Adverts for the UK lottery make me want to rant. So I will.

Let’s give it up for the optimists out there. Don’t just dream of being a lucky winner – think big and think positive, as those dreams could come true.

No they won’t. Sorry to be a spoilsport here, but you will not win the lottery. Yes, I know someone has to win it, but it won’t be you. Yes, I can say that for certain. You will not win the lottery.

It’s not that the odds are low, it’s just how mind-bendingly low those odds are. Let’s give it up for the optimists out there. Give what up? Thinking? No, let’s actually have a think for those people who can’t really grasp huge numbers, which is all of us really. I’m not exactly a genius (I know, false modesty…) and I can’t get my head round the numbers either. So let’s try to put things in perspective…

Think about when you and someone toss a coin to decide who does the washing up, changes the nappy etc. Think about how often you win. Well, it’s half the time, isn’t it? Now take this coin and flip it. Got a heads? Excellent. You only need to get the equivalent of 23 more consecutive heads to win the lottery jackpot. If any one of those tosses results in a tails you lose. So that’s

  1. Flip-Heads [2:1]
    (It’s worth considering here, that after just one flip and with all those other flips stretching out below, you’ll only get to this point half the time)
  2. Flip-Heads [4:1]
    (We are only two flips in and already there is more chance you’ll get cancer than flip 2 heads in a row. Sorry about this, but you are almost 5 million times more likely to get cancer than win the lottery)
  3. Flip-Heads [8:1]
  4. Flip-Heads [16:1]
  5. Flip-Heads [32:1]
  6. Flip-Heads [64:1]
  7. Flip-Heads [128:1]
    (It is more probable that your car was stolen this year than to flip 7 heads in a row)
  8. Flip-Heads [256:1]
  9. Flip-Heads [512:1]
  10. Flip-Heads [1,024:1]
  11. Flip-Heads [2,048:1]
  12. Flip-Heads [4,096:1]
    (Half way there, and
    you are more likely to have died in a car crash than to have got this far)
  13. Flip-Heads [8,192:1]
  14. Flip-Heads [16,384:1]
  15. Flip-Heads [:132,768]
  16. Flip-Heads [65,536:1]
  17. Flip-Heads [131,072:1]
    (If you managed to survive the car wreck at flip 12, a bee or snake sting will kill you here)
  18. Flip-Heads [262,144:1]
  19. Flip-Heads [524,288:1]
  20. Flip-Heads [1,048,576:1]
    At this point, with odds of just 1/730,000, it is now more likely that the supervolcano in Yellowstone Park has erupted and wiped out life on earth as we know it.
  21. Flip-Heads [2,097,152:1]
  22. Flip-Heads [4,194,304:1]
    (If the cancer, drunk driver or killer bees didn’t kill you earlier, if the Yellowstone supervolcano didn’t wipe out life on earth, this is where you die in a plane crash)
  23. Flip-Heads [8,388,608:1]
  24. Flip-Heads [16,777,216:1]
    (Actually it’s only 14,000,000:1 but what’s a couple of million when the numbers are this big?)

Yay! You won! If you play the lottery weekly, on average it’ll take just 4,500 lifetimes to win. Assuming you get reincarnated a lot.

But never mind. There are other prizes aren’t there? Tell you what – forget about the odds – look at the lottery as an investment. Give me a quid and I’ll give you back 20p. OK, I’m actually being a bit more generous than the lottery is, but I’m nice like that.

Invest your money in me and I’ll give you more back than the lottery does. I’ll take Paypal payments. Go on. Give it up.