.
- Zig-zagged throughout In the Heights. It is discovered that somebody in the neighborhood actually did win the lottery, although Usnavi is quick to point out that the prize of $96,000 is considerable but not enough to retire and live in luxury. Then the trope is played straight when the winner, Abuela Claudia, dies before she can make use of the money. Then it's subverted again, since Usnavi and Sonny actually do get to keep their shares of the lottery winnings.
- Poor Glen Elg of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations. He wins the lottery. The ticket isn't fake, it's not a prank, he's won big... and then he gets killed. The loan shark he owed $100,000 was desperate to get a valuable computer virus from him, and if Elg had collected on the ticket, he wouldn't have had to give it up.
- Subverted in the webcomic PvP, when Robbie wins the lottery and quits his job. Everyone on staff expects him to lose his fortune and come crawling back, but he doesn't. Apart from buying a mansion (and keeping all his stuff in one room, since there's no reason to furnish the other rooms) and hiring a butler, he doesn't spend a dime. Instead, he invests the money wisely and even starts a brewery.
- Calamities of Nature points out that you're just as well off throwing that money away as buying a lottery ticket.
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force, "Super Bowl": Both Carl and Shake are suddenly very nice to Meatwad when he wins two tickets to the Super Bowl in the hopes he'll give the other ticket to one of them. Naturally, neither succeed as Meatwad decides to take Boxy Brown instead. And it turns out Meatwad didn't even go to the game; he got confused and went to a farm instead.
- Rocko's Modern Life, "With Friends Like These": Rocko accidentally wins two tickets to a big wrestling match, and Heffer and Filburt drive him up the wall trying to curry his favor so he'll take one of them. When the day of the match arrives, the two have handcuffed themselves to Rocko and literally dragged him to the stadium where they intend to force him to pick one of them to share with. Instead, Rocko finally snaps, tears the tickets into tiny pieces, and tosses them into the air declaring "Tickets for everyone!". In a bitter irony, Rocko doesn't even like wrestling and probably would have given up both tickets if they'd just asked nicely.
- Done several times on Stroker and Hoop. Here, though, the money Stroker wins is real each time, he just loses it at the end of the episode due to bad luck. He even remarks in one episode, "I have a disturbing trend of not getting paid for doing my job."
- Becky wins big in a lottery in the TaleSpin episode "Your Baloo's in the Mail", but Baloo puts it in jeopardy when he botches cashing it in, as he spends most of the money for the postage on hot dogs and the only service he could afford would arrive long after the deadline.
- In Courage the Cowardly Dog, Eustace won the lottery but because of an earlier robbery from the bank holding the prize money (Done by himself and Muriel while being brainwashed), he only earned 17 cents.
- In one episode of the animated Mother Goose and Grimm, Mother Goose's lottery ticket (the number being 5498666246838409804441989859893259) is announced as a winner. Unfortunately Grimmy ate the ticket, so throughout the episode Mother Goose and Hamm tries to get it out of him, while Dracula (who now works at a grocery store Mother Goose got the ticket from) tries to steal it from them so he can leave the store behind and move back to Transylvania. In the end, when the characters decided to simply give up, it was announced on TV that Mother Goose's number was a mistake and the correct winning number is simply 3, which is the number Hamm had. Unfortunately Hamm gave the ticket to Igor, Dracula's assistant.
- Donald Duck wins a new car in a radio raffle drawing, but due to an error in announcing the winning number, he had thrown his ticket away thinking it was a loser. His nephews hear the correction, realize he's won, and cash the ticket in secret to surprise him. When they show up with the new car, Donald thinks it's a prank and unknowingly destroys his own winnings in a rage.
- In one episode of Garfield and Friends, Garfield buys a lottery ticket and wins ten million dollars. He and Jon then move into a mansion and Jon even gave an interview. However, when Jon falsely claimed during the interview that he was the one to buy the ticket, an enraged Garfield appeared to make it clear who bought it. Unfortunately, the lotto announcer showed up soon after to inform that, since Garfield is legally too young to buy lottery tickets, he and Jon have to give the ten million dollars to the next winner, who happens to be the very same reporter who was interviewing Jon.
- In The Garfield Show episode "Ticket to Riches", Jon believed to have won 54 million dollars and started a spending spree before even collecting the money. he bought a pizza parlor, a mansion, seven cars (one for each day of the week) and tailor-made suits. He even quit his job. Soon after donating his old clothes to charity, he figured out he forgot the ticket in one of them. They (Jon, Garfield and Odie) fail to rescue them on time but fortunately the ticket was in a pair of pants he didn't donate. Unfortunately, when Jon finally tried to claim the money, he is told that the number "3" at the end of his ticket was actually an "8" covered by some sauce and he won nothing.
- Another episode features a computerized mailman program delivering Jon's mail so that the real mailman will no longer be pestered by Garfield. However, due to an accident, the program ends up delivering mail from the next day, including the newspaper. Jon takes advantage of this by using the knowledge of the winning lottery numbers to amass a fortune. However, he loses everything when a crooked investor steals his money and the cyber mailman machine explodes.
- The Jetsons, "Jetson's Millions": Mr. Spacely goaded George Jetson into buying Venusian lottery tickets. One of them became the winning one, earning George ten million (of the Venusian currency), which equaled US$ 7.5 million. Needing a million dollars to save his company from a hostile takeover by a Venusian conglomerate, Mr. Spacely offered George the Vice-President post for it, but before George could convert his prize into American money, a collapse of the Venusian economy rendered the prize worthless and making the Venusian conglomerate bankrupt, thus restoring the status quo.
- Wheel Squad: In one episode, the neighborhood believed they won the lottery but learned their bet wasn't placed on time for that drawing.
- One of the old Popeye cartoons featured Olive Oyl winning a sweepstake. When she told Popeye about it, he imagined themselves living a wealthy lifestyle until she told him she lost the ticket. After all the trouble Popeye went through to recover it, he learned the prize was a pet bird.
- Combo Ninos: In one episode, Diadoro and Gomez released a Divino who manipulates luck. Among the several good fortunes she brought Diadoro, she caused a gust of wind that brought him a winning lottery ticket. When she was defeated, Diadoro's limousine caught fire, burning whatever lottery money he didn't spend.
- The Simpsons:
- When Santa's Little Helper gets sick and needs an operation, one of the ways Marge cuts back in order to afford it is to stop buying into the lottery ticket pool with her women's group. Then her lottery number gets chosen for a big prize.
- In another episode Homer goes to buy a ticket instead of appearing at a wedding reception with Marge, for which they practiced a song. He claims he was in an auto accident to cover, but when he wins the jackpot he has to pretend to "find" stuff he buys for the family.
- In yet another episode Homer finds a winning scratcher ticket at the Kwik-E-Mart while Apu is asleep on duty, but he only has enough money for the ticket or the candy he also wants to buy. He disappointedly opts for the candy.
- In one episode of Family Guy, Peter, upon hearing of the lottery prize being $150 million dollars, decides to buy thousands of tickets (by putting up a second mortgage for the house), with one of them being the winning ticket. The Griffins then go through what every person who gains vast amounts of money does: act like snobs, mistreat friends, and buy outrageous things. In the end, they go through all their money and wind up broke and homeless. Peter then suggests that their only hope is the lottery again, only for the same thing to happen again. Fortunately, when Peter repairs his friendship with his buddies, they give him the money to buy back his old house.
- Downplayed in Code Lyoko. Ulrich Stern rigs a lottery ticket through a Return To The Past so Yumi's parents could afford to stay in France, but since he used the Applied Phlebotinum without talking to his friends about it, he's kicked out of the group, and Yumi's parents give him the ticket back. At the end of the episode, he donates the money to a charity for humanitarian work in Africa.
- Shortly after the UK National Lottery was introduced, a man killed himself because he had failed to buy a ticket and believed that his usual numbers would have won him the jackpot if he had done so. Upon investigation, it was revealed that he would only have won about £60 if he had played. There are probably similar (real and apocryphal) stories for every major lottery in the world.
- During the 2013 Powerball and Mega Millions record breaking jackpots, TV reporters kept mentioning statistics put out by the lotteries that millions of smaller prizes go unclaimed because people don't check their tickets after hearing there was no top winner.