You’ve got to be in it to win it

The main UK lottery requires participants to pick 6 numbers from 1 to 49, which are then compared to the 6 that are drawn out of the machine (ignoring the bonus ball). There are prizes for matching anywhere from 3 to 6 of the numbers.

The probability of winning any prize is 2%, and in fact the most likely outcome is that you’ll match some numbers, yet not win (but giving a feeling of being close). Some observations on winning the jackpot (approx 1 in 14m):

  • Unless you’re quite young, and buy your ticket in the few minutes before the deadline, you’re statistically more likely to die before the draw is made than you are to win the top prize
  • You’ve as much chance of correctly picking the one minute I’m thinking of from the first 27 years of my life than you have of selecting all 6 numbers

And of course, there is also the cliche statistic of comparing winning the lottery to being struck by lightning (about 30-60 people are struck by lightning each year in Britain of whom, on average, three may be killed. source)

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