It’s a lottery

When the UK lottery started, in, what 1994, it was a novelty. You picked 6 numbers, from 49, and bet £1. If you got 3 numbers you won £10, and the prizes went up from there. Get all 6 numbers and you won lots of millions.

We did it for a bit, a few pounds a week, because we could afford it and it was fun and we did have some winnings, the largest being just over £100 I believe. But if we didn’t do it, we didn’t much care, and if we didn’t win, which mostly we didn’t, it was not the end of the world.

I was a Maths teacher then, and there was a lot of useful material you could get out of it. What are your chances of winning? Well, of winning the jackpot, one in just less than fourteen million. It has changed now, I believe, more expensive, more numbers and smaller prizes.

People had many interesting ideas about the lottery. “Well, someone has to win and it could be me” was one. Well, of course, no-one has to win the jackpot, which is why you get rollovers.

“There’s no way to guarantee a win” was another. This is actually not true. If you bought every possible different ticket, all nearly 14 million of them, you would be guaranteed to get the jackpot, and every other minor prize several times over. The prize money would have to be over about £14m to make a profit, and goodness knows where you could find a machine to process that many tickets. Plus, if someone else chooses the winning numbers, you have to share.

“All combinations are equal, so I use my family’s birthdays”. Yes, lots of people do this, meaning numbers up to 31. Actually, if you go for higher numbers, you will still have the same chance of winning, but a reduced chance of having to share.

The best way to win is open a savings account at your bank.

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