Sunday, 2 September 2012

A lottery oddity

There is a minor news item today  about a curious result in the UK National Lottery.  Five people who each chose the six correct numbers shared £4.8 million, getting £968,000 each, but the single "runner-up", who matched five of the six main balls plus the bonus ball, won nearly £1.5 million - half as much again as the winners!

This is very unusual: it required several people to pick the same six winning numbers while only a single person chose any of the six possible "runner-up" combinations.  Apparently the winning numbers were 15, 30, 36, 39, 41 and 49 and the bonus number was 2.

I am curious about the distribution of the prizes.  There are six "runner-up" combinations - any five of the six main balls plus the bonus ball - while only one winning selection, so I would have expected that the pot for the winner would be six times that for the runner-up.  Instead it's just over three times.  That makes this unexpected result rather more likely than if the relative size of the pots had been proportional to the odds.

Of course, this is good publicity for the lottery (and, as the spokesman says, good news for six people who've won sizeable sums of money).


  1. That really is such a strange occurrence. I can only imagine the roller coaster of emotions the person who won the runner up prize felt as he realized he was 1 number away from winning it all to finding out it was actually better that he didn't get every single number. What a ride! At this point I think you have to just take the lump sum. $1.5 million is a crazy amount of money, but is it really enough to receive payments for it? I guess he could always do a cash for structured settlement payment if he changed his mind. This definitely falls under the "good problems to have" category!

  2. I thinks they just didn't expect that to occur and simply failed to take into account.