The casting of lots to make decisions and determine fates has a long record in human history, as evidenced by multiple instances in the Bible and the use of lottery-like games for material gains among Roman emperors. The first recorded lottery to distribute prizes in the West took place in 1466 in Bruges, Belgium. But despite the popularity of lotteries and their inextricable link to gambling, there are some things that you should know before you play.

Lottery revenues typically expand dramatically right after they’re introduced, but quickly level off and sometimes even decline—in part because players become bored with the same old games. This explains why state-sponsored lotteries constantly introduce new games to maintain or grow revenues.

Super-sized jackpots drive lottery sales, and are also a great way to get a lot of free publicity on news sites and television. The drawback, of course, is that the jackpots can erode the integrity and prestige of the game, so to keep people playing, lottery officials make it harder for winners to win big.

If you’re serious about winning, choose a smaller game with less numbers, such as a state pick-3. There are fewer combinations, and each combination is more likely to be a winning one than a larger group of numbers. It’s also wise to avoid choosing your birthday or other personal numbers, as they are more likely to repeat than other numbers like months or years. And if you’re going to buy tickets, remember to keep your ticket in a safe place and watch the drawing, even if you’re not sure you’ll be around to see it.