Need help picking lottery numbers?

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What strategy do you use to pick your lottery numbers? Do you suspect that the future winning numbers might be somehow related to the past winning numbers? If so, this blog's for you!

The Powerball lottery jackpot is up to about $1.4 billion - the largest lottery jackpot there has ever been ... in the history of the world!

If you've never played the lottery before, here's what a lottery ticket looks like (thanks Paul!) Basically, you pay $2 and pick 5 numbers (two of which I've scribbled out in pink in Paul's ticket below, so you won't know his exact lucky number!) And if those 5 numbers are drawn, you win. If more than 1 person also picks the same winning numbers, then you have to split the prize with them.

lottery_ticket_paul

So, how do you go about picking your 5 lucky numbers? What's the min & max number range? Currently, you can pick numbers 1-69. The number range has changed over the years - in 2014 it was 1-59, and in 2005 it was 1-55. Here's a graph that shows the changes since 1998:

powerball_lottery

But what numbers are 'lucky'? Well that's the million dollar question! ... or actually, the 1.4 billion dollar question! Some people use birthdays, addresses, gym locker combinations, age, or phone number digits. Some people believe it's pretty well random. Some people believe numbers that have been picked in the past are also more likely to be picked in the future (because of the weight of the paint on the balls, etc). Or some people believe that if a number hasn't been picked in the past, then it is 'due' to be picked soon.

Need help picking lottery numbers? #analytics #powerball Click To TweetIn either of those latter two cases, here's a graph that might help you. It shows the number of times that each number has been picked, since it went to the 69 ball system on Oct 7, 2015 (we've had 28 lottery drawings since then). The red line is the average number of times a number has been picked, and if the number of times is above average, the bar is colored dark blue. The graph is a little wide for the blog format, but you can click the graph to see the full size version:

powerball_lottery1

What's your strategy for picking lottery numbers, and has it worked?!? :)

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About Author

Robert Allison

The Graph Guy!

Robert has worked at SAS for over 25 years, and is perhaps the foremost expert in creating custom graphs using SAS/GRAPH. His educational background is in Computer Science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from NC State University. He is the author of several conference papers, has won a few graphic competitions, and has written a book (SAS/GRAPH: Beyond the Basics).

6 Comments

  1. Susan Farago

    So great you published this especially since I'm in Texas and the current powerball is $1.3 billion. I bought a ticket yesterday (my first time ever) and sure could have used your charts. Might have to go back and get another one. Thanks for the fun analysis!

  2. Pretty sure this is a true statement:

    Odds of winning by letting the system pick random numbers: 1 in 292,000,000
    Odds of winning by selecting your own numbers: 1 in 292,000,000 (my wife was told this would actually improve her chances)
    Odds of winning by not buying a ticket: 0 in 292,000,000

    Actual winning numbers drawn: 4, 8, 18, 27, 34 and 10

    using the chart and selecting only the numbers with 3 or more draws, the best you would have done is hit 19 and 27 (still better than I did :-/).

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