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Column: Want to win the lotto? Here's how to do it...

Six people won the Irish lotto last Saturday, and with the jackpot at €3.5 million, it wasn’t a bad day’s work. Here’s a few tips on how to play, writes Eamonn Toland.

Eamonn Toland

WHO WANTS TO be a lotto millionaire?

Last Saturday night, six people won the Irish lotto, and with the jackpot at €3.5 million, it wasn’t a bad day’s work.

Victor Meldrew types immediately pointed to the sheer misfortune of the winners, that they had to share the prize, and bring home a mere €588,144 each.

I’m not so sure. Anything with 6 figures and a comma in the middle is hardly the stuff of a Bad Luck Brian meme.


Having said that, if you want to be a lotto millionaire, instead of a paltry 588-thousandaire, is there a way to game the lotto? Well, here’s a few ideas:

1. Be a regular in Scruffy Murphy’s in 1992 (requires time-travel)

Before 1992, the number of balls in the lotto machine was 36, meaning that the odds of matching 6 were “only” 1,947,792 to 1, as opposed to the whopping 8,145,060 to 1 that we currently have to beat.

A famous “brute force” attack on the Lotto was staged by the Scruffy Murphy’s Syndicate, led by Polish-Irish accountant Stefan Klincewicz (and no, I’m not making this up). By harnessing the magical powers of Junior Cert maths, they were able to exploit the weakness of the design of the National Lottery, and to make a profit of approximately £300,000.

Klincewicz realised that because there were a relatively small number of possible combinations, if he and his associates could buy lines to cover as many of these as possible, they could stack the odds of winning the jackpot, and lots of smaller prizes, hugely in their favour.

After the successful execution of this sting by Klincewicz and his team, the National Lotto realised that they needed to make it harder to cover all combinations, and they did this by increasing the number of balls used. No matter how big the rollover, the Klincewicz method is no longer realistic as a way to grab a million. Spoilsports!

2. Be cute and wait for the big one

Let’s be clear: mathematically speaking, any well-run lottery is an example of what is known as an “unfair game”. I think most people already guessed that, given that the National Lottery hasn’t gone bust, and assuming that Marty doesn’t do the gig for free. That being the case, if you choose to play, how can you take part in an unfair game, but make it a bit of a better bet?

Like any wager, there are 3 key factors: the stake, the odds, and the prize. The stake is the same from week to week. The odds of winning the jackpot stay the same. But if you wait for the rollover, the third big factor is tipped in your favour: the prize may be double or triple the normal amount, or even more.

So for the same stake, with the same odds of winning the jackpot, you have a bigger prize and it seems that the game has become a little more interesting for aspiring millionaires like us.

Unfortunately, most people would like to win €10 million even more than they fancy winning the bare million. So they might also wait for the big one, or double down on buying lines. The more people playing, the more probable that the jackpot will be shared among several winners, all because some copy-cat had the cheek to use YOUR numbers!

Which brings us to our top tip:

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3. Be a randomer

Pedantic types (no, not TheMathsTutor.ie) love to point out that every number has an equal probability of being drawn, and therefore (even though you mightn’t think it), the winning numbers are just as likely to be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, as any other combination. True, but a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and this would be a very poor choice of numbers. If these are your regular play, you might want to reconsider.

If you choose the numbers 1 to 6, you are part of a not-very-exclusive club of approximately 500 people in any given week. This means that if the jackpot is €5 million, and if those numbers come up, you’ll be dancing round your front room, celebrating a massive, life-changing win of around ten grand. Doh!!

Even a more creative pattern of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 has a similar number of regular users. Straight line patterns (in a nice mathematical sequence) like 2, 10, 18, 26, 34, and 42 are very popular too. And if you look at a lotto playslip, you can see that there is a kind of rotated L-shape pattern in the winning numbers for last Saturday (4, 5, 13, 21, 29, and 37). According to the National Lottery, these kinds of patterns are generally quite popular, and can lead to avoidable over-sharing in the jackpot department.

So, if you’re a “full duck or no dinner” type of person, then you really should avoid predictable and popular patterns. This is not as easy as you might think, as people tend to generate patterns even when trying to avoid them.

If you have a lot of time on your hands, you could Google “random number generator” and get your numbers that way, but personally, I’d go for the quickpick. This makes it less likely that you use the same numbers as someone else, and therefore end up having to share the prize. Sure there’s no point schlepping over to Abbey Street Lower unless there’s a couple of commas on the cheque!

Eamonn Toland is the founder of TheMathsTutor.ie, Ireland’s leading online support system for Project Maths. Eamonn and his team use video lessons and online support to take the ‘grind’ out of maths for Irish students.

Read: Six-way split Lotto winner had been using the same numbers since 1988

Read: Ever wonder how likely you are to win on a scratch card?

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