What is El Gordo and how is it different?

While the tradition of the lottery hails all the way back to 1812, the organization currently in charge is slightly younger, first beginning operating in 1860. What is now known as elGordo.com first took to the online market in 1996. The lottery has since become equally popular online as it is in the brick-and-mortar shops of Spain.

Every draw generates ticket sales in the billions of euros and all of this is because El Gordo is able to instantly set itself apart from other more traditional lotteries. While your more standard lotteries with massive prizes are certainly appealing and usually have a couple of draws a week, El Gordo is special due to it being a once-a-year event that is tied to Christmas. The structure of it also works to hand out prizes to more people, rather than bigger prizes to a random lucky few.

All of this, however, comes with some caveats that would-be participants need to be aware of. Ticket prices are abnormally high at €200 a ticket – although these can be divided into €20 stubs. Winnings also come with a tax attached by the Spanish government. The good news is that it is totally legal for foreigners to participate, as the activity is fully regulated.

How to play – El Gordo rules

Learning how to play El Gordo, like any other lottery game, is incredibly easy. It’s not like you have to skip a year, just to spectate and get comfortable with the rules or anything like that, so don’t worry about missing out. In fact, everything is made easier here, as tickets and prizes are predetermined. That means that tickets are printed out with prizes attached to them without the need for participants to pick any numbers. Instead, 5-digit numbers are printed out on each ticket, ranging from 00000 to 99999. The actual tickets themselves are priced at a rather steep €200, but stubs are also sold at a price of €20. The latter brings in 10% of any prize associated with the original ticket. 

So, there really isn’t much you need to do to play apart from deciding on how much you are willing to spend on tickets. Everything else is done for you with the big event concluding in a spectacular affair on 22 December each year – this is when the draw occurs for the winning five-digit combination to be attributed with the El Gordo payout. Speaking of which…


Naturally, the most important El Gordo rules for most are regarding the payouts. This is also what makes this lottery special, as the prize pools easily reach into the billions of euros every draw. The top prize is €4,000,000. This doesn’t come close to the likes of the Powerball or Mega Millions in the United States, for example. However, as mentioned above, the structure of tickets works a bit differently here. As you are not choosing numbers and tickets are instead predefined, payouts are, therefore, also predefined. 

The odds of you winning the top prize are much higher than at the other aforementioned lotteries, but more on that in the section below. There are 17 different prize categories, starting at €200 for a full ticket consolation prize and going up to the jackpot amount. The second prize is €1,250,000, while the third is €500,000. The €200 and €1,000 payouts are the most common payouts on the roster, the number of which depends on how many tickets were bought. A prize like €1,000 coinciding with Christmas can be the perfect way for many to close out the year.

El Gordo strategies and other helpful tips

Here are some tips that can help you form a better El Gordo strategy. Keep in mind, though, that just like any other lottery game, there is no perfect strategy and drawing correlations between different draws doesn’t provide any guarantees towards future draws. Methods and plans should be considered more advice for picking numbers, rather than paths to assured payouts. Regardless, as this lottery functions on predefined tickets, most lottery strategies and guides will not apply here.

GoodLuckMate’s best tips for playing El Gordo:

  • The more tickets or stubs that you buy, the better your chances BUT…
  • Stick to a budget that you plan out before committing a cent
  • Form or join a syndicate to purchase more tickets as a group
  • Remember the “décimo” tickets, which are the one-tenth stubs that can be purchased for €20 at local Spanish outlets or online
  • Double-check the taxation regulations of your country and keep in mind that taxes will also be applied by the Spanish government for any winnings received from this lottery

House edge – what are your chances of winning?

The chances of winning El Gordo’s top prize are 1 in 100,000. That works out at a fairly low 0.001%. However, compared to other lotteries such as the chances of winning the top prize of EuroMillions at 1 in 139,838,160 or 0.00000072%, for example, it’s really not all that bad!

We’ll try not to go too deep into things, but certain mechanics need to be explained before the odds start making any sense. The five-digit combination of numbers that the tickets are printed will only allow for 100,000 different tickets before combinations start to duplicate. That’s why tickets are printed in bundles of 100,000, where prizes are then distributed between these tickets in an organized manner. As such, the top prize of €4,000,000 occurs once in each of these bundles, bringing the odds of it happening to one in 100,000. 

The smallest possible prize of €200 for a full ticket can occur 9,999 times in each of these bundles of 100,000. The most likely payout is a rather nice prize of €1,000, which can be awarded in a variety of ways, the most common being the La Pedrea combination, which is 6th place and can occur 1,794 times in every bundle. So, while the top payout of €4,000,000 may seem minuscule compared to a EuroMillions prize, keep in mind that the odds of winning the top prize of the EuroMillions are 1 in 139,838,160, compared to El Gordo’s 1 in 100,000.

Play El Gordo at online casinos

While you may find coinciding promotions occurring, there isn’t much in the way of any El Gordo casino available currently. It is operated by the Spanish Lotería Nacional, which is the country’s primary lottery authority. These organizations tend to be much more hesitant to work together with online casinos to provide ticket sales and other online gambling ventures. That isn’t to say it’s not possible, as other lottery organizations have made forays into the online casino market. 

Most lottery authorities will tend to stick to a select few resellers, being able to draw enough participants on their prestige alone. There is also the elGordo.com website that enables players to buy various different euro prize lotteries. Online gambling is regulated in Spain, but the government remains very proactive in its restrictive approach. Therefore, it doesn’t seem likely there will be much room for partnerships to freely form between different online gambling organizations under the current mandate.

Live dealer games vs RNG games

Whether you are a Spanish citizen or an enthused lottery player from abroad, there are various sites that allow you to play El Gordo online. Keep in mind that resellers can charge a service fee to keep them operating, but apart from that, you can access for free El Gordo online. You can also check out a whole host of a live dealer and RNG lottery games at numerous online casinos accessible from almost anywhere in the world. Live dealer games bring the action directly to you via a live-stream hosted by professional dealers and croupiers in real-time. RNG games instead employ algorithms to create truly random results, allowing players to pit themselves against the computer. Whatever takes your preference, be sure to check out our casino reviews and other game guides to give you a full picture of all the amazing online casino activities and offers available to you.

Nerijus Grenda
Nerijus Grenda
Last Update: 13 Mar 2023
Nerijus Grenda is a prolific contributor to the GoodLuckMate site. With a deep understanding of the online casino industry, gained from his own experience as an avid player, he offers valuable insights on what sets the best casinos apart from the rest. As a writer, Nerijus shares his expertise through expert analysis and thoughtful commentary on various topics related to online gambling, including casino reviews, game guides and industry trends.

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