Rules Confusion Causes New Jersey Lottery to End Poker Scratch-Off Game After Three Days
What was your biggest recent disappointment? No, I’m not really talking about when your kid called you to announce that they were going to use your $40,000-per-year check to major in “Liberal Arts.” I’m talking about a real disappointment, one where your hopes were sky high (I mean, come on, you knew deep down that your kid was a bit of a flake). Well, be glad that you aren’t Robert Chalet of Bloomfield, New Jersey.
Earlier this month, Chalet purchased a five dollar scratch-off lottery ticket for a brand new game called “High Card Poker,” which debuted August 7th. It is one of umpteen variations of a typical scratch-off ticket, obviously with a poker theme. The player scratches off the five cards that make up the dealer’s hand, then scratches to reveal the eight hands that belong to the player. If any of the player’s hands beat the dealer’s hand, the player wins the prize listed next to that hand.
There is also a “bonus chip,” which multiplies the prize by whatever number is shown, as well as two “fast $50” chips, which instantly award $50 if either of them reads “50.”
So, simple enough. Beat the dealer’s hand, win a prize.
Prizes ranged from $5 to $150,000. A total of 4,368,360 tickets were printed and the New Jersey lottery allocated approximately 65 percent of the gross receipts to the prizes. Chances of winning any sort of prize were better than one in five.
Chalet bought his ticket and when he scratched off the dealer’s hand, he saw that he had to beat Q-T-7-6-4. Upon uncovering his eight hands, he saw that one of them was Q-J-9-6-5, which, as just about anyone reading this site would know, beat the dealer’s Q-T-7-6-5 because while both were queen-high, the kicker – the second highest card – was better in Chalet’s hand.
The prize corresponding to that hand: one of the three $150,000 jackpots available state-wide. Robert Chalet had just hit the big one.
Obviously thrilled when he saw his good fortune, Chalet had to have been crushed when he went to collect his winnings only to be told that he had not, in fact, won enough to pay off the rest of my mortgage. Though Chalet’s poker hand clearly beat the dealer’s in a normal game of poker, this wasn’t a normal game of poker. It was a scratch-off lottery ticket.
The game’s rules state that if no pair or better is made, the player’s highest card must be higher than all of the other cards in the dealer’s hand. Thus, kickers don’t play. Chalet would have needed a king-high or ace-high to beat the dealer’s queen-high. In this case, they tied.
Chalet did have one other, actual winning hand, but it was only for $10, not any sort of consolation prize at all.
As a result of this mixup and a few other players questioning the rules, the New Jersey lottery decided to end the game on August 10th, just three days after the game started, pulling all unpurchased tickets from circulation. Any winning tickets that had already been bought will be honored.
In a statement, the lottery said, “Given the inconsistency between the actual game rules and win scenarios and traditional poker rules, and in order to avoid any further player confusion based on this inconsistency, New Jersey Lottery discontinued the sale of the High Card Poker instant game on Aug. 10.”
A longer statement iis displayed on the High Card Poker page on its website (the game is still listed as “active”):
Effective August 10, 2017, the New Jersey Lottery is immediately suspending the sale of High Card Poker, Game #01436, due to the potential for players to misunderstand the game’s win scenarios as stated on the back of tickets. High Card Poker, which went on sale on Aug. 7, should be considered a void game, effective August 10, 2017, according to Lottery Rules and Regulations, as well as the General Rules Governing Instant Games. Lottery retailers are removing High Card Poker tickets from their inventory and no additional tickets will be distributed. All winning tickets already in circulation will be honored. Retailers may continue to validate tickets they have sold and should follow normal cashing procedures for prizes less than $600 and assist players with claims over $600 in submitting their claim form to the Lottery. For further information please contact the New Jersey Lottery at 1-800-222-0996.
As Chalet’s ticket was not a $150,000 winner, nobody had won one of the three grand prizes before the game was halted. The lottery told NJ.com that nobody had won any of the 60 available $2,500 prizes, either, but the game’s web page shows that one of those prizes had been won.