A Maserati for £1
After Dave and Angela Dawes won £101 million on the Euromillions lottery, Radio 5 Live asked me to comment on the different ways one could win a decent amount of money for £1. I chose £100,000, which will buy you a shiny new Maserati ( a Ferrari would be about double that). The recording of my interview is here, and here are the details of my calculations, which I hope are roughly correct.
There are 49 balls and if your choice of 6 numbers matches 5 winning balls plus the bonus number (a 7th ball drawn) then this generally wins around £100,000 and has a probability 1 in 2,330,636.
The new ‘Health Lottery’ has a poor payout to the punters of around 33p in the pound, but 5 numbers out of 50 would win ‘up to £100,000’ with probability 1 in 2,118,760.
However you keep your £1 stake, and so a fairer comparison is to assume that you find a friend to lend you £500 for a month for £1 – this is 2.4% annual interest which is not too bad at the moment. With 500 bonds held for a month the odds of wining at least £100,000 are 1 in 16,000,000, around 8 times worse than the lotteries.
Suppose you examine a race meeting with 6 races, and in each race choose a horse at medium odds of around 6 to 1 against. Then an accumulator, in which the winnings of each race are passed to the next horse, will pay out, will give you $7 \times 7 \times 7 \times 7 \times 7 \times 7$ = £117,000 if they all win. Given a bookmakers margin of, say, 15% each bet, the true odds may be around 1 in 230,000.
If you can find a casino to let you bet £1, place it on your lucky number between 1 and 36. When it wins, either leave the £36 there or move it to another number. When that comes up too, move the £1296 you now have to another number, or leave it where it is – it doesn’t make any difference to the odds, but somehow it seems that the chance increases when the money is moved.
When that comes up you will have £46.656, so move it all to Red, and when that comes up you will have £93,312, almost enough for your Maserati.
The chances of this happening, on a European roulette wheel with 1 zero, are
$ 1/37 \times 1/37 \times 1/37 \times 18/37 $= 1 in 104,120.
Roulette is your best bet – about twice as good as horse-racing, about 20 times as good as lotteries, and about 160 times as good as premium bonds.