Lottery odds represent your chances of winning a lottery prize in strictly mathematical terms. By having a basic understanding of lottery odds and what they mean, you can play your chosen games more effectively – perhaps by buying more Lotto tickets when the lottery jackpot has rolled over a few times. You will also be able to better appreciate why your chances of winning a modest prize are always better than your chances of winning a jackpot.
Odds of winning a lottery prize are generally expressed as a 1 in X chance, whereX is the number of possible outcomes. Think of tossing a coin and calling heads or tails. There are two possible outcomes and you have to pick one of them. The lottery odds of you being right can therefore be expressed as 1 in 2. The rule of thumb to remember here is that the lower the second figure is (in this case a 2) the more chance you have of winning.
As most of you will already know, the UK Lotto game requires you to pick six main numbers from the range 1 to 49. When the draw takes place, six main winning numbers are drawn, and then one additional Bonus Ball. The Lotto offers five prize levels for players who match certain quantities of numbers, and the lottery odds of winning at each prize level are therefore dependent on the probability of the associated quantity of numbers being achieved.
- For example, to win the UK Lotto jackpot you need to match all six main numbers from the range 1 to 49. There are 13,983,816 possible combinations of six numbers from 49 numbers so the lottery odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 13,983,816.
- The next highest Lotto prize goes to those players who match five of the main numbers plus the Bonus Ball. There is more chance of a player matching five main numbers and the Bonus Ball, so the odds of winning are better at 1 in 2,330,636.
- Matching five main numbers alone is even easier, and so the lottery odds continue to improve for the third Lotto prize, and are 1 in 55,492.
- The fourth Lotto prize is won by matching four main numbers. Since there are six main numbers drawn in the game and the player gets to select six numbers, the odds of success here are a rather good 1 in 1,033.
- Finally, the fifth Lotto prize level requires players to match three main numbers. With the player having selected six numbers, and six numbers being draw, this is the easiest of all outcomes to achieve. The odds of success are therefore the best here at 1 in 57.
As you can see, the easier it is to achieve something, the better the odds of success get. This is why the jackpot in a lottery is always given for the outcome with the longest (worst) odds of success, and the smallest consolation prize is given for the outcome with the easiest (best) odds of success.
To make lottery odds as easy to read as possible, they are often presented in table format, with odds for each prize level given on a separate line. For example, here are the odds for the UK Lotto in table format:
UK Lotto Odds
|Numbers Matched||Odds Of Winning|
|6 main numbers||1 in 13,983,816|
|5 main numbers + Bonus Ball||1 in 2,330,636|
|5 main numbers||1 in 55,492|
|4 main numbers||1 in 1,033|
|3 main numbers||1 in 57|