How to Play the UK National Lottery and Some Alternatives

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UK National Lottery Ticket Logo

The UK National Lottery launched back in 1994, and since then, it has grown to become one of the most-played national lotteries in the world. There’s not a newsagent, filling station, or general shop in the country that doesn’t sell lottery tickets and scratch cards.

The “lotto” as it’s commonly called, is an ingrained part of UK culture. Millions are spent and won on it weekly, and approximately £30 million is given to charitable causes within the UK each week.

I’m going to walk you through how to play the UK National Lottery, some interesting lotto facts, some tips and tricks for winning, and some alternatives to the UK lotto.

How to Play the UK National Lottery

There are two ways to play the UK lotto. The first way is to buy a ticket in your local shop or service station.

To play this way, follow these steps:

  1. Take a lottery card from the designated lotto point in the shop.
  2. Pick the number you want to play and the days you want to play it. Make sure you pick the right card. There are now multiple games including the Euro Millions.
  3. Pick your numbers or select the Lucky Dip option. If you opt for the Lucky Dip, the lotto machine randomly selects numbers for you.
  4. Take your lotto card to the counter, pay the ticket fee, and the shop assistant will print your official lottery ticket for you.
  5. You can watch the draw live on TV or online if you wish, or you can check your numbers on the National Lottery website, via the mobile app, or by taking your ticket back into the shop.

The other way is to play online. If you want to do this, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the UK National Lottery website and/or download the mobile app.
  2. Create an account. Once you’ve done this, you’ll have to connect a payment method such as a debit card.
  3. Decide which games/draws you want to play in and for how many weeks you want to play.
  4. Pick the numbers you want to play on the digital ticket on the screen. Again, you may opt for the random Lucky Dip option.
  5. When the lottery draw takes place, log into your account and see if you’ve won anything. Unlike with physical lotto tickets, you don’t need to check specifically. If you’ve won, you’ll know when you log in.

How Does the UK Lottery Work?

Remember that there are multiple different lottery games now available in the UK. There’s the good old original lottery, the Euro Millions draw, and then there are the Thunderball, Hot Picks, and Daily Play games.
uk lotto graph

For this lottery explanation, I’m talking about the original lottery, the one my great-grandmother won the only week she forgot to play her lucky numbers. Yes, that one!

  1. This is a six-ball lottery game. You pick six numbers when you play.
  2. Each ball has a number on it between 1 and 59. Six of these numbers will be selected. A second-chance “bonus ball” will also be selected.
  3. To win the jackpot, you need to match all six numbers. However, you can win smaller prizes for winning fewer numbers. How big these are depend on how many people win prizes.
  4. You’ll also notice that each ticket has a “Millionaire Raffle” number on it. There’s one guaranteed millionaire every week. This raffle number will be selected randomly. Someone must win it every week.
  5. If nobody wins the main lottery jackpot, it rolls over to the next draw. It can get really big when this happens for multiple weeks.

Lottery Tips and Tricks – How to Win More Often

Before I get into this, I want to make a little disclaimer of sorts. The lottery is a game of chance. There are no ways to manipulate it, but there are some commonsense things you can do to give yourself the best shot of winning. These lottery strategies are free, and any player can use them.

Form a Lottery Syndicate

When I hear or read the word “syndicate,” my mind automatically jumps to mob bosses fixing horse races or MIT graduates hooked up to worldwide computer systems which crunch data.

Lottery syndicates aren’t really like that. Instead, they’re groups of friends and workmates who club together to buy as many tickets as possible in the agreement that they’ll split what they win.

Syndicates vary in size and type. From two or three friends playing £10 per week to entire workplaces buying multiple tickets each per week, lotto syndicates all share one objective. They buy as many six-number combinations as possible and hope to win.

Lottery syndicates aren’t illegal. In fact, they’re commonplace, although people involved in them tend to keep quiet about it. They make sense when you think about them. You won’t have to buy hundreds of tickets out of your own pocket, but you will get hundreds of tickets to the game. You’ll just have to share the jackpot if you win!

That might not be so bad, though. The biggest UK National Lottery jackpot to date was £161.6 million (won in a Euro Millions game). I don’t think I’d mind splitting that between 10 people, especially if they were family or close friends. How about you?

Play Hot or Cold Numbers

The idea of hot or cold numbers has been around since long before national lotteries existed. The idea started with casino games like keno.

According to this theory, there are numbers which are picked more frequently than others known as hot numbers. There are also cold numbers which come up less frequently.

Is there any statistical data to back this up? It turns out that there is. So far, over the course of its history, the three most picked numbers in the UK lotto are 54, 58, and 52. The least frequently picked numbers are 33, 28, and 21. This could change as the months and years go on, but as of right now, those are the UK lotto hot and cold numbers.

Remember that the hot and cold numbers strategy depends on statistical data available up until now. I personally believe that over a long enough timeline, every ball would be picked the same number of times. However, at least in the shorter term, certain numbers have indeed been picked more or less frequently.

Different players use this data in different ways. Some prefer to pick hot numbers since they’re more likely to come up. Others prefer to play cold numbers because they’re due to be picked. There are all sorts of lotto calculators and tools which can tell you which numbers are due according to statistics.

I’ve been playing the lottery for years, and I’ve never used them. I’m not dismissing them, but I’m honestly a bit suspicious of them. The ultimate truth is this, every number has a 1 in 59 chance of being picked in any draw. I don’t spend too much time analyzing previous picks, and neither should you.

You don’t want to end up like this guy.

Pick Higher Numbers

Ask any average Joe or Jane on the street what her lotto numbers are, and I’ll bet you many of them will tell you numbers between 1 and 31. Why? Because many people pick numbers which are the birthdays of their family members such as their kids, parents, etc.

This belief in “lucky numbers” means that it’s crowded in the bottom half of the lotto numbers pool. That poses a potential problem, because if more than one person wins the lottery, the jackpot gets split.

Do you see where I’m going with this? If you win the lottery with high numbers, there’s much less of a chance that you’ll have to split what you win.

Are high numbers any more or less likely to be picked? I’m going against the grain here and holding my initial position. I still believe that every number has the same chance of being picked no matter what has happened in the past. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you could play four high numbers and a couple of low ones, just in case.

UK Lottery Alternatives

There are a few different lotto-style games you can play if the National Lottery either doesn’t appeal to you or if you just fancy something different. Let’s go through them one by one.

Online Scratch Cards

Many online casinos offer digital scratchcards. These instant win games are available at top UK casinos like Betfair.

Unlike physical scratchcards, you won’t need a coin to scratch these. Instead, you just tap a button to reveal the game symbols. If you win, the prize amount will pop up on the screen.

There are both penny scratch cards with minor prizes and high stakes scratchers which cost several pounds and offer much larger potential payouts.

Online Keno

Keno is the OG of lottery games. It’s been around since the days of Chinese dynasties. It’s played at casinos all over the world today, and you can play keno online at most casino sites. Bet365 offers keno games.

While the UK lotto has 59 numbers, keno games have 80. This is a game with a large house edge (ranging between 20% and 35%), but you only need to match two balls to win something in most games.

You can pick 10 or sometimes 15 numbers in a keno game. If you match them all, chances are you’re going to be a millionaire. Always consult the pay table of the keno game you’re playing to check what you could win.

Online Lottery Betting Sites

I recently came across an interesting website which allows UK players to participate in national lottery draws from all around the world. They enable you to play in the US Powerball and Australian Lotteries, for example.

How is that possible? You bet on the outcome of the draw rather than buying an actual ticket, allowing you to participate by a degree of separation.

These sites are still a relatively new phenomenon, so make sure you do your research before you sign up and play at them. However, it’s still worth knowing about them.

UK Lottery Facts and Stats

I’d like to wrap this up with some interesting facts about the UK national lottery.

Here are five that I think everyone should know:

  • One lucky family in England has won the jackpot a staggering three times. The odds of this happening are 350 billion to one.
  • Some of the best British films of all time are lottery-funded. These include The King’s Speech and Billy Elliot.
  • Surveys show that roughly 70% of UK adults say they play the lottery regularly.
  • The odds of matching all six balls and winning the jackpot are 45,057,473 to 1.
  • On average, the UK lottery makes six millionaires each week.

Now that you know how to play the lottery, how to increase your chances of winning, and some fun online lottery games, why not play now?

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. ...

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Email the author at: [email protected]