El Gordo – Getting Ready For “The Big One”
El Gordo is Coming Soon
It is an annual lottery event that captures the imagination of an entire country.
El Gordo is unique because of its history, its grandeur, and even in how the draw itself is carried out.
There is no other lottery in the world like it.
In Spanish, it is officially known as Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad – which translates to “The Spanish Christmas Lottery.”
Among lottery enthusiasts, it is often referred to as El Gordo – which translates to “the fat one” or “the big one.”
This year’s draw will take place on December the 22 and a prize pool of over €2.3 Billion will be awarded!
It is truly a celebration and an event not to be missed.
My first encounter with the El Gordo draw was in the inflight magazine on a British Airways flight about 15 years ago. Tickets were being made available to international players for purchase through the mail. This was really one of my first introductions to playing International lottery games.
At the time, I’d always been confined to playing only lottery games available to me locally. A draw taking place in Spain was the furthest thing from my radar. The lottery described to me on those magazine pages was like nothing I’d ever seen or heard of before.
El Gordo is a draw steeped in tradition. It is actually the second longest continuously running lottery in the world, having been organized every year since 1812! It has survived wars and regime changes.
I was captivated by how this lottery draw was interwoven within the fabric of Spanish culture itself.
I read about the draw itself taking hours to complete with the winning numbers being announced and delivered in song by the children of the San Ildefonso school. Citizens would stay home from work to take in all of the festivities being broadcast throughout the country. The draw itself was truly a national celebration.
This was in vast contrast to any lottery draw I had seen. In my mind, a lottery draw was something that took a minute or two at most and was shown on television during the local evening news.
Beyond the pomp and circumstance of the event was the amount of prize money that would be awarded in a single day during the draw. At the time, the prize pool was over a €1 Billion – an absolutely staggering amount that I had never seen attached to a lottery before.
I was hooked.
The Evolving Lottery Landscape
In preparing for this year’s El Gordo, I’ve been feeling a little bit nostalgic about how much playing the lottery in general has changed since my first El Gordo encounter in that airline magazine.
For one thing, the selection of games available to choose from has monumentally increased.
Think about the number of lotteries available at your local retailer that weren’t there in the past. Major draws that used to happen weekly are now running twice per week.
Even more of note, the world of playing exciting games from abroad has been opened up completely. As players, we are no longer confined to playing only the games available within our own international borders.
There may be a big draw happening locally. But chances are high that there will be a more exciting International draw currently on running with features I want to take advantage of such as a bigger jackpot or a preferable prize structure
Choosing which lottery to play has become like choosing which can of Coca-Cola to purchase at the petrol station. It used to only come in a red can. Now we can choose between the red, silver, black or green can. There is something suited for every Coke drinker’s individual taste and lifestyle choice.
As lottery aficionados, we are able to be savvier in choosing our plays because of all the choice being afforded to us.
The El Gordo Difference
With the lottery landscape having changed so drastically, what is it about El Gordo that continues to make it special?
To this day it remains as much of a spectacle as it ever has.
The draw takes place at Teatro Real (Royal Theatre) located in Madrid, Spain. This Opera House was completed in 1850 after years of planning and construction. It sits just in front of the Palacio Real (Royal Palace). Teatro Real is a cultural institution and is considered one of the great theaters in Europe. The beautiful, historic, architecturally stunning building is the perfect backdrop for a lottery draw so rich in its prizing and cultural significance.
On the stage at the front of the theatre are two spherical cages which are used to house the small wooden balls that will be drawn.
The larger of the two spheres is filled with 100,000 small wooden balls each with its own unique 5 digit number ranging from 00000 all the way up to 99999. Every ticket sold for the El Gordo draw has a 5 digit number on it. The large sphere determines which ticket numbers will win prizes.
With so many individual lottery dreams represented within that sea of 100,000 individual balls, it is a magnificent sight to behold.
The smaller of the two spheres is filled with 1807 balls each with an inscription of a prize amount.
Over the course of the drawing, each and every ball from the smaller sphere is drawn individually and matched to a number simultaneously drawn from the large sphere containing ticket numbers. The whole spectacle takes hours to complete.
Contrast this with virtually every other lottery we play throughout the year where a small amount of winning numbers are simply chosen from a larger pool. The Gordo draw is a refreshing throwback to the “old days.”
The format isn’t the only thing that sets El Gordo apart from other popular lotteries worldwide. There are other sights that would seem incredibly out of place in an average lottery draw.
Watching the children of San Ildefonso School dressed in their school uniforms is an extremely adorable highlight. Two children are on the stage as the numbers are drawn, one child in front of each sphere. As each winning number and corresponding prize amount are chosen, the children sing out the results – one sings the number, the other sings the prize.
There are 40 children in total from San Ildefonso school, aged 8 to 14 that participate, each taking turns in pairs. When larger prizes are drawn, the hall fills with applause for the children as they parade the winning number and the winning amount across the stage.
The theatre too is full of quite a few odd looking characters. Many who attend dress up in extravagant lottery related costumes. It’s a sight to behold!
Across the country, eyes are fixated on the broadcast. Keep in mind that more than 7 out of 10 Spaniards between the ages of 18 and 75 have tickets in play for the draw. These draws often sell out and many of them had to queue for hours to get their tickets.
El Gordo tickets are very unique and the process of making a purchase is quite a bit different than what we are used to in playing modern day lotteries. Purchasing an El Gordo ticket bears no resemblance to the lotteries where players shade numbers on a selection slip or ask for a Lucky Dip.
Rather, they are limited to purchasing only the numbers that each particular shop has available at that location. In all, there are only 100,000 numbers in play ranging from 00000 all the way up to 99999. Because there is such a large demand for tickets, there are multiple series made available for purchase.
The tickets being purchased are pre-printed with ornate artwork that changes every year, and a five digit number.
A full ticket costs hundreds of Euros each. However, “decimas” or tenths of tickets are available to be bought, ensuring there is a price point amenable for people of all walks of life to join in.
So Many Ways To Win
As we’ve already noted, 1807 prize numbers are individually drawn from the field of 100,000.
The First Prize – the El Gordo Prize – is worth €4,000,000. Keeping in mind that there are a total of 170 series of tickets – each with a first prize winner – the total First Place prize pool alone is an astounding €680,000,000.
Second Prize is worth €1,250,000.
Third Prize is worth €500,000.
There is a special prize category for tickets holding a number that is sequentially one higher or one lower than the First, Second and Third Prizes. For example – if the number drawn for the First Prize is 15000 – the tickets bearing the number 14999 and 15001 win an “approximation” prize for being ever so slightly off the mark. The amount won in this case would be €20,000. The Second Prize approximation amount is €12,500. The Third Prize approximation amount is €9600.
Fourth Prize is worth €200,000. There are two numbers drawn for this prize category.
Fifth Prize is worth €60,000. There are eight numbers drawn for this prize category.
The remaining 1794 numbers drawn are called La Pedrea – the pebble prizes – and are worth €1000 each.
These aren’t the only prizes available though.
Matching the first three digits of the First, Second, Third or Fourth Prizes numbers will yield a win of €1000.
So will matching the last two digits of the First, Second or Third Prize numbers will also yield €1000.
There is even a prize of €200 for every ticket that carries the same single final digit of the First Prize number.
When everything is said and done, the 1807 prize numbers drawn will yield over 15,000 prize winners in each of the 170 series of tickets in play.
Just the Facts:
The odds to win any prize are a mere 1 in 6.37.
Over 2.6 Million prizes are awarded.
The total single day Prize Pool up for grabs is OVER €2.3 BILLION!
Adding it all up…
Is it any wonder why Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad – “The Spanish Christmas Lottery” – is an event not to be missed?
It is Gordo Season right now!
The El Gordo draw is now less than a month away. Tickets in Spain are already being bought up. Excitement is already in the air.
You too can join in on the fun.
With over €2.3 Billion available to be won in a single day, it’s time to take your shot at winning El Gordo!
A lot of our players here at Lotteries.com are going to win prizes just in time for Christmas. You could be one of them.
Get in on the excitement today.