A lottery is a game of chance in which the participants pay a small amount of money for the right to win a prize based on a random selection. Lotteries are typically state-run games, but they can also be private or community-based. They do not require any special skills or knowledge, and they are governed by laws designed to ensure that each participant has a fair chance of winning. Some people believe that finding true love, getting struck by lightning, or being hit by a car are more likely than winning the lottery.

A key element of all lotteries is the drawing, a procedure for selecting winners from a pool or collection of tickets or counterfoils. Usually, the tickets are thoroughly mixed by some mechanical means (such as shaking or tossing) before being drawn. A computer is often used to record the names of the bettors and the numbers or symbols selected, and to generate random combinations.

Buying a ticket in a lottery may represent a rational choice for an individual if the expected utility of the monetary prize exceeds the disutility of the monetary loss. This is particularly true if the lottery offers large prizes, as many potential bettors are attracted to the prospect of becoming rich overnight.

In addition to choosing their desired numbers, many lottery players mark a box or section on a playslip that indicates they agree to let the computer randomly pick their numbers for them. This option is popular with those who are not experienced or confident enough to select their own numbers.