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Photograph of a lotto ticket

Tips for Lotto

One in 45,057,474.

that’s the odds of winning the jackpot in Lotto, the UK’s national lottery draw. It’s the odds of correctly guessing all six balls, drawn out of 59 possible numbers. It used to be one in about 14 million, which is bad enough, but in October 2015, the jackpot became three times harder to win with the addition of ten extra balls to choose from.

Lotto claimed the change would make it “more exciting” for players. (Its staff need to get out more.) They also said there would be bigger prizes and more frequent rollovers. Of course, on this it was right - because with an average 14 million players each week, and a one in 45 million chance of winning, there are a lot of rollover weeks.

The chances of winning are miniscule, deceptively low, too tiny to comprehend, but since the draw began in 1994, over 3,500 winners have become instant millionaires. Those 3,500 winners include many people, just like us, with backgrounds like ours, and stories like ours, who took a chance, bought a ticket, and won.

We believe something is more likely because we can vividly recall an example of when it happened. We see the winners’ excited faces, holding an oversized cheque for the press photographs and wonder what we would do with all that money if one day we won too. It’s no surprise that we believe that our chances of winning are so high.

Three Top Tips

(If you still feel the need to play.)

1. Don't Use Numbers 1-6

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. It’s true they are just as likely as any other combination of six numbers to be drawn, but, according to Lotto, about 10,000 people choose them each week just to make a point and if these numbers ever did come up, your share of the jackpot would be pretty tiny. That would be a real waste of good luck.

2. If you must buy a ticket, make it Euromillions on a Tuesday

Euromillions has a £1 million UK raffle with every draw. One ticket drawn at random wins £1 million. The odds of winning the raffle are, of course, based on the number of players - the fewer the players, the better your chances. So, you want to choose the draw with the least number of players, which is the Tuesday draw.

In fact, you want to buy your Tuesday ticket immediately after a huge jackpot has been won on a Friday because people buy fewer tickets when the jackpot is smaller. (Forget about the jackpot itself, the odds of that are one in 116,000,000.)

3. Don’t use the same numbers every week

There are people who have used the same line of numbers every week for the last 20+ years, since it began. While they have probably long passed the point where they think they will actually win the jackpot, they are terrified of missing even a single draw, in the belief that the one time they don’t buy their ticket will be the week their numbers finally come up. If you use the same numbers every week, those numbers will become etched in your memory, and you won’t be able to escape the knowledge that you would have won.

Lotto used to only be drawn on a Saturday. When the Wednesday draw was added, people said they wouldn’t do both… but they did, because what if their numbers came up on a Wednesday? Lotto increased the price per line from £1 to £2, and people said they would reduce the number of lines they played. But they didn’t. Which set of numbers could players drop? Especially if they picked them for emotional reasons, such as their children’s birthdays.

Which of your children is the luckiest?

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