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Sarah Coles
lotto ticket with ticked...
lotto ticket with ticked...

If someone promises you a fool-proof method to win the national lottery, then brace yourself, because you're dealing with a fraudster.

Sadly not even Mystic Meg can tell us the lottery numbers that are going to come up in any given week.

However, while we cannot guarantee a lottery win, we can help ensure that, if all your numbers come up, you at least boost your chances of winning big.

Playing the lottery: what are your options?

Not all jackpots are life-changing

You could be forgiven for thinking that a lottery win is going to be life-changing stuff, no matter how many other people have the same numbers as you.

However, if you won the Jackpot on Saturday 12 January last year, you would have been one of eight who shared the £2.2 million jackpot. With £278,365 each, it's an amazing windfall, but rather than buying the millionaire lifestyle, it would leave you with just enough cash for a one-bedroom flat in Muswell Hill.

Even these people could consider themselves incredibly lucky compared to those who won in November 1995, when 133 tickets shared the £16 million jackpot - bringing home little more than £120,000 each.

Contrast that with some of the enormous wins that have come up in recent months - including the anonymous UK winner who took home £73 million in the Euromillions in May, and the secret winner who picked up £107.9 million in March.

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How to win big

Just to be clear before we start, you cannot improve your odds of winning by selecting specific numbers. You could try to choose numbers that have been picked the most often before, in the hope that a flaw in the machine tends to pick some numbers out more than others, but that's simply not how it works.

Every time the machines pick a ball, there's exactly the same odds that they will pick each number - so there's no way to use the numbers you pick in order to increase your chances of a win.

You can, however, do two things to ensure that if you do win, it would be a major prize. The first is simply to choose the right draw. If you play the lottery every week, and you have average luck, you'll win back about half the money you hand over - so it's worth picking and choosing the draws you play.

You need to opt for something with a big jackpot - ideally one that has rolled over at least once. That way, even if you have to share the jackpot, you'll be sharing a larger sum of cash. Take Christine and Colin Weir, for example, they became Britain's biggest-ever lottery winners because the jackpot had rolled over an astonishing 13 times.

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The numbers

The second way to inflate your share of the winnings is to choose unpopular numbers - so if you win, there's a lower chance that anyone else won too. This was the conclusion drawn by Southampton University, which investigated how to win big back in 1998. At the time it said that popular combinations of numbers had about 50 people playing them for every draw - while unpopular ones had one person playing them every two draws.

It found that the number 7 was picked most often - as it's considered lucky - so should be avoided. Bizarrely the number 13 is also a common choice - because while it is considered to be unlucky, it tends to be picked by people who are trying to choose numbers that other people won't go for.

It also advised against choosing 1,2,3,4,5,6 - which is selected by thousands of people each week. Given the fact that so many people include birthdays when choosing the numbers, it suggested picking plenty of numbers over 31 if you want to be unique.

It also discovered that people tended to choose numbers from the middle of the game card, so you may have a more unusual number combination if you stick to the edge. One of the most striking examples of this effect was in the draw in November 1995 with 133 winners. In this case 7, 17, 23, 32, 38, 42 and 48 all lay in central columns of the ticket.


However, as soon as it published this research, the university changed the way people play, because those who were trying to pick unusual numbers then started following the advice - making those numbers more popular.

The only way to bypass all this guessing and second-guessing is to buy a lucky dip ticket. It won't improve your chances of winning, or guarantee you pick unpopular numbers, but it will remove all the bias to ensure it's truly a random selection.

But what do you think? Would you rather leave it to chance, do you have lucky numbers that you'll play every week regardless, or would you rather keep the £2?

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