A Guide to the UK Lotto – How the Games Work, Odds, and More

By in UK on
6 Minute Read
Lotto Tickets UK Lotto Ball

Lotto statistics show that 70% of UK adults play the National Lottery regularly. The lotto generated £2.9 billion in 2018/2019, and lots of that went to good causes. It also made lots of lucky UK lotto players millionaires, which is the whole reason people play in the first place.

I remember the first lottery draw, and to this day, I still play it on a weekly basis. It has changed a bit in that time and, now, there are several different games on top of the original one.

In this guide, I’m going to show you:

  • How to play each lottery game
  • The odds of winning each UK lotto game
  • The size of the jackpots in each lotto game
  • Some tips and tricks for winning the National Lottery
  • Everything else you need to know about the different UK lotto games

This is your complete guide to the UK National Lottery. To begin, take a look at the UK’s lotto interest by region according to Google trends:

Lotto Interest by Region

The UK National Lottery

Let’s start with the UK National Lottery—the one, the only, the original. This game launched back in 1994 and the draw takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

How to Play the UK National Lottery

Playing the original lotto game is easy. It works a lot like keno. It’s a four-step process:

  1. Choose six numbers between 1 and 59. You can select “lucky dip” to have the lotto machine randomly select them for you.
  2. You can play up to 7 numbers on each slip, and you can buy up to 10 slips at a time.
  3. You’ll then need to select which days you want to play. You can choose Wednesday, Saturday, or both.
  4. Pay for your ticket and wait for the results. If you play online and win, email alerts will let you know.

You win the lottery by matching numbers. You don’t have to match them all to win, you can claim smaller prizes if you match between two and five numbers. Players who win all of the numbers get the jackpot.

  • The odds of winning the UK lotto are 1 in 45,057,474.
  • If nobody wins the jackpot, it can “roll over” up to five times.
  • Base jackpots are £2 million on Wednesdays and £3.6 million on Saturdays.


The first Euromillions draw took place in 2004 as a pan-European lotto game. It’s known to award the biggest jackpots of them all, which makes sense since so many more players are involved in each draw.

How to Play Euromillions

Playing Euromillions is a little different from the standard lotto:

  1. You pick five numbers between 1 and 50 and two lucky stars between 1 and 12. Again, you can opt for a lucky dip if you prefer.
  2. You’ll need to decide which draws to play in. They take place on a Tuesday and Friday.
  3. You can play up to seven lines per ticket and can buy as many as 10 tickets per transaction.
  4. Wait for the draw. If you have an online lotto account, you will be notified if you win a prize.

While the biggest jackpot is reserved for players who match all five numbers and two lucky stars, you can win cash prizes for matching just two numbers. The smallest prize is £2.70, which is just a little more than the cost of your ticket.

  • The odds of winning Euromillions are 1 in 139,838,160.
  • UK players also get a millionaire-maker code with each line purchased.
  • The Euromillions jackpot minimum is at £15 million.


Thunderball has the best odds of any UK lottery game. As you’ve probably seen by now, each game is similar, but the way you win is a little different.

How to Play Thunderball

  1. Pick five numbers between 1 and 39, and one Thunderball between 1 and 14.
  2. Decide which days you want to play on, draws take place four times per week.
  3. You can but up to 10 tickets with seven numbers per line.
  4. Camelot automatically notifies winners via email if you play online.

Thunderball is one of the most popular UK lottery games, and it also gives you the best odds of winning.

  • The odds of winning the Thunderball jackpot are 1 in 8,060,598.
  • The top prize in the Thunderball draw is £500,000.
  • This is the cheapest lottery game at £1 per ticket.

Set For Life

How would you like to get a wire transfer worth £10,000 each month for the next 30 years? That’s an attractive proposition to most people, and that’s what the Set For Life lotto game offers you the chance to win.

How to Play Set For Life

Each UK lotto game is slightly different, but they all follow a similar structure:

  1. Pick five numbers from 1 to 47 and 1 Life Ball between 1 and 10. As with the other games, you can opt for the Lucky Dip.
  2. Set For Life draws take place every Monday and Thursday.
  3. Again, you can buy up to 7 lines per ticket and up to 10 tickets at a time.
  4. You can check your tickets manually, online, or by setting up notifications with a UK Lottery online account.

Unlike the other lottery games on this list, the jackpot isn’t paid out all at once. You will get paid in £10k instalments every month for 30 years. If you get five full numbers but don’t get the Life Ball, you’ll win £10k a month for one year. You can win smaller fixed prizes for matching fewer numbers.

  • The odds of winning Set For Life are 1 in 15,339,390.
  • This is the newest lotto game on this list, it launched in 2019.
  • It’s also a cheap game to play at £1.50 per ticket.

UK Lotto – an Engine for Good Causes

Ever since it launched in 1994, the National Lottery has been a driving force for good.

Here are some of the great things lotto ticket purchases have funded since that historic first draw:

  • The lottery has given more than 565,000 grants to good causes ranging from bands needing new instruments to campaigns to stop species from going extinct.
  • Lotto proceeds have funded lots of Olympic athletes. These athletes have won 864 medals for the UK.
  • The lottery has also helped fund some cinematic masterpieces, including The King’s Speech. This film went on to win four Oscars.

If you ever wonder about the ethics of playing lottery games, just think about all of the great things that never would have happened without the UK National Lottery.

How to Win the Lottery – Tips and Tricks

In the final analysis, winning the lottery depends on getting lucky. There’s no way to win a jackpot other than sheer good fortune. However, some players feel that there are things you can do to improve your chances.

Some top UK lotto tips include:

  • Play as part of a syndicate. Get together with friends and buy as many tickets as you can between you. Agree to share the jackpot if you win. The only way to improve your odds is to buy more tickets, and doing it this way gives you more chances to win without the extra cost. Just be 100% sure you can trust the ticket holder.
  • Play higher numbers. No, there’s no long-term evidence to suggest that high numbers come up more often. So, why play them? Because many people play lotto numbers based on people’s birthdays which they believe to be lucky numbers, meaning between 1 and 31. It’s crowded down there, which means there’s a bigger chance you’ll have to split the jackpot.
  • Divide your bankroll sensibly. Take a look at the odds of winning each game above. While the Euromillions jackpot is attractive, you don’t have a great chance of winning it. If your budget is £10 per week, why not buy one Euromillions ticket (£2.50), one Set For Life ticket (£1.50), and six Thunderball tickets (£1 each) or some such combination? This works well, since Thunderball has the best odds of any UK lotto game.
Oliver Hughes

Based out of London, I began freelance writing for the UK section of GamblingSites.org in October of 2019. Having worked in the gambling industry for over 10 years, I now have the pleasure of adding this site to my list of accomplishments as a casino writer. ...

View all posts by Oliver Hughes
Email the author at: [email protected]