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Tonight’s €19m Lotto jackpot is guaranteed to be won after six months of no winner – just what are your chances of hitting it big?

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Lotto presenter Nuala Carey

Lotto presenter Nuala Carey

Associate Professor Brien Nolan says winning the Lotto is akin to guessing the exact second of time in a four month window.

Associate Professor Brien Nolan says winning the Lotto is akin to guessing the exact second of time in a four month window.

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Lotto presenter Nuala Carey

In 1982, Jack Straus won the World Series of Poker Main Event despite being down to his last chip earlier in the tournament.

This was an odds-defying feat of previously unseen magnitude in poker, landing him the $520,000 first prize and giving rise to the famous term, “All you need is a chip and a chair”.

The National Lottery has not been won since June 2021, a defiance of odds not quite on Jack Straus’ scale but very unlikely nonetheless. The €19m jackpot will fall in some form this weekend as the Lotto providers Premier Lotteries Ireland received regulatory approval to hold a must-win draw after seven months of rollovers.

But just what odds does each Lotto player have to defy to land Saturday night’s windfall?

The Irish Independent has enlisted the help of Brien Nolan, an Associate Professor in the School of Mathematics at Dublin City University, to pore over the numbers.

What are the odds of matching six numbers and winning the jackpot?

With frankness and certainty, Mr Nolan says the odds of you matching the six numbers and landing the €19m are “remote”.

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“It’s about 10.7 million to one odds that an individual goes into a shop and the line of Lotto they purchase matches six numbers and lands the jackpot. Fundamentally those odds do not change, no matter how many people play the Lotto,” Brien says.

To put this into perspective, Prof Nolan says the chance of someone winning the Lotto is in comparison to arriving at an exact moment in time to the second in a period of four months.

What about five numbers and the bonus?

Now, this is what most punters will be watching closely this weekend. We’ve seen from the last seven months that it is unlikely someone matches six numbers on Saturday, but it is more likely than not that someone will match five numbers and the bonus.

In the last 27 draws, 17 people have matched five numbers and the bonus. And in the likely event nobody matches six numbers, the top prize will filter down to this prize tier. So, there’s a two in three chance at least one person will win the lot.

For an individual, though, they are six times more likely to land this prize than the jackpot at odds of about 1.8m to one, Prof Nolan says.

This is where the excitement now lies for many on Saturday, knowing that they may have a six-fold better chance of winning the Lotto jackpot than normal, should nobody match six numbers.

What about those who get five numbers?

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that nobody matches six numbers or five numbers and the bonus. It is the Irish Lotto, after all.

“In that case, the chances of someone matching five numbers and sharing are approximately 44,500 to one,” Prof Nolan says.

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Not unthinkable I hear you say? Correct. The only issue is the average number of people who have matched five numbers in recent draws with no jackpot winner is approximately 25, so you will be sharing your winnings with a couple dozen others, most likely.

Given the sheer volume of numbers of people expected to do the Lotto on Saturday, this number could be even higher, but if 30 people have to share over €19m amongst themselves, it’s unlikely they will complain.

Are syndicates in a better position now due to the nature of Saturday’s draw?

It is a distinct possibility, yes, especially if prize money trickles down through the tiers.

The odds of winning any prize in the Lotto is 29 to one and it is 10 to one if you’ve included the Lotto Plus draws. If smaller prizes are bolstered as the jackpot fund trickles down to lower prize tiers, it increases the chances of syndicates returning a profit from Saturday’s draw.

Brien urges a note of caution, though. “If you’re basing your financial future on winning prizes in the Lotto then you need to find another hobby,” he says.

“This is supposed to be a fun game with a small chance of winning. Relying on winning, no matter how many lines you buy, is a risky business”.

The days of syndicates “buying the Lotto”, as Stefan Klincewicz-masterminded coups managed in 1990 and 1992 are long gone.

Will the mathematician be playing the Lotto?

You bet. Prof Nolan says he has bought numerous tickets in the last few months and knowing the slim probability of winning doesn’t deter him from playing for a bit of fun.

As the saying goes, “a chip and a chair”…


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