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The exciting and the new.

I want you. I want you.

You, the grass that is always greener.

You, the exciting and the new.

You, the uncertain.

I want you.

Note: I’ve never been very good with words, and i don’t think anyone would ever have cause to call me a poet, so i was quietly pleased with myself for producing the above. It originally appeared on twitter.

It could be me. A conclusion.

For 52 weeks, from March 2010 to March 2011, I ran a daft experiment that i referred to as “It Could Be Me“. The idea was that i’d “invest” £1 every week in playing Saturday’s National Lottery and at the same time i’d put £1 in a savings account, then after a year see which was most profitable. In the end, the results were unsurprising but i promised further analysis and a conclusion, so here it is. (Just a few months late.)

What happened? Over the year i played several different sets of numbers. I started with 06, 09, 16, 23, 27, 32 (now to be known as Set1), playing that line for 11 weeks. It won nothing. For the next 29 weeks i played the line 06, 09, 11, 23, 33, 44 (Set2) but they won nothing either. In desperation, for the last 12 weeks of the experiment i switched to Lucky Dip numbers (lines of numbers drawn randomly for you). These were unfruitful too.

Thus, after a year of playing, the final balance of my lottery investment was -£52. The final balance of the savings investment was £52.14. So therefore we can say that you’re over £100 a year better off banking a pound a week than playing the lottery. Or alternatively, you’re 14 pence better off a year banking a pound a week than doing nothing with it. Check me! I’m the new Martin “Money Saving Expert” Lewis.

What would’ve happened if…? Having not won a single penny on the lottery, i started (as i’m sure gamblers all do) to wonder “what if?” What if i’d played Set1 all year instead of swapping? What if I’d stuck with Set2? What if i’d played Set2 from the beginning of the experiment? And so on.

Well, thanks to historical number checkers (such as this one) we can easily find out what would’ve happened if…

…i’d played Set1 for all 52 weeks? I would’ve had one £10 win. So the lottery investment would’ve only ended up as £42 loss.

…i’d played Set2 for the remainder of the experiment (instead of switching to Lucky Dips)? Nothing. I’d have still lost £52.

…i’d played Set2 from the start and for all 52 weeks? Again, nothing. I’d have still lost £52.

…i’d played any of the Lucky Dip lines for all 52 weeks? Yeah, you guessed it, not a lot. (Best outcome from any of those 12 Lucky Dip lines was an overall loss of £13)

…i’d played Set1 in both Saturday and Wednesday draws for 52 weeks? One win but now twice the outlay, so an overall loss of £94.

…i’d played Set2 in both Saturday and Wednesday draws for 52 weeks? Four £10 wins… but that still means an overall loss of £64.

Do you see a pattern emerging yet?

Thanks to historical number checkers it is possible to see that even had i played Set1 in every National Lottery Lotto draw ever made i would have lost £1225 (that’s £398 of winnings, against £1,623 in ticket costs). Similarly, using Set2 in all draws to date would have lost me £1114 (£509 in winnings, £1623 in costs). In fact, put in just about any random set of 6 numbers and you will find that the total winnings lies somewhere between £300 and £700 – much, much less than you’ve spent on buying the tickets.

So there we go. No surprises. Playing the lottery is an absolute mug’s game. You’d be an utter fool to do it. Your money is better off in the bank. It’s even better off under the bed. You won’t win big.

And that’s why i no longer play the lottery. Or, why i wouldn’t if it wasn’t for this stupid little optimistic glimmer that says one day It Could Be Me.