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How to boost your odds of winning big in the EuroMillions lottery
Image © Johnny Green - PA Wire
British punters have recently bagged some of the biggest prizes ever awarded in lottery history.
In August, Colin and Christine Weir from Ayrshire claimed the record, winning almost £162 million, instantly making them almost as rich as the Beckham family. Then, in early October, Dave and Angela Dawes from Cambridgeshire scooped over £101 million, the third-highest lottery jackpot in UK history.
As a result, Britain seems to have come down with EuroMillions fever, with ticket sales soaring since the summer.
As a mathematician-turned-financial journalist, I will show you how to maximise your chances of being the UK's next EuroMillions mega-millionaire. Here are 10 steps to beat the system and take home 'the Big One'.
1. You can't beat the odds (1)
EuroMillions balls are drawn randomly (or as near to truly random as mankind can produce). Thus, no matter what you do, you can't improve your odds of winning any EuroMillions prize - other than buying more tickets at £2 a time, of course.
On the right are the odds for all 13 prize levels.
As you can see, the odds of winning the jackpot (by correctly picking all five main numbers plus both Lucky Stars) are nearly 117 million to one, which are astronomically high. For example, if you bought a ticket for both draws every week for 1.1 million years, your chance of winning the jackpot would still be only 63%.
What this table tells you is that 12 in 13 EuroMillions tickets win nothing. In comparison, 53 out of 54 National Lottery tickets get binned.
2. You can't beat the odds (2)
Another problem for punters is that the prize payout from EuroMillions (and the UK's National Lottery) is less than half the money staked. In fact, for every £2 staked, roughly 99p is returned in prizes.
Therefore, £200 million spent on tickets would yield a prize pot of just £99 million. The remaining £101 million would be divided between lottery tax, donations to good causes, retailers and the lottery organisers.
In short, humble mathematics shows that, as a whole, EuroMillions' players lose more than half their money, making this game a very poor gamble!
3. You can't beat the odds (3)
As EuroMillions balls are drawn randomly, every combination of five main numbers and two Lucky Stars has exactly the same chance of being drawn. Hence, whether you stick with the same numbers, change them or choose Lucky Dips, you can't alter these fixed odds.
However, while you can't beat the underlying odds, you can outdo other players by maximising your chances of scooping a huge prize. To do this, you need to turn to behavioural psychology, rather than statistics. Here's how to exploit human cognitive biases to win bigger prizes:
4. Unlucky seven
In many cultures and religions, the number seven is somehow considered 'lucky'. As a result of this widely held superstition, millions of punters pick this number.
Therefore, cunning EuroMillions players should avoid choosing this popular number as a main ball or Lucky Star, to reduce the chances of sharing with too many other winners.
5. Lucky thirteen
On the other hand, the most common superstition is the belief that the number 13 is unlucky. Consequently, gamblers often avoid betting on 13. However, this 'triskaidekaphobia' is useful, as it means rational punters can confidently pick 13, knowing that superstitious players deliberately avoid it.
6. Don't bet on birthdays
Each week, millions of punters choose their numbers based on family birthdays. This means that they over-pick the numbers from one to 31 (which represent the days and months of the year).
As these numbers are picked excessively frequently, you should avoid selecting too many numbers under 32. Otherwise, if you do win a major prize, then you might share it with many more winners, reducing your personal payout. Thus, choose at least one main ball between 32 and 50.
7. Wait for rollovers
In the long run, you're likely to lose at least half of your stake money by playing the EuroMillions. What's more, the more tickets you buy, the closer you get towards the true odds.
Therefore, you must pick and choose when you enter. For example, why bother entering a fresh, new draw when the prize is under, say, £13 million? Instead, bide your time and wait for a huge jackpot to build through rollovers.
For example, when the Weirs from Ayrshire won their record £162 million payout on Friday, 8 July 2011, the top prize had rolled over no fewer than 13 times before they scooped it. Recently, the cap for the maximum jackpot was raised to €190 million (£162 million).
8. Play special draws
At times, the EuroMillions organisers offer additional prizes to encourage more punters to play. For instance, last Friday's draw created 18 extra millionaires through the UK Millionaire Raffle.
This Millionaire Raffle is exclusive to UK players and exists because tickets cost £2 in the UK, but only €2 (£1.71) in Europe. This extra cash is used to fund a raffle that creates one guaranteed UK millionaire per draw.
As well as last Friday's 17 extra Millionaire Raffle winners, there are 25 guaranteed winners on Friday, 23 December. In effect, these extra prizes will create 50 extra millionaires in one month, giving more incentive to play.
9. Pick Lucky Dips
As all of us have our own little quirks and beliefs, it is hard not to be swayed by these thoughts when choosing lottery numbers. The simplest way to eliminate this personal bias is to trust to dumb luck by buying a Lucky Dip entry. While this random selection doesn't alter your chances of winning, it does remove your own selective bias towards 'special' numbers and patterns.
10. Buy online
Lastly, it would be tragic if you bought a ticket, won a whopping great prize and then were unable to produce your winning playslip. To avoid this 'lost-ticket catastrophe', simply buy your ticket online. Also, when you win, Camelot sends you an email, so you don't have to check the results yourself.
In summary, beating the EuroMillions system isn't about beating the odds. It's all about deciding when and how to play in order to beat other punters and claim a bigger slice of the pie!
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Your money spent on the lottery just buys you a dream. I play it weekly simply because i have M.S and a win on the lottery would obviously change my life and i would no longer need to worry about what old age has in store. I still spend no more than two quid a week on it though, and i think that it could be made a little easier to win. I have had little wins, but i am still as poor as a church mouse. Oh well, wish me luck for Wednesday. Good luck everyone.
In terms of "Average return", you're factoring in the jackpot prize, so looking at the average return across 116m tickets.
Tuesdays vs Fridays (from a UK raffle perspective) appear to make relatively little difference. Certainly based on published "odds" vs actual results, this would suggest the "3.5 million tickets sold on Tuesdays" is a complete fallacy. Projected numbers from match rates recently would indicate a ration more like 11m tickets on fridays vs 8 on tuesdays.
As the biggest variable in this case appears to be the jackpot prize itself, which has a massive bearing on the "average" return, I would guess, based on a 12m jackpot, the average return per pound is about 27p. With a 120m jackpot that's up to around 73p.
So it's a no-brainer really. If you want to maximize your winnings on the euro millions, your single best piece advice would be this: Put your ticket money aside each week, and ONLY buy tickets when the jackpot is past the 100 million mark.
Of course it'll only make a difference when you win, but the reality is it's only the jackpot people really play for isn't it.
If you're after saving money, the only other piece of advice I can offer is: Don't buy lottery tickets :)
OK, any form of gambling isn't exactly weighted in favour of the punter. Anyone in their right mind will know the odds of winning big time (even small time) are down to pure luck. But look, those who have won big money on the Euro lottery will tell you how glad they were that they took the gamble and didn't pay any attention to the so called statisticians.
I have had it with scientists and the like who keep trying to spoil the fun by giving us the facts! What are we? Children! We know it's bad for us to eat too much sugar; put too much salt on our food; binge on alcohol; that we shouldn't smoke, or not get enough exercise! Of course these things are going to shorten our lives. But what is there in life that isn't dangerous and life threatening? You have as much chance of getting a heart attack if you run a Marathon for charity as you would if you sat around all day long watching television.
Back in the 1950s my Nan used to sit and watch the horse racing and enjoyed a little two shilling flutter on an each way bet now and then. She won ten bob a few times and it tickled her pink when her horses came home, bet or no bet on them. If a small flutter every week makes you a bit more happy, and if the thought of winning a big prize makes you feel more positive about your life, then that alone is worth a couple of quid for sure. If you lose, then there is always next week.
From a Health of the Nation point of view, the reason people play these simple gambling games is because the people in power restrict their finances to a crumb under the table. It pays Governments to keep people poor. It dampens their spirit and keeps them quiet, so that the few can lord it of the many. People want to climb out of that kind of poverty trap, and who can blame them? If my humble tickets ever came up I would use a good deal of the money to some good in this world of otherwise greed. One hundred and ninety million quid could go a long way if bringing many injustices to light. In the meantime people, if the Euro Lottery turns you on, don't let the scientists or statisticians put you off your fun. Keep your hope up and remember that fortune favours the brave! It doesn't favour those who are always playing it safe.
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