5 ways to pick winning lottery numbers: Do they work? 

How can you improve your chances of winning big on the National Lottery?

Boost your chances of winning the lottery

This weekend the National Lottery jackpot is up to £24.7 million, which means the rules change. If someone picks all six numbers, they get the jackpot. However, if nobody gets six numbers, then the jackpot will be split between everyone who gets five matching numbers plus the bonus ball. It means you're far more likely to win this week, but how can you improve your chances even further?

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This week your odds are one in 7.5 million - a vast improvement on the usual odds of 1 in almost 14 million. However, it remains a very dim and distant possibility, so we could do with all the help we can get to improve our chances of a win.

We explore five common ways of picking numbers - and whether they will help you win the jackpot.

1. Picking birthdays
The most common way to pick numbers is by choosing the birthdays of loved ones. It has the advantage of being the kind of thing you can easily remember, so you will never accidentally pick the wrong numbers. You will also always know the numbers to check for.

Unfortunately, however, it has a major disadvantage. People use these birthdays in a range of different ways, but it's safe to assume that the day of the month, and the month itself are common components. This means an enormous number of people are focusing their picks on the numbers below 32.

This doesn't make these numbers any less likely to be picked, because the way the draw works is to randomise the selection, so that each six numbers have exactly the same chance of being picked.

The problem is that it means there's a higher chance of more people picking the same numbers, so you'll need to share the jackpot between more of you.

Method score: 2 out of 5

2. Picking the most commonly-drawn numbers
This feels like the right thing to do, because if you keep seeing the same numbers come out of the machines, it's easy to feel they should do so again time after time. If you choose this option you would go for 44, 38, 40, 23, 39 and 33.

This again is flawed, because past performance has absolutely no influence on what will happen next time - and there will still be an equal chance of any number at all being picked.

All you are doing is ensuring you pick the same numbers as everyone else who opts for this method - thus ensuring that if you win the jackpot, you'll share it between so many of you that it will hardly feel like a jackpot at all.

Method score: 1 out of 5

3. Picking the least-commonly-drawn numbers
The thinking behind this is obvious: if the numbers haven't been drawn in ages, and there's an equal chance of them being picked, then they must be due. On that basis, 20, 13, 21, 41, 16 and 34 should come out.

Unfortunately this is flawed thinking - and the result of the human brain's tendency to look for patterns even when there are none. Just because they haven't been drawn for a long time, it doesn't mean they are any more likely to be drawn this time. All you are doing is ensuring you pick the same numbers as far too many other people.

Method score: 1 out of 5

4. Pick from the middle of the game card
This isn't something we necessarily choose to do - it's part of our instinct that something in the middle is safer than something on the outside. We also like patterns, so people are often drawn to particular points in columns. Again, we are not increasing our chance of a win - we are increasing our chances of sharing a win.

One of the most striking times this happened was back in November 1995 when the numbers came in as 7, 17, 23, 32, 42 and 48. They were all in central columns of the ticket - and the jackpot was shared between an astonishing 133 people.

Method score 2 out of 5

5. Lucky dip
This may not appeal to anyone with a lucky number or a theory they swear by. However, it's well worth considering. The six numbers randomly chosen for you have just as much chance of being picked as any other number - and there have been plenty of jackpot winners who owe their win to a lucky dip ticket.

This method has the added advantage that you won't have been led astray by patterns in previous draws or on the game card - or your favourite numbers. It will therefore reduce the chance that you'll go for the most popular numbers - and end up sharing your jackpot with hundreds of other people.

Method score: 5 out of 5

Of course, your chances of losing everything you bet are always far higher than even the chance of getting another go for free, so it's vital that you only consider playing the National Lottery with money you can afford to lose.

But what do you think? How do you pick your numbers? And would you consider changing your approach? Let us know in the comments.

Biggest UK lottery winners

Biggest UK lottery winners