National Lottery myths exploded

Emma Woollacott
VOL363BPF016MH.JPGDuncan  Smith, 13, 28, 4, 49, 56, 7, Banking & Personal Finance, cash prize, chance, close-up, fantasy, gam
VOL363BPF016MH.JPGDuncan Smith, 13, 28, 4, 49, 56, 7, Banking & Personal Finance, cash prize, chance, close-up, fantasy, gam

As long as games of chance have existed, people have been convinced they can beat the odds - and the National Lottery is no exception.

The chances of winning the jackpot are around one in 14 million, and it's hardly surprising that people look for ways of improving those odds just a little.

Unfortunately, though, some of the most popular techniques make no difference to your chances at all. We explode some of the commonest myths.

Hot and cold numbers

This belief is not only widely-held, it's been around a long time, with George Orwell mentioning it in his book 1984, published in 1949.

The idea is that certain numbers come up more frequently than others in the lottery draw, making them more likely to come up in future.

Firstly, however, there's really not much difference in how often individual numbers come up. More importantly, the chance of a particular number coming up is always the same. It's the same with dice: throw three sixes in a row, and your chances of getting another one are still one in six.

Lucky outlets

The same applies to the place you buy your ticket - no outlet is any luckier than any other. Of course, one which sells a lot of tickets is going to pay out more often than one that doesn't - but the odds of your ticket being a winner remain exactly the same.

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10 Myths About Lotteries
10 Myths About Lotteries

Winning systems exist

The internet is awash with unscrupulous people who claim to have a way of beating the system. They don't. They may have testimonials from lucky clients; those testimonials may even be genuine. But those clients, if they exist, were just lucky, in the same way as anybody else.

The same numbers can't come up twice

It's unlikely, sure: but then so is any particular combination of numbers. And it's happened - indeed, in 2009, the Bulgarian lottery turned out the same set of numbers twice in five days. A year later, an Israeli lottery generated the same numbers twice in a month. In both cases, the draw was checked, and found not to have been rigged.

Winning's less likely than being killed by lightning

At last, a truth that's a bit more encouraging. This myth was statistically debunked by Iowa lottery commissioner Ed Stanek (who was also a doctor of physics). It turns out that during 1996, 1,136 people won a million dollars or more on North American lotteries - compared with 91 who were killed by lightning.

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