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What If...? Introduction

It can be fun to calculate hypothetical situations which you know are extremely unlikely in real life, but give some indication as to whether or not such a course of action would cause a change in the way people play the UK lottery.

Having heard of attempts around the world to buy most or all of the ticket combinations for a draw in an attempt to win enough prizes to make a handsome profit (this happened once in the Irish lottery for instance), it seemed an obvious first What If...? question. Besides, I've been e-mailed on several occasions with this very question and haven't been able to provide a definitive answer to the question of someone buying up all 13,983,816 ticket combinations and how this would impact the UK lottery.

In reality

In reality, to buy 14 million tickets would be a nightmare. You not only need £14 million of course (requiring multi-millionaires or a very large syndicate to take part), but the sheer logistics of feeding in playslips (which only allow you to buy a maximum of 7 sets of 6 numbers at a time) would require a team of several hundred people around the country willing to feed in several thousand playslips each.

Of course, you'd need 2 million playslips and some computer software to print out all the combinations in a sort of "human way" (i.e. with a random pen mark so it doesn't look like it's done by software). Retailers probably won't accept playslips that are entirely printed by third party computer, but that could be an avenue worth trying - a good quality double-sided colour printer would be needed, although you'd no doubt be breaking copyright by reproducing playslips in this manner (and risk having entries voided by Camelot).

It's also hard to see how the Press (and Camelot themselves) wouldn't catch wind of all this - all the retailers and playslip feeders would have to be paid handsomely for their work and to keep quiet about it. If the story did break, then ticket sales would be further boosted by people thinking that it's a bigger draw (though in reality, the majority of extra prizes would go to the additional 14 million tickets).

What's involved

The following things happen when every ticket combination is additionally bought for a draw:

By now, you'll have realised that to make a profit when buying all the ticket combinations, you have to rely on not sharing the higher tier prizes (particularly the jackpot and 5+bonus prizes) with too many other tickets. This is such a risk that it effectively rules out it ever being tried in real life.

How it's calculated

As you can see above, the changes to the number of prizes and the prize pools have been pre-calculated and are constant for each draw. These changes can be used in combination with each draw's results to calculate the exact effect to the prize structure for each draw.

There is one circumstance, of course, where there's maximum profit to be made - where the jackpot wasn't won in the original draw. Unfortunately, in real life this would cancel the next draw's rollover and this fact has had to be ignored when calculating the change for each draw (there's no easy way to compensate for a theoretical lack of a rollover).

One other factor could affect profit and that's rollovers (or Super Draws). However, this is even riskier than usual because the jackpot gets all the rollover/Super Draw additional funds, so to make a profit, the jackpot has to be won outright by one of the additional ticket combinations. However, real life attempts might concentrate on these types of draws, so I've provided additional pages which just list the changes to those draws.

[What If...?]

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