Winning the lottery

Many people adopt various strategies in the hope of winning the lottery. Almost every single one of these strategies are based on flawed logic, or simply on superstition. After all, if there existed a meaningful strategy that guaranteed a win, the whole concept of the lottery would implode because everyone would start winning and the lottery operators would go out of business. There is one way to be sure of winning the lottery, and that is to buy a ticket for every single possible combination, but of course, that’s not exactly feasible. So no,  there is no top-secret way to win the lottery, but there are a few principles of gambling mathematics to understand that could make your lottery-playing experience, irrespective of whether you play lottery online or offline, a little more informed.

The mathematics of the lottery

Here we touch on four topics, all drawing on gambling mathematics, that lottery players should ideally be aware of when playing the lottery. These are the theory of probability, independent and dependent events, the Combin Function and the Gambler’s Fallacy.

This theory is very frequently used to work out the chance of an outcome occurring in gambling. It can be used effectively with the Combin Function to work out the Expected Value of a repeated bet on something. The probability of winning a 49-ball lottery is 1 in 13 983 816 – this probability was calculated using the Combin Function (see below).

Independent events have no bearing on future events, nor are they influenced by prior events. Lottery draws are good examples of independent events – every lottery draw is isolated from the others in that the numbers drawn have absolutely nothing to do with the numbers drawn in the previous draw. Many people mistakenly fall into the Gambler’s Fallacy trap of believing that the longer a certain combination of numbers is not drawn, the better the probability of that combination being drawn in subsequent draws, which is an incorrect belief.

This is an Excel formula which calculates the number of ways that a particular combination can be formed in a given gambling scenario. For example, using the Combin Function we can quickly calculate that, in a lottery of 49 balls, there are 13 983 816 ways of forming a unique combination of six balls, and therefore, the probability of winning a lottery such as this, if you buy one ticket, is 1 in 13 983 816.

This refers to the erroneous belief that the probability of a certain combination being drawn increases for each time that it is not drawn. This is not the case, since lottery draws are independent events.