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Top tips for playing the lottery, by a Professor of Maths

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The One Show Team | 16:40 UK time, Friday, 13 November 2009

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Share your lottery tips.

This weekend is the National Lottery's 15th birthday. So we asked Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Maths at the University of Oxford, to tell us some top tips for lottery players. Watch the video above.

Marcus du Sautoy in The One Show green roomMarcus du Sautoy writes: When people discover that I'm a mathematician they often ask me whether I know any clever way to win the lottery. Unfortunately I can't produce a magic formula that will tell you next week's winning numbers. If I could I assure you I wouldn't be writing for The One Show's website. I'd be relaxing on some tropical island enjoying myself. But that's not to say that mathematics is entirely useless when it comes to playing the lottery.

A bit of maths can help you to maximize your winnings in case you do hit the jackpot and avoid what happened in the 9th week of the National Lottery when 133 people chose the winning numbers and had to share the £16,293,830 jackpot. The key is to choose numbers that no one else is likely to choose

Tip 1. Clump your numbers together. When people pick numbers they rarely choose consecutive numbers like 31 and 32. But just like buses, lottery balls often arrive in pairs. The maths says that nearly half of the 13,983,816 possible choices have consecutive numbers.

Tip 2. You might take tip 1 to the extreme and choose 1,2,3,4,5,6. Don't. Amazingly 10,000 people are estimated to choose these numbers each week so you'll end up sharing the jackpot with a lot of people.

Tip 3. Pick numbers above 31. People like picking significant dates like birthdays or anniversaries. So the numbers 32 to 49 are not so popular.

Tip 4. Avoid multiples of lucky number 7. The seven times table is a popular choice as punters believe it makes their ticket luckier than others.

Having given you my tips of course the whole thing could backfire. If everyone follows them and chooses high consecutive numbers you'll end up sharing your winnings with lots of other readers. Probably the best course of action is to let the machine randomly pick your numbers. It's not superstitious and probably doesn't read the BBC website.

Marcus du Sautoy is Professor of Maths at the University of Oxford and author of Finding Moonshine: A Mathematician's Journey Through Symmetry. He is reunited next week with Alan Davies in BBC Horizon's How Long is a Piece of String.

More information - recommended weblinks

Are you certain you'll win the lottery? Share your tips with us all here!


  • 1. At 7:18pm on 13 Nov 2009, yessir wrote:

    Do not pick lucky dips as i have found that if you get more than 1 line on the same ticket more often than not i get a least one number the same on both lines. Not very random

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  • 2. At 7:21pm on 13 Nov 2009, john walsh wrote:

    Is it true that if you take a lucky dip, the computer will not give you a duplicate number.
    That being its best to take a lucky dip at the last minute so you wont have to share your winnings.
    Also, i am convinced the lotto is rigged, and has been for the last few years. The odds of winning the jackpot are 14million to 1 yet 2 or 3 jackpot winners every week and only 7 million entrants.
    I used to run a syndicate when the lotto started and it used to roll over for weeks on end. It rolled over so often that they had to bring in a maximum. There were twice as many people buying tickets then.

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  • 3. At 10:19pm on 13 Nov 2009, alecfinn wrote:

    Tip three - just to be clear - you have the same chance of success with numbers less than 31 - but are less likely to have to share.

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  • 4. At 10:21pm on 13 Nov 2009, alecfinn wrote:


    Sorry - are MORE likely to have to share.

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  • 5. At 11:48pm on 13 Nov 2009, christina wrote:

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  • 6. At 11:57pm on 13 Nov 2009, christina wrote:

    Yes I agree, I once and only once purchased 2 lucky dips on same ticket & managed to get 3 identical numbers in each line. How is that possible? Rather strange, when I approached Lotto they couldn't give a satisfactory reason as to how this could happen, but of course it was my fault as I should have checked the numbers earlier, you don't expect that to happen....Big con.

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  • 7. At 2:01pm on 14 Nov 2009, LottoLuck wrote:

    I got a lucky dip on a till receipt type ticket and moaned about having it in that format like so many people do. 2 weeks later I had a look at it and I had 5 numbers and won just under 2 grand. I have had 4 numbers a couple of times as well as 3 number hot picks. I win £10 frequently and I just have a selection of random numbers that I play. I can see the statistics on what numbers people pick and having to share winnings as relevant but, otherwise, just pick a bunch of numbers and play them! You might just be lucky! :-)

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  • 8. At 00:07am on 04 Jan 2010, alecfinn wrote:

    I can't find a place to comment on tonight's LIFE program.

    It was great to see the tufty brown monkeys show such ingenuity in softening up the nuts and then bashing them with rocks to get to the goodies inside. However the words delivered by Sir Richard that they had finally gained access to the 'rich oily kernal' brought one word to my mind. Gadaffi.

    I know you will block this - but it's worth a try anyway.

    Happy New Year.


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  • 9. At 07:14am on 13 Jan 2010, wayne cameron wrote:

    I was watching the one show on tuesday 12th jan and wondered who the lecture from manchester about probability was? It was regarding about the man that dosn't want to stand as a juror!

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