What Are the Chances of Winning the Lottery in a Lifetime?

golden ticketThe National Lottery and its various games are favourite pastimes of many people in the United Kingdom. Over the years of the lottery’s operation, several people have been made into millionaires in a matter of seconds. Of course, it is also prevalent to ask, what are the chances of me winning the lottery in my lifetime? If you were to play the lottery every single week from the legal age, which has now changed to 18 from 16, what exactly are the chances that you will win a huge jackpot at some point?

That is the question that we will be looking at today, as well as the different circumstances that could alter your odds. Naturally, if you purchase more tickets each week and play the game for a longer time period, then the odds will increase in your favour. However, even if you purchased 100 tickets each week for your whole life, there is no assurance that you will win the jackpot more so than someone who only buys a single ticket per week. Stories have emerged of people who have bought a single ticket for the first time and won big, so there is nothing set in stone. However, we want to know what the actual chances of winning the lottery in your lifetime are. Let’s delve into the facts and figures.

The Chances Are Heavily Stacked Against You

betting oddsMany people participate in the lottery with the hopes of scoring that huge jackpot payout. After all, there’s so much that you can do with £1 million or more. However, it is fair to say that with so many people playing the lottery these days, both online and offline, the odds are stacked against you when you purchase a ticket for it. In fact, The Daily Express even went as far as to compile a list of 17 things that are more likely to happen to you than winning the National Lottery in 2016. That list included possibilities like winning an Olympic gold medal, winning an Oscar and even being crushed by a meteorite!

However, official statistics pretty much back-up the statements on that list. The average prize per winner of six numbers on the National Lottery is approximately £5 million. Per entry, the odds of winning that prize is 45,057,474 to 1. Even the odds of winning 5 numbers + the bonus number is 7,509,578 to 1, which equates to around £1 million in prize funds. The table below shows the general odds of winning the different payouts since the changes that were brought about in November of 2018:

Winning NumbersOdds x to 1 Per EntryAverage Prize Per Winner
6 numbers 45,057,474 £5,000,000
5 numbers + bonus number 7,509,578 £1,000,000
5 numbers 144,414 £1,750
4 numbers 2,179 £140
3 numbers 95 £30
2 numbers 9.3 £2

Of course, it also depends upon which variation of the lottery you are playing, so if you are purchasing tickets for the Thunderball or EuroMillions for example, the odds are different. However, for the purposes of this, we are looking solely at the general Lotto game that has been operational since 1994, although which has also gone through various changes throughout the years.

When you compare the odds of winning from 6 numbers on the lottery (45,057,474 to 1) to the odds of being hit by a meteorite (700,000 to 1), that puts things into a bit more perspective. What’s more, you stand the chance of drowning in a bathtub (840,000 to 1) more than winning the lottery jackpot!

However, what are the chances of being a winner within your whole lifetime? As the years go by and you purchase tickets every year, the odds should likely grow in your favour, even minimally, right?

Lifetime Odds of Winning the National Lottery

lottery winner throwing money silhouetteEssentially, you need to take a couple of things into account when it comes to trying to calculate your odds of winning the lottery. Looking at your age and the number of tickets that you purchase for the lottery each week, the data utilised and provided also has the following assumptions in operation:

  • You buy the same number of lottery tickets each and every week
  • You continue buying lottery tickets each week from that age onward
  • Your average life expectancy is 80 years old

If you are calculating your own odds of winning the lottery under these assumptions start at the age you are now.  Even if you have already bought tickets for years it does not matter.  You are looking at the chances of winning the jackpot from this point onward in your lifetime, what has happened in the past will not affect your future odds.

Let’s take a look at what your chances of winning are based on age you start playing and number of tickets purchased each week:

 Number of Tickets Purchased Per Week (Odds 1 in…)
Age1234
18 4,337 2,169 1,446 1,084
20 4,482 2,241 1,494 1,120
25 4,889 2,445 1,630 1,222
30 5,378 2,689 1,793 1,345
40 6,723 3,361 2,241 1,681
50 8,964 4,482 2,988 2,241
60 13,446 6,723 4,482 3,361
70 26,892 13,446 8,964 6,723
79 268,920 134,460 89,640 67,230

Judging by the table, if you are 40 years old and you purchase two lottery tickets every week, the chance that you will win the game is 1 in 3,361. Those figures are basically the chance that you will win the lottery in general, though. The data doesn’t suggest anything about the jackpot total you win, e.g. you could end up splitting your prize with others.

Winning the National Lottery Jackpot

golden egg under magnifying glassTo win the lottery jackpot, you need to match all six drawn numbers on your ticket. Until October 2015, these numbers ran from 1 to 49, but a change was introduced that increased this to 59 balls altogether. For the first winning number therefore, there are 59 balls that are able to be drawn from the selection, and each has an equal chance of being selected. As long as the first ball matches any of the six numbers on your lottery ticket, you can move on with your jackpot hopes. Therefore, 59 divided by 6 equates to a 9.83 figure.

The second winning number is to be drawn from a pool of 58 balls with five remaining numbers being present on your ticket. Therefore, the chance for this to be drawn is 58 divided by 5, equating to 11.6. This then goes on to 57 divided by 4, 56 divided by 3 and so on. If you multiply all those final numbers together, you get an equation like so (numbers underlined show recurring decimals):

(59/6) x (58/5) x (57/4) x (56/3) x (55/2) x (54/1) = 9.83 x 11.6 x 14.25 x 18.6 x 27.5 x 54 = 45,057,474 (or approximately 45 million)

The overall chance of winning the UK National Lottery jackpot amount is 1 in 45 million at any given time. Of course, people generally don’t take such figures into consideration when opting to purchase a lottery ticket for the game. The idea of potentially winning a large amount of money is tempting enough for the vast majority of players.

It Is Not Always About Endurance

is lottery gamblingWhile it is true that some people may purchase one or more tickets every week and continue doing so for several years without winning, there’s the flip side of the coin to this, too. Stories have emerged throughout the years of people buying themselves a lottery ticket and scoring a big payout on their very first attempt.

It was in June of 2020 that a report came forward of a man from Coventry who bought EuroMillions lottery tickets for the very first time and scooped a £1 million prize. Simon Waddup, 31 had chosen to do some chopping in his local Aldi supermarket and chose to enter into the National Lottery game for May 19, 2020. According to him, he heard a voice inside his head that told him to enter the draw, and so he set about purchasing two £2.50 EuroMillions tickets. Both of those tickets were lucky dips, and while Waddup said that he had participated in Instant Win Games via the National Lottery website, he had never bought a ticket for one of the main games.

After returning home from the supermarket, Waddup logged into his National Lottery online account, saw he had £5 in it and chose to buy the two EuroMillions lucky dips for that same night’s draw. The following morning at 8:30am, he looked at his phone and found that he had a message from The National Lottery on it.

He said that he knew he had won something, but he couldn’t quite believe that it was a huge £1 million prize. Until he contacted The National Lottery hotline, he was in disbelief. And of course, Mr Waddup’s lucky situation is not the first time that this sort of occurrence has taken place. Just one year prior, a teenage dad scooped a massive £120,000 prize with his first ever lottery ticket purchase. Sam Lawton, 19 who is a data analyst, said that he was taking an evening bath when he chose to participate in the Set for Life lottery game. It was during that session that he matched five winning numbers, and from a £1.50 ticket, he got to celebrate with £10,000 every month for a 12-month period.

These two particular stories, and various others that have seen people play the lottery for the first time and win big, are proof that it is not always about endurance. Sometimes, fortune is with you and you can win a payout from your first time participating. The issue is that these stories are quite few and far between in the grand scheme of things. Most people participate in the lottery and don’t get to experience any huge windfall from it. And of course, a big reason for that is because of the vast odds that are stacked against you when you play.

What Does This Mean for Players? Is It Worth Participating?

lottery ticket close upIt is clear that luck has a lot to do with playing the lottery, as it does with any sort of gambling game. And naturally, the more tickets that you have in your possession, the better your odds are of actually obtaining a win from it. Of course, the issue is that you can never guarantee that participation in such will see you secure a huge victory.

Is it worth you buying a lottery ticket and getting your hopes up? Well, maybe it is not so great to get your hopes up too much for participation and winning. However, what you can feel from playing the lottery is a sense of satisfaction that you have also contributed to something good. The National Lottery is responsible for funding many things throughout the UK, allowing projects to further blossom where funds may not have been able to be generated for such. So far, over £42 billion has been raised by National Lottery players throughout the country, and this has been donated to over 625,000 projects since 1994.

Some of these projects include the modernisation of Wembley Stadium, funding for the Fight for Peace organisation, which works with young people in London to provide skills for the future and reduce levels of youth violence and crime, and Social Bite, which is a sandwich shop that puts every penny it makes in profit into supporting homeless people and tackling social problems. A variety of projects in various areas have been supported by people purchasing lottery tickets, including sport, heritage, arts, education, environment, health and charity.

Whether or not its worth playing depends upon your view of why you are playing. Yes, it would be great if the odds of winning were in your favour a lot more. However, at the same time, it is great to know that funds are being distributed around progressive projects within the United Kingdom, to advance the country even further. A huge win should be something that is considered a cherry on top of the cake, rather than the whole cake that you are aiming to obtain.