how do pull tabs work


A pull-tab is a gambling ticket that is sold as a means to play a pull-tab game. The object of the ticket is to open the perforated windows on the back of the ticket and match the symbols inside the ticket to the winning combinations on the front of the ticket. The winning Pull-Tab ticket is turned in for a monetary prize. Other names for it include Break-Opens, Nevada Tickets, Cherry Bells, Lucky 7s, Pickle Cards, Instant Bingo, Bowl Games, or Popp-Opens (Arrow International trademark).

The game manager operates the game by selling tickets and distributing cash prizes. The tickets may also be provided by mechanical pull-tab dispensers. The pull-tab tickets are multi-layered paper tickets containing symbols hidden behind perforated tabs. Several different games may be offered for sale at any one time; each may have different prices and payouts. Pull-tabs are typically sold for 25¢, 50¢, $1, $2 and $5 and have prizes as high as $5,000.

Each ticket has two sides. One side lists the winning combinations of symbols, the cash payout for each combination, the number of tickets that contain each winning combination, and the total number of tickets in the game. This information is also posted in a large printed sheet called a flare.

The other side of the ticket contains the perforated tabs. After purchasing the ticket, the player pulls the perforated tabs to reveal their winnings, if any. Cash prizes may be claimed immediately.

In some states, no pull-tab game may offer a single prize higher than a certain amount and/or may not cost more than a certain amount. For instance, in Pennsylvania, pull tabs cannot cost more than $1 per play, and no single prize can be more than $500.

Pull tab games are quite unique among wagering games in that each game, when new, has a predetermined quantity of tickets/chances, often less than 5,000 total, among which are a predetermined and fixed quantity of winning chances each of which rewards a predetermined prize value.

In 2010, approximately 20 states authorized and or licensed the use of pull tabs. The largest volume state in terms of dollar value sold is and has been for better than 15 years, Minnesota. In Minnesota as well as some other states, pull tabs are offered nightly from vending booths often called jar bars. All of the tickets in a game (called a “deal”) are poured into a transparent container that has attached to it a “flare” or poster that displays all of the winning symbol combinations, the quantity of winning tickets at each reward level, the name of the game, etc. Also attached to the container is a tally sheet that shows a potential player exactly how many of the “major winners” (major winner is one equal to or above 50x the value of the price paid for the chance) remain in that particular game at a given time.

A potential player can see through the transparent box roughly how many chances remain and they can view on the associated tally sheet how many major winners remain at any given time. When several major winners remain among a few chances, players buy as many as they can at a time. When no major winners remain among unsold tickets, the organization takes the game out of play or retires that deal and replaces it with a brand new deal. No other finite-probability based game provides more information to players about the status of the game.

The key attributes that make something a pull tab, electronic or paper, is the finite probability basis of having a predetermined quantity of chances among which there are a predetermined quantity of winners that pay a fixed and predetermined value of prize. Redemption of one losing chance actually does mean one chance closer to a winner. This is not so much the case with slots that operate on near-continuum probability premises. With a slot, each event is a separate activity without bearing on the next outcome and without having been influenced from past events, very different from pull tabs. Finite vs. continuum probability foundations make them different no matter which symbols are used or how those symbols are displayed: rotating, flash sequencing, revolving, etc.

Electronic pull tabs

An electronic pull tab is derived from paper pull tabs. The first electronic pull tab patent appears to have been filed in November 1990, US5042809. The electronic game closely resembled pull tabs in that when new, there are a fixed and preset quantity of chances among which are a fixed quantity of winning chances of a predetermined prize value. Furthermore, it brings the unique features of allowing players to view the quantity of chances for each given prize value in each deal, as well as other pull tab features common to pull tab operations in Minnesota, Virginia, North Dakota and other jurisdictions.

There have been several renditions of electronic pull tabs since 1990. The latest rendition was that authorized in Minnesota in the 2012 legislative session. These devices are available for use by state licensed charitable organizations. This version of an electronic pull tab uses a hand-held device, similar to a tablet computer, with a touch screen interface. All such devices are subject to control and monitoring from a central computer. Each device must have access to one or more finite sets of chances not to exceed a maximum number per set or “deal” as they are called in pull tab lingo. Sizes of the sets are under jurisdictional control and vary between maximums of 7,500 to 25,000. Among the chances are a predetermined quantity of winning and losing chances. Furthermore, the legislature stated that pull tab devices have “no spinning reels or other representations that mimic a video slot machine.” The Minnesota statute states an electronic pull-tab game means a pull-tab game containing “(a) facsimiles of pull-tab tickets that are played on an electronic pull-tab device.” One value of such systems is that they not only are much more secure than paper based systems, but afford an opportunity to present games that fall within pull-tab definitions, yet have an enhanced presentation and are more suited to the desires of an electronically oriented public. Innovative manufacturers of such gaming systems expand the entertainment value of the gaming experience through the introduction of new game presentation styles.

The devices are linked wirelessly to a master computer within the bar or restaurant or to a central computer which controls many sites. In Minnesota control computers are linked to the Minnesota Gambling Control Board, which oversees all of the devices.

Pull-tab A pull-tab is a gambling ticket that is sold as a means to play a pull-tab game . The object of the ticket is to open the perforated windows on the back of the ticket and match the

Pull-tab lottery games overview

What are pull-tab games?

Pull-tab games are a type of lottery game often referred to as break-open tickets. Each ticket contains at least one perforated tab that, when opened, reveals potential winning numbers or symbols. Pull-tab games are also called Lucky 7s, Popp-Opens, Instant Bingo, Break Opens, and Nevada Tickets.

How are pull-tab games played

In their physical form, pull-tabs are multi-layered paper tickets with symbols behind the tabs.

If a winning combination is pulled, the ticket can be exchanged for a cash prize. There are different ticket types, and pull-tabs are generally sold in denominations of $0.25, $0.50, $1, $2, $3, and $5. Potential prizes can be as high as $5,000.

The pull-tabs often display the odds of receiving a payout. However, because there is only a certain quantity of each prize available within the total supply of tickets for a given game, the odds change each time a prize is won.

Naturally, when multiple major prizes are still available with few tickets remaining, people start buying a lot more as the odds are better stacked in their favor. On the other hand, if the major prizes have all been won, the game is usually retired and a new one takes its place.

Probabilities for pull-tab games

The probabilities of scoring a win vary by pull-tab game. As an example, let’s look at the $1 pull-tab game running in Kansas. Here are the number of tickets available for each prize.

Number of tickets Prize
12 $1,000
190 $100
844 $35
1,686 $25
3,335 $15
6,864 $10
20,576 $6
43,298 $5
245,989 $1

The probability of purchasing a ticket that contains any prize is 1 in 4.19.

How much can you win with pull-tab games?

Payouts vary between different pull-tab game. The top prize is usually in the thousands of dollars, with the highest amount around the $5,000 mark.

Where can you play pull-tab games online?

Some online lotteries, such as Michigan’s, feature a “pull tab” section on their website, but it only lists the locations of land-based retailers where a ticket can be purchased. The Georgia lottery website employs a similar approach.

Generally, if online pull-tabs become widespread in the United States, you’ll find them at one of the country’s legal online lotteries:

The current state of the industry

Today, more than 20 states offer pull-tab games.

Some states impose maximum restrictions. In Indiana, for example, the maximum amount that can be charged for a pull-tab ticket is one dollar, and the highest individual prize cannot exceed $599.

In Iowa, tickets are dispensed from secure vending machines located at restaurants and convenience stores. Prizes up to $600 can be redeemed on the spot; anything larger must be claimed at an Iowa lottery office.

In some states where pull-tabs have been particularly successful, such as Minnesota, pull-tab games can be bought 24/7 via vending machines nicknamed as Jar Bars. Every ticket is placed inside a transparent container with a poster detailing the winning combinations and the number of winning tickets available for each prize. Players draw one of the tickets out of the jar and check if they’ve won.

Expert guide to pull-tab lotteries. Learn about the rules, probabilities, prizes, and the largest jackpots in pull tab lottery games.