Should I Play The Same Lottery Numbers In Every Draw?

same lottery numbers every drawThis is one of those lottery questions that can make your head spin. Should I play the same lottery numbers or change them? It can turn your brain inside out if you overthink it…

If my numbers haven’t come up yet, surely they are more likely to in future, so I should stick to playing my selected numbers right?

If I keep changing my numbers isn’t that like two lots of numbers changing, making it even harder to win?

Sounds plausible. But sometimes we can overanalyse a problem!

The fact is, mathematically speaking past results have no bearing whatsoever on future results. Why would they? Because underneath all those lovely numbers… it’s just balls.

(Even if they seem to make those pretty patterns when you really, really look for them…)

They’re just little round balls bouncing around inside a draw machine. And those balls have no memory. They aren’t all polite and considerate, and therefore take it in turns to be drawn! They don’t know or care about the ‘law of averages’.

So is it better to keep playing the same lottery numbers every week?

Each draw is a unique, random event. So it actually doesn’t matter (but keep reading below because that’s not the whole answer).

In pure maths terms if you play the same numbers each draw, or change them every week – it makes no difference at all.

Because each set of numbers always has exactly the same chance of being drawn. And each draw is a single unique event. Simple as that.

So if you like the the numbers you have chosen, by all means keep them and play them every time. It won’t do you any harm.

But equally, if you like changing your numbers once in a while, or every single draw – feel free, because that isn’t going to hurt you either.

Two Things To Note However…

Firstly, creating perfect randomness is not easy (just ask a programmer). That’s why I said ‘mathematically speaking’ about 3 times :-).

So if you are choosing certain numbers because you think they are a little bit more likely to appear than others – for real physical reasons – then you will probably prefer to stick with those numbers. At least for a time. (You can learn about this kind of thing and lots more in my Lottery Strategy Group).

Secondly, there are some reasons to avoid picking too many of certain types of numbers (clue: think popular!), but I’ll talk more about those reasons another time.

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139 Comments so far ↓

  • Gene

    Hello,

    How did people like Joan Ginther and Richard Lustig win multiple times?

    • LG

      In Joan’s case partly from playing wisely (she has a math Ph.D.) and partly from spending a huge amount on tickets. She played scratch-offs so simply worked out which were the best ones to play at any given time. There’s a lot more to this than most people realise – see my scratchies tips for more on this. And then she bought big, really big.

      Richard Lustig is a different case. Firstly he’s won a heck of a lot less than Joan, and less than most people realise (see his wins listed here). All the evidence indicates it’s just a combination of luck and buying a lot of tickets – note that he hasn’t reported any wins since 2010 (when he started selling his book).

  • Grace Osabu-Kle

    Dear lotto guy,
    4 out of 6 of a set of numbers I play for lotto 649 has showed up. I played the set and I have won $86. Should I keep playing the same numbers now that 4 of the numbers in the set has showed up. In A PREVIOUS DRAW 2 of the numbers showed up and I won a free ticket. My hunch tells me it must be my lucky numbers and I want to keep playing them. what do you recommend?

  • Pat

    I would like to know if you increase your odds of winning by taking out a few of the highest and lowest numbers. I.e. You can choose five numbers between 1 – 34 but you only play 5 – 30.

    • LG

      Not unless you have a very good reason why you’re choosing only from that reduced range of numbers.

      Think of it this way. If you roll a dice but decide you’re only going to guess from numbers 2 – 5, have your chances of being right changed?

      Unless there is now a reason why 1 or 6 cannot be rolled, or are less likely to be rolled, then your odds are still 1-in-6 of being right.

  • Grace Osabu-Kle

    Is it better to play the lotto every draw or choose to play only certain draws? I find it too expensive to play every draw so I want to wait for when the jackpot is high to play a couple of tickets.

    • LG

      It depends on your overall strategy really. But there’s nothing specifically wrong with targeting only certain draws.

      • Giuseppe

        I won’t risk playing by targeting certain draws – I rather play all draws just in case my numbers come out.

        If you are playing Powerball or Megalotto you need a timeline of 30 to 25 years, and you can pass it to your son or daughter the numbers you had been playing so it will not be wasted.

        (Amended from ALL CAPS)

      • LG

        That’s just superstition though really :-). It just doesn’t work like that.

        There is no ‘memory’ to the draw. So (in simple terms, but read the post) a result that hasn’t happened in 50 years is still no more (or less) likely than the one that got drawn last week.

  • Rachel

    What about the people who have won 649 or Lotto Max, do they pick their own numbers or quick picks?

  • Ed

    I have been playing the same numbers for Lotto, Take 5 and Mega Millions for over 20 years and won a few Take 5 2nd places, nothing more. I am going to be losing my job soon and I can’t afford the $25 a week anymore. How do I just quit cold turkey and not worry about if my numbers will come out one day and I didn’t play it. If I used quick pick it would be easier, but playing the same numbers it’s very hard to stop.

    • LG

      Two ways:-
      1. Recognise they are only ‘your numbers’ when you play them. When you don’t play them they are nothing, just irrelevant.
      2. Understand that the chances of those numbers coming up are no better now than 20 years ago.

      And if you find yourself playing when you genuinely can’t afford it – then seek help, because that’s superstition becoming an addiction. Sorry if that bit sounds harsh 🙂

    • Grace Osabu-Kle

      I was also playing the same numbers every draw without any luck. I felt a big relief when I switched to using quick picks. I think I prefer the quick pick method because when you cannot afford to play for while you don’t have to worry about your numbers coming up. As at now I have quit playing the lottery for a while because I need to save money for other priorities in life. If I was playing the same numbers all the time quitting for a while will just be a problem because you will be worried your numbers will come up.

      • LG

        I do get why it ‘feels this way’ – but that’s really just superstition. They are only your numbers when you play them. And your numbers can’t come up if you don’t play.

        But if switching to quick picks makes this feel easier, than that’s not a bad thing 🙂

  • Angela

    In the history of lotto numbers do you know say Mega or Powerball game – have the same exact numbers been drawn more than once?

  • Simon Matthews

    I recently developed a Lotto simulator. There are various methods of choosing your numbers, including ‘Manual’, ‘Random’, ‘Overdue Based’ and ‘Modify on Match’. You enter the amount of draws or years to run the simulation and then wait for the results.

    It is interesting to note that the ‘Overdue Based’ method of choosing numbers turns out to be consistently the worst method. The only reason I can think for this happening is that by only picking from the most overdue numbers it is limiting itself on the range of numbers it has to choose from.

    Here are some of my results based on 1,000,000 draws:

    Draws: 1,000,000

    Overdue Based:

    Jackpots: 0
    5+Bonus: 0
    5 nums: 4
    4 nums: 454
    3 nums: 10601 *
    2 nums: 97558
    1 num: 381778

    Modify on Match:

    Jackpots: 0
    5+Bonus: 0
    5 nums: 10 *
    4 nums: 456 *
    3 nums: 10246
    2 nums: 97760 *
    1 num: 381573

    Manual:

    Jackpots: 0
    5+Bonus: 0
    5 nums: 9
    4 nums: 452
    3 nums: 10512
    2 nums: 97398
    1 num: 381987 *

    • LG

      I’d suggest running a lot more draws – is this a 6/49 draw you’re simulating? If so, that’s 13 million+ combinations so 1 million draws isn’t all that many statistically. Run a billion 🙂

      Also bear in mind coding a random number generator (RNG) isn’t easy, depending on how it’s done it can vary from being heavily biased to outright predictable. Different programming languages handle random number generation very differently. What are you coding in? Commercial RNG’s use events like radioactive decay or atmospheric noise to seed their randomness.

      It’s all good fun though 🙂

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