Ticket sales for the National Lottery spiked again ahead of yesterday's draw, and even brought the website down with so many people trying to buy tickets online. Nobody picked up the jackpot, so it rolled over yet again, and is now an estimated £57.8 million. The size of the jackpot is an indication of how incredibly hard it is to win under the new rules - so can you improve your chances?
The jackpot is the biggest so far on the National Lottery, and has eclipsed the previous record of £42 million. It's the result of the fact that it has rolled over 14 times over seven weeks, since new rules were brought in that make it much harder to win the jackpot.
Camelot added ten new numbers to pick from, dramatically slashing your odds of winning the jackpot from around one in 14 million to one in 45 million. Camelot says it also introduced a number of other ways of winning at the same time - that actually improve your chances of winning a million - but the jackpot has become even more elusive.
It had an inkling this might happen when it changed the rules. That's why the jackpot is allowed to roll over until it gets bigger than £50 million. At that point there will be one more draw as normal (yesterday). IN the draw on Saturday, if nobody wins, then the money will be shared among the people who get the most numbers correct.
It means there's only a small window in which to win this jackpot. The question is how to improve your chances. The easy answer is to buy more tickets, but the statisticians have come up with a number of other options too.
1) Pick the most common numbers
Camelot has released a list of the numbers that are drawn most frequently. They are 23, 38, 31, 25, 33 and 11. The company goes to a great deal of trouble to ensure that in every draw there's an exactly equal likelihood of any number getting picked, which would mean it's pointless choosing these numbers in the hope they will come up again. However, there are those who swear by the theory of choosing common numbers.
2) Pick the least common numbers
Again, it needs to be said that each time the numbers are picked, no one number is more likely than any other to be chosen. However, there are some lottery fans who reason that this should mean that each number is picked the same number of times, so they can improve their chances by choosing those that haven't been picked as often recently. Among those branded as 'most overdue', are 6,33,45,5,16 and 36. These were all drawn at least two months ago - and in some cases three months or more.
3. Change your name
It's getting even more tenuous, but Camelot says the most common names among jackpot winners are Margaret and John. While you're at it, you could also retrain as a builder or move to Birmingham - as people in this city and profession have won more often than any other.
The sad fact is that there's no real way to guarantee winning the jackpot. You can crunch the numbers any way you like, and still the chance of winning is vanishingly small. The only way you can improve your odds of winning all of the jackpot is to try to pick a combination of numbers that nobody else has come up with - so you are the only winner.
4. Choose a lucky dip
The only way to pick an uncommon sequence of number is to plump for a lucky dip. This seems counter-intuitive, because there are lots of reasons why some numbers are picked more than others.
So, for example, the numbers up to 31 are picked more than higher numbers, because so many people include birthdays. Likewise a study in 1998 found that 7 and 13 were picked more often because people saw them as lucky numbers. People also commonly pick numbers 1,2,3,4,5 and 6, they like to select numbers in a line, and they often go for numbers at the middle of the game card.
The introduction of numbers 50-59 also meant the introduction of 10 numbers that were not going to be chosen by anyone who has been playing the same numbers for years.
It would therefore seem perfectly possible to use this information wisely in order to select numbers that nobody else would choose.
The problem is that lottery players know this, and as a result, while some people opt for these popular numbers, there are also plenty of people who go out of their way to avoid these traps and pick unpopular ones. The only way to steer clear of both groups, is to opt for a lucky dip, and ensure the numbers really are chosen at random.
But what do you think? Will you go after the jackpot, or will you guarantee your chances of being better off than the vast majority of people who play the National Lottery - by not buying a ticket at all? Let us know in the comments.