When it comes to gambling, it seems that everyone has a system to beat whatever game they prefer to play. The lottery is no exception, with countless individuals and publications advocating various systems that will increase your chances of winning a prize. Do any of these so-called systems have any merit? Let’s take a closer look at what these lottery systems have to offer for the typical Australian lottery player.
A lottery system is any method by which a player picks numbers in order to maximize their chances of winning a jackpot or other prizes in a lottery drawing. Some popular (and free) lottery systems include:
The common denominator for all of these systems is that they typically claim to offer you some way of either lowering the normal house edge in the lottery game, or even allowing you to win over the long run by playing the lottery. Others make less lofty claims, simply saying that they might increase your chances of putting together big wins or hitting a jackpot.
The answer to this question depends on exactly what you mean by “work.” However, assuming you’re asking whether a lottery system can improve your long term results in the lottery, the answer is virtually always a firm no.
Let’s look at those systems that track numbers, either through a generic “hot/cold” system or one of the more complex long-term data crunching systems. There’s a major problem with either of these systems: the fact that every single lottery draw is completely random, and that all of them are entirely independent of each other.
The belief that analysing data can predict future results in the lottery is related to the gambler’s fallacy. This is the belief that if there have been results that are out of line with the expected probability for a particular random event – such as the lottery – that future trials will bring the probability back into line, thus “fixing” the data. In some cases, people believe the opposite – that numbers that have been hot lately will continue to be hot, as they have proven to be non-random.
The biggest issue with these beliefs is the fact that the lottery balls have no “memory” of previous results. The hopper or other device from which the numbers are picked doesn’t remember that 8 and 23 haven’t been picked in a month or more; it’s just a device that spits out random numbers every time.
Take the example of flipping a coin. If you are about to start and want to know the odds of flipping heads five times in a row, it’s 1 in 32. However, if you’ve already flipped four heads in a row, what is the chance you’ll now flip heads the fifth time? The answer is 1 in 2 – the same as any other coin flip. Just because it was unlikely that you’d flip the coin and get heads five times in a row when you started, it doesn’t change the odds of a single coin flip based on your previous results.
Remember that every single lottery drawing is completely random, and that every combination is equally likely to occur on any given draw (with the exception of the Soccer Pools, where there are some numbers that are more likely to be drawn than others). Even combinations that feel unlikely to us – like the Powerball drawing coming out 1-2-3-4-5 – are just as likely as any other; it’s just that there are very few combinations that would make obvious patterns to us, so we rarely see a result like that one.
Despite what we wrote above, there are some lottery systems that do work – in a sense. You might recall that we mentioned a type of system in which you play many different combinations of a group of numbers, with the goal being to increase your chances of scoring multiple wins. These are the types of System plays that are offered to players on Oz Lotteries, where you can play a group of tickets that cover every single combination of a certain group of numbers. For instance, a System 8 will cover every possible combination within those eight numbers, guaranteeing that if enough of those numbers come up in the draw, you’ll win many prizes.
This sort of system actually works, at least to a point. These systems do maximize your chances of winning multiple prizes, though they also increase your chances of playing a large number of tickets and coming away with few or no wins at all. If the right numbers come up, you’ll be scoring wins left and right; if the wrong numbers are drawn, every single ticket could miss.
Lottery games are almost entirely based on luck, and no system will turn a lottery into a game that you’ll be able to consistently win at. That said, as long as you understand the truths and limitations about systems, there’s no harm in playing them, either: while they won’t make your odds any better, they also won’t make them worse.