How To Pick Better Lottery Numbers

Lottery balls without numbers on them

Are some lottery numbers better than others? Is there a method to picking lottery numbers?

I’ve seen more lies and misinformation on this topic than anything else.

So here I’m going to cover what is really possible. And what is just pure myth and fantasy.

So let’s dive in 🙂

Look At It This Way

I’d like you to suspend your normal view of how a lottery works.

Imagine the lottery draw is made using a lottery machine full of lottery balls as normal. But with this draw there are no numbers on the balls. No markings at all in fact.

In this draw machine there are 49 little balls but each one is a different colour – reds, greens, yellows and blues. But no other markings. None.

So, you play this lottery by picking colours from a colour chart – a bit like choosing paint (before we had clever ‘pick anything you want’ colour matching and mixing machines!). You hit the jackpot if your six colours get drawn. Then you can start thinking numbers again, very big numbers 😉

Now would it seem sensible to you that the chances of any combination of 6 balls being drawn out of the machine is exactly the same as any other combination?

Would it make sense that the chance of Red and Yellow and Pink and Green, Orange and Purple appearing is no worse than anything else..?

(Hopefully, you’re thinking ‘yes’ to both questions)

You may have spotted that this combination of colours is actually a well known pattern. Most of a rainbow (can you ‘Sing A Rainbow Too’? 😉 ).

But just being that pattern doesn’t make the combination any less (or more) likely to appear, right?

So why do so many ‘lottery experts’ use patterns just like this to recommend the best lottery numbers to play?

They throw out combinations such as:-

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35
7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42

Because these are “unlikely combinations”. After all, “they have never been drawn before…”

But that’s very poor reasoning.

It’s also wrong 🙂

Two things are actually being claimed here:-

Myth 1: “Combinations that make a pattern are less likely”

Yes, our brain sees a pretty pattern (just like that rainbow, right?). But those balls don’t know anything about them being a pretty pattern. Neither does the draw machine.

So just because you paint a number on a ball, why on earth would that make it less (or more!) likely to jump out of the machine?

Ball number 6 does not have a quick look around to see if balls 1 to 5 have been drawn. Then only agree to pop out if they haven’t!

Myth 2: “Combinations that have not been drawn are less likely”

Picture it this way. On day 1 of a new lottery game, which combinations are less likely? Er, all of them..? 🙂

So why have certain combinations never been drawn?

Answer: simply because most combinations have never been drawn 🙂

Even the longest running games have only had a few thousand draws maximum. Ever.

And there are millions of possible combinations in most lottery games (over 13 million for a 6 balls from 49 game).

So that means quite literally that:-

99.9% of all possible lottery combinations have NEVER been drawn.

It should not therefore be at all surprising that some of those combinations are patterns like 1,2,3,4,5,6 etc. Because the ‘not drawn’ list currently includes nearly every possible combination.

Ask me the same question in 100,000 years, and the answer will be that those ‘pattern’ combinations have been drawn! 🙂

So Where Are We At?

Just to be really clear – both of these claims are wrong. Patterns are not less likely just because they make a pattern. And those that have not been drawn are not less likely because they have not been drawn.

I should also be really clear at this stage that ‘patterns’ include all sorts of ways I see claimed of picking the best lottery numbers.

If you are picking numbers using methods such as highs/lows, odds/evens, doubles, triples or anything similar – ask yourself why this makes any sense. Then take the numbers off the balls, and ask yourself if it still makes any sense.

There is only one reason this can ever make sense. And it’s not for the reason anyone currently applies these methods.

But we’ll get to that shortly.

“Don’t Pick Previous Results” ← Huh..?

Here’s another common myth:-

When picking lottery numbers you should NEVER pick the numbers that were drawn last week, because there is no chance they will be drawn this week…

But mathematically, last weeks numbers still have EXACTLY the same chance of being drawn as every other combination! (Crazy huh?)

I know it may sound illogical at first. Who ever heard of the same numbers being picked twice in a row..? Never happened, right?

But the reality is it could happen. After all, there is nothing to physically stop it happening.

“Yeah, OK, so it could – but it’s still far less likely than other numbers, right..?”

No!

Mathematically it’s EXACTLY as likely as any other result.

What your brain is doing right here is tricking you into comparing apples and oranges. It’s saying ‘what are the chances of that same combination coming out’ vs ‘the chances of that same combination NOT coming out’.

Which is a very, very different thing.

Of course it’s vastly more likely it won’t be the same combination again. Because there are millions of combinations that are ‘not the same one’.

But if you compare apples to apples – the chances of it being 02, 19, 21, 23, 29, 42 again is just the same as it now being 03, 13, 27, 30, 32, 37 instead.

Or to put it another way, both are just as UNlikely as each other. Or any other possible result.

Because all combinations are unlikely. That’s the nature of a lottery, there are millions of combinations. So everything is unlikely. But equally unlikely. That’s the math(s) of it.

For Those Who Need To See It To Believe It…

It has now happened in the real world. Repeated lottery winning numbers have been draw for 2 consecutive draws, live in front of an audience.

It’s also happened more than once. And will continue to happen in the future.

What this proves is that there is no ‘memory effect’ here.

Lottery balls do not have a memory

Those little balls have no brains, so they don’t know what happened last week. They just bounce around and pop out again without the slightest idea of what last weeks numbers were.

This myth is exactly the sort of thing those junk lottery systems use to take your money. Let’s eliminate all those nasty unlikely combinations so you get a better chance of winning…

It’s a nice claim. But sadly it just isn’t true.

So when it comes to picking lottery numbers, just excluding past results will NOT help your chances of winning.

So What Are The Best Lottery Numbers To Play?

First up – let’s be really clear here. There is no magic ‘push button’ answer to this.

There is no ‘formula’ or ‘software’ that can (or ever will) be able to guarantee winning numbers.

If that’s what you go looking for, you are going to get conned and waste a lot of money. Because there are plenty of shady people willing to sell you that lie.

But it’s not all doom and gloom here.

Because there is one small ‘chink’ in the lottery companies armour.

Lottery draw machines are not perfect.

Of course they are well designed and well built by specialist companies. Surprise, they aren’t knocked up by the lottery CEO’s mate in his shed on a weekend 🙂

But building a ‘perfect’ random machine is effectively impossible. So these machines are built to be good enough for the job.

That means they are designed to be random enough to be unpredictable.

So in reality it is theoretically possible for some mechanical bias to exist in the machine that favours certain things more than others. It could be related to the design of the tubes and the way the balls are loaded. It could be related to the way the balls are manufactured and how they age over time. It could be many different real world physical things.

And this, as I mentioned above, is the only reason why it could ever make any sense to pick numbers according to patterns or past results.

But this could never apply globally. Any ‘number based rules’ about picking the best lottery numbers that claim to apply to every type of game can only ever be nonsense. How could those same rules apply to two completely different designs of lottery machine?

Maybe the way odd and even numbers are arranged in the tubes for Mega Millions could mean something. But why would that apply to the UK Lotto which is a totally different design of draw machine?

Truth is, it can’t 🙂

How Do You Use This Knowledge To Pick The Best Lottery Numbers?

I know this is all a big reality check for a lot of players. But what you can do is attempt to track and identify any bias that may exist in your choice of game (we get into this kind of stuff and a lot more in my Strategy Group).

Will this take a little work – yes!

Will it magically beat the lotto – no!

The best you can hope for with this approach is that you gain an edge over other lottery players. But isn’t it better to be happy applying things that have some basis in reality?

And at least you now also have enough knowledge to see how ridiculous most lottery systems are 🙂

72 Comments so far ↓

  • Anthony

    The argument seems valid. 1,2,3,4,5,6 has the same chance of selection as 3,22,25,35,40,45.

    Supposed you need to pick 2 numbers from 1-4.

    It’s easy to imagine 1,2 has the same chance as 1,4 or 2,4.

  • Brad Andrews

    What about the certain individuals who have won the lottery several times? In Alberta, Canada, there was a certain man who was refused his winnings because it was his third win. How are they able win the lottery more than once?

    • LG

      Hi Brad,

      It’s always luck at the end of day. You can apply good strategy to maximise your chances, but luck will always be the deciding factor.

      I don’t know the story of a man being refused for winning 3 times – are you sure of the facts on this? Because to my knowledge nobody has ever been refused a prize anywhere in the world purely for winning too often. When claims are rejected it’s normally for fraud, stolen tickets or other disputes over who really owns the winning ticket.

      • Brad Andrews

        I do remember a story about ten years ago about that happening, although I can’t seem to find it, on the Internet, there was a man in Airdrie, Alberta, Canada which is next to Calgary, won the Lottery 5 times. Is it luck or strategy or both?

      • LG

        That must be Seguro Ndabene. He won 4 times (between 2004 and 2009, wins ranging from $50,000 to $1M). He did have a dispute over his 5th win, but not because he kept winning – it was because another player challenged his claim to be the sole winner. It was eventually settled by the courts with the full payment of $17M going to Seguro.

        Seguro says he has no system (he bought random numbers), but admits that he buys “hundreds of tickets” – which helps a lot :-). He’s also part of lottery group too, but didn’t say how many tickets they buy.

        So reading between the lines, you can only imagine how much of his earlier wins he spent on more tickets (the same ‘secret formula’ which also nicely explains Richard Lustig’s wins…).

  • Mike

    Lottery Guy, I want to know which numbers come out most often in most drawings based on your study in lottery 6 numbers game?

    • LG

      Do you mean based on all 6 number games around the world..? If so, I don’t have those stats — and I don’t see how they would be useful to you?

      If you mean for a specific game, then there are tools to track historical results and attempt to detect any bias that may be presenting itself – my lottery strategy group membership includes one.

  • Willie Freeman

    If I got some old lotto numbers I haven’t used in about 1 year should I play them?

    • LG

      There’s no reason numbers that one person hasn’t played would be any more (or less) likely as a result of not playing them. Any players decision to play or not play certain numbers has no direct effect on the draw machine.

  • Street Biscuit

    Why isnt all lotto wheels giving me the right combination when I have added all the winning numbers in my selection.

    • LG

      It depends greatly on the wheel you are playing – not all wheels are created equally! If it was a full wheel then you would have the winning combination, but full wheels are expensive to play so are not used very often. Most people use wheels with a minimum win guarantee, i.e. you get a certain win level if you match a certain number of balls from your pool of numbers. It is possible to create wheels that are fairly useless, so you do need to know what you are looking for to avoid the bad ones. Have a look at Bluskov’s book (here) for some state of the art wheels.

  • Norm

    I have to laugh at the misunderstanding above. Using the current 5/69 + 1/26 of Powerball, there are 11,238,513 unique five ball combinations. Multiplying this by the 26 numbers of the power ball gives a total of 292,201,338 unique combinations that would win a jackpot prize. The chance of any given jackpot combination being draw is 1/292201338 – a vanishingly small number. Buying more unique tickets increases the odds of of winning by n/292201338, where n is the number of tickets bought, and still a vanishingly small number for any reasonable amount of ticket purchases. There is no system memory, therefore the odds remain the same from play to play.

    If you examine the number of pairs, there are 2346 unique pairs. If you want non-unique pairs there are 2346 pairs repeated 47905 times each.

    If you want quadruples, there are 864,501 unique quadruples. Each unique quadruple is repeated 65 times.

    Triples are a slightly different proposition. Some combinations of triples are repeated 2145 times and range down to only a single instance. Triples have a mathematical bias towards sets that start with 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. However when divided by the number of total combinations, the probability of the highest combinations of triples – those starting with 1 – is still approaching zero (1.9 X10^4 or 1 /5239.4).

  • Desmond Bradley

    Hi ! I agree that there are useless sets of numbers in a wheel because to play the probabilities there are a lot of combinations outside the norm. So some games in a wheel can be eliminated. Sure you could miss in one draw but we play the probability over a series of draws. I know because I use a lot of factors that help me lower the cost of a wheel.

  • Daryl

    Hi there, in a lotto game say 1 to 50 numbers. There are low/high numbers from 1 to 25, and 25 to 50. Avoid choosing only high numbers as it’s very rare for 6 high numbers or 6 low numbers to come up.

    Choose 3 low and 3 high, 2 low 4 high, 4 low and 2 high combinations and also discard 1 low 5 high and 5 low 1 high. Play lotto with less numbers say 6 from 25 or 38 and 40. Cheers

    • LG

      Sorry Daryl but this is actually a myth. Unfortunately choosing high/low numbers in this way makes no difference at all.

      All combinations are ‘very rare’, because there are millions of them (over 15 million in a 6 from 50 game) – and only a few thousand draws have ever been made in even the longest running games.

      Playing games with less numbers will of course help though 🙂

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