Statistician debunks myths ahead of Toto Hongbao Draw

The start of the long queue on Feb 17 at Singapore Pools’ Hougang N2 Branch at Block 211, Hougang Street 21, the outlet that had the sole winning entry of $9.5 million for the Toto draw on Feb 11.
The start of the long queue on Feb 17 at Singapore Pools’ Hougang N2 Branch at Block 211, Hougang Street 21, the outlet that had the sole winning entry of $9.5 million for the Toto draw on Feb 11.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Queues have been snaking all over the island as hopeful punters try their luck to win the largest-ever top prize of $13.9 million in Singapore Pools' annual Toto Hongbao Draw on Friday (Feb 19). The New Paper talks to an expert who debunks common myths about winning the jackpot.

NUMBERS HAVE NO MEMORY

There are 15 numbers - 1, 12, 15, 18, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31, 33, 36, 38, 44, 45 and 47 - that have not been drawn in the last seven draws according to the Singapore Pools website. Are my odds of winning better if I were to choose these numbers?

Associate Professor Chua Tin Chiu, a statistician from the National University of Singapore, said: "Every draw is independent and a fresh start. Past draws cannot determine what numbers will come out next.

 

"It's like flipping a coin. Assuming it's a fair coin, previous results of heads and tails will not determine the next outcome."

He added that the Toto draw gives equal chance to all numbers and combinations, so there is no pattern, favourite number or combination.

He said: "The numbers have no memory. It's not like numbers say, 'I haven't come out in a while, maybe I'll go out today', so you can't choose numbers this way."

NO SUCH THING AS A 'LUCKY OUTLET'

 

There is a Toto outlet in Hougang that has sold 11 Group 1 and Group 2 winning tickets since October 2014. Should I get my tickets there?

Prof Chua said there is no such thing as a "lucky Toto outlet". Rather, an outlet appears to be lucky because there are more people buying tickets there. "Assuming that more people go to that outlet and buy the QuickPick option, there will be more combinations generated and sold, hence increasing the chances that one of the combinations will be the winning one," he said.

The QuickPick option is when the computer system allocates a randomly generated set of numbers, as opposed to punters choosing their own.

NO STRATEGY IN WINNING

How do you increase the chances of winning?

 
 

The odds of winning for each number combination are the same, so if you believe that the selection is random, there is no strategy in picking the winning combination, said Prof Chua.

Although you can buy more combinations to increase the chances of getting a winner, you are also paying more with a slim chance of returns.

Prof Chua, who buys Toto "occasionally", said he always chooses the QuickPick option as experience tells him that there are no "lucky numbers".

"Essentially, the only way to ensure you win is to buy all possible 14 million combinations," he said.

"If I knew a strategy that would really let me win, I would be a professional gambler and not a professor.

"It's like buying a piece of hope - just don't get addicted to it."


ODDS ON WINNING TOTO

The odds of winning the Toto jackpot if you choose numbers that match the winning six:

Ordinary bet and System 7

Ordinary Bet (left) gives you one ordinary entry, where you select six numbers between 1 and 49.

Cost: $1

Odds: 1 in 14 million

In System 7 (right), you select seven numbers between 1 and 49, which is equivalent to seven ordinary entries.

Cost: $7

Odds: 1 in 2 million

System 10 and System 12

In System 10 (left), you select 10 numbers between 1 and 49, which is equivalent to 210 ordinary entries.

Cost: $210

Odds: 1 in 67,600

In System 12 (right), you select 12 numbers between 1 and 49, which is equivalent to 924 ordinary entries.

Cost: $924

Odds: 1 in 15,000

*Tickets and numbers are random and for illustrative purposes only.


Strike Toto? You're more likely to...

The odds of winning the Toto jackpot are heavily stacked against you. These things are more likely to happen to you than striking Toto with a $1 ordinary bet (a 1 in 14 million chance):


(From top to bottom, left to right) Odds for dying from a bee sting: 1 in 6 million, dying from a shark attack: 1 in 3.7 million, getting struck by lightning: 1 in 775,000, giving birth to quadruplets: 1 in 729,000, getting killed by an asteroid: 1 in 700,000, being in a plane crash: 1 in 500,000.

TNP ILLUSTRATIONS: CELESTINO GULAPA, KELVIN CHAN

SOURCES: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, CNNMONEY, DISCOVER MAGAZINE, NATIONAL COUNCIL ON PROBLEM GAMBLING