How to pick the lottery winners

Clifford German thinks he might be on to something. If he's right, you'll never hear from him again. But while he's here, consider his `balls theory'
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We now know that you do not have to be an angel to win the National Lottery, but little else of significance has emerged from the pattern of winning numbers in the first 30 weeks of the lottery's life. Our chart shows that three numbers have come up eight times each so far, but six numbers - 10, 11, 23, 33, 34, and 45 - have only come up twice and 39 has only come up once. But anyone who last week selected only the numbers which have come up least frequently would have been disappointed. Not one of them came up.

But as the weeks roll by, interest in the lottery continues to grow and the number of pundits and theories which purport to shorten the odds proliferate. Some tipsters have borrowed the pseudo-statistical techniques used to try to pick score draws in the football pools by measuring sequences since teams last drew, and to pick numbers on the strength of the length of time since they last won.

For example, 39 rolled from the cage as long ago as Christmas Eve and 3 has appeared three times, but the last time was also Christmas Eve. Number 23 has only appeared twice, and the last time on April 15, 6 has also not appeared since April 15, 30 last came up on April 1, 2 on March 11, 11 on March 4 and 10 on February 25. Conversely, numbers which have come up frequently in recent weeks and might be due for a well-earned rest include 17, 22, 29, 36, 41, 43 and 46.

Some of the experts have rubbished punters who base selections on family birthdays (and are now hooked on the same numbers), on the grounds that restricting the choice to the first 31 of 49 numbers is a fatal flaw, because the odds against all winning numbers coming under 32 are small, and if they did, there would be too many birthday-based winners. It is a fact that there has never been a time when all six numbers were under 32, but on January 7, when the highest number was 32 and only the bonus ball was higher, nobody won the jackpot and it was rolled over to the following week.

There is a strong suggestion that punters go for too even a spread of numbers, and consequently, when the winning numbers are strongly clustered, there are very few winners queueing up for the big cheques. Certainly, on all three occasions when there has been no outright winner, the numbers were clustered. On January 7, for example, 21, 22, and 25 came up together, and on May 20, 15,16 and 17 came up. On both occasions, there were no winners, while on the third occasion, on December 3, the winning six included 29 and 30 and the bonus ball was 31. On December 10, the lowest winning number including the bonus ball was 26, and there was just one outright winner who scooped pounds 17.9 million.

There is no doubt that the lottery is steadily increasing its hold on the gambling population. The sales figure was less than pounds 50 million in each of the first three weeks, but has never been less than that since, and despite the introduction of daily scratch cards, the weekly sales now average about pounds 68 million a week.

It exceeded pounds 70 million for the first time on April 1, and has topped it twice since, including May 27, when it reached pounds 74.7 million without the benefit of being a rollover week.

There have been six weeks when there has been no outright winner, and nine more when there was only one winning ticket, but every other week has produced at least one millionaire with the exception of January 14, when for some strange reason, there were 133 winners to share the jackpot total of pounds 16.3 million. For the record, the winning numbers that week were 7, 17, 23, 32, 38 and 42, and the bonus ball was 48, a remarkably ordinary combination.

The 30 draws so far have produced 61 winning tickets worth pounds 1 million, although that does not allow for syndicates and shared tickets, which have certainly caused their fair share of argument and aggravation.

More than 35 million tickets have won something, even a humble tenner, including several millions who have won something more than once. That certainly leaves several million more, including your humble scribe, (who resisted temptation in the very first week on the grounds that the prize money offered a smaller return on the stake money than the football pools, but succumbed in week two) who have never won a penny and very frequently have performed the difficult feat of picking six losing numbers together.

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