[Q] I’ve been analysing all my past lottery results over the years and whilst I know these things are supposed to be random, there is a pattern.

Some numbers have definitely been drawn more often than others, and some have definitely appeared in the jackpot combination more than others. Should I play those numbers?

[A] You’re absolutely right.

Do you remember rolling a dice at school and charting the results? You tallied up each number as it was rolled, and then drew a little bar graph of the results. And the graph made pretty much a straight line proving that all the numbers had the same chance of being rolled.

Or did it?

Actually your graph was pretty wonky – oh yes it was! But don’t take offense, I’m sure you drew yours just as well as I did ;-). But all of our graphs were actually pretty wonky, and wonky in different ways too. If we took all our results together and drew another graph then we’d have one that was smoother, but still not perfectly straight.

We all get caught up in what we think we learned about ‘averages’.

But the fact is if you take any set of past results from any lottery for any period in time, you will find the same thing. Some results appear more or less often than others – a wonky graph. And that’s because this is exactly the sort of result that is entirely normal for a random process. If it were not possible for this to happen then the results would not be random.

With randomness if you actually repeat the ‘test’ enough times then every possible set of results would happen. Not just every result, but every different wonky graph for each set of results you pull out. So everything from never winning a single thing on the lottery, to hitting the jackpot every single draw for your whole life!

This is how random works. Just because the current state of play is ‘less likely than the true average’ does not mean there is anything unusual going on.

The weak point in the chain here is actually our brains – they love to see patterns in randomness. That’s the nature of our brains, we just can’t help trying to make a nice comfortable order out of things. And when it happens to be numbers we’re trying to make order of we’re even worse than ever!

So the real question here is not which numbers to play as a result of all this analysis, but whether the past results have anything useful to reveal to us in the first place. And the fact is, they don’t.

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Joe// Dec 29, 2017 at 9:39 pmHey LG,

I came across your blog, by looking to verify my theory that lotto is random and one cannot look for patterns. It’s a really good blog.

Then I have read your recent comment:

“There is some wiggle room in this (the post is 9 years old!) – this is all true assuming a perfect random draw. Whether it is possible to operate a perfect random draw, and degrees of randomness is a whole other debate though.”

and it threw me a bit off-balance. So, what are you saying now, that after 9 years of research – you came with the idea that the lotto is not a 100% random? Previously, you talk about the machines with tight tolerances, the temperature in the studio, the passing truck vibration, etc, etc, which as far as I understood – just add more noise to the already random drawing of the balls.

Could you please, elaborate on your comment?

LG// Dec 29, 2017 at 11:49 pmHey Joe

Sure – simply that creating a mechanical machine that is ‘100% guaranteed random’ is pretty much impossible. Mainly because even proving it is impossible! How many draws would you have to run to prove beyond doubt that it was perfectly random (and how long would that take… and could running that many draws introduce a bias from wear and tear… etc etc).

But don’t think I’m taking a u-turn here, I’m really not 🙂

By wiggle room I just mean that the lottery company consider their machines ‘random enough’. It’s theoretically possible that there is some mechanical bias there. But anyone who claims to have PROVEN it is talking nonsense, because 1. it’s never going to be big enough to be proven, and 2. you’re never going to have enough data to prove it anyway.

Julie// Jan 5, 2018 at 11:03 pmThen how can Richard Lustig and others claim to have unlocked the Lottery Code?

LG// Jan 6, 2018 at 12:46 amRichard has won a lot less than you think (details are here). For example, most of us wouldn’t consider a prize worth $3,594 to be a jackpot or major prize… yet he counts it as one of his ‘7’. He also isn’t claiming any wins since 2010. So the reality is a vague shadow of the hype 🙂