Bad Beat: New Jersey Lottery Pulls ‘High Card Poker’ Game After Just Three Days

[toc]The New Jersey Lottery busted early in its new poker game.

The state lottery indicated recently that it was shutting down its new High Card Poker scratch game — with a million tickets in circulation — just a few days after it hit store shelves. The elimination of the game apparently came because of problems with how the game functioned vs. the actual game of poker.

High Card Poker, we hardly knew ye

Residents of the state of New Jersey are very familiar with the game of poker. After all, you can play it both in poker rooms in Atlantic City and at NJ online gambling sites.

So it’s a natural fit for poker to show up in a lottery game in the Garden State. The game went live on Aug. 7. But the lottery closed it down effective Aug. 10.

Why? According to a statement at the NJ Lottery website, it’s because of “the potential for players to misunderstand the game’s win scenarios as stated on the back of tickets.” Here’s the full statement:

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.

Misunderstanding the poker game? shed some more light on the quick hook given to the poker lottery game. According to that report, more than a million tickets were pulled from stores, and another three million plus were already printed.

The game seems easy enough. In the scratch-off area, the dealer gets a five-card poker hand, and you get eight chances to beat it with five-card hands. Each time the player’s hand would win, he or she gets the associated prize.

According to the lottery, a little more than one ticket out of every five has a winning hand. The top prize was $150,000. Interestingly, California appears to have a similar poker game.

So what was the issue? More from NorthJersey:

But by Thursday there had been confusion over the rules “when a handful of players questioned their win scenario,” lottery spokeswoman Judy Drucker said in an email.


One player, Robert Chalet, told the news site that he thought he had a winning hand with the $150,000 grand prize, but when he went to cash in was told, “You won and you didn’t win.” Chalet, of Bloomfield, had a hand of 5-6-9-J-Q, while the dealer held 4-6-7-10-Q.

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No money in poker, the lottery’s solid

Of course, every poker player knows who wins that hand. While the queens tie, a jack beats out the dealer’s 10. In any poker room on the planet, he would have won. In the lottery game, however, a tie on the high card ended up being a loss.

Apparently, Chalet and some other players ran into similar problems. While the NJ Lottery told state media outlets that the story about Chalet was “inaccurate” but did not not elaborate, it’s not hard to see that this kind of scenario is bad PR at best and dubious lottery management at worst.

It’s not the first controversy for the lottery operator, Northstar New Jersey, which got a $30 million bonus despite an overestimate of a billion dollars of revenue.

About the Author

Dustin Gouker

Aside from his role as editor at, Dustin Gouker writes extensively about the legal online gaming and US online poker industries, having played poker recreationally for his entire adult life. He has also covered sports for The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner, among others.