The contentious Powerball draw from 1 December.
  • The winning numbers for this week's Powerball seem like an anomaly as winning numbers are usually overwhelmingly not consecutive.
  • That’s because there are far more permutations of random numbers (more than 5 billion) than consecutive numbers (only 12,600) in the Powerball lottery, says an actuary.
  • Still, choosing a specific set of consecutive numbers will have exactly the same probability of winning than a specific set of random numbers.
  • You are far, far more likely to die as a result of a lightning strike in SA than win the lottery.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Earlier this week, South Africa drew global attention following the draw of a highly unusual set of winning Powerball numbers: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

See also | 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 – why the Powerball winnings proved the 'experts' wrong

But while the consecutive numbers may look striking, statistically the odds of landing that set of numbers are just as slim as any other.

It just seems like an anomaly as winning numbers are usually overwhelmingly not consecutive.

That’s because there are far more permutations of random numbers (more than 5 billion) than consecutive numbers (only 12,600) in the Powerball lottery, says actuary Edward Alant, co-founder and director at Edge Actuarial.

Still, for a typical lottery game, when you are choosing numbers to play - a specific set of consecutive numbers (say 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) will have exactly the same probability to win than a specific set of random numbers (for example, 5, 12, 16, 38, 44, 47), he adds.

With either of those sets of numbers, there’s less than a one in 20 million chance that you will win the normal lottery with a single ticket, says Alant.

Put another way, you are far, far more likely to die as a result of a lightning strike. On average, about 200 South Africans are killed this way every year – which with a population of around 60 million people, means a one in 300,000 chance.

The consecutive numbers - and the fact that 21 people won - caused a stir in South Africa, with some claiming fraud

Earlier this week, Business Insider reported that the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) won't launch a further probe into the 1 December Powerball draw.

The NLC said it had received a report on the draw from Ithuba, and stressed that every part of the process of drawing numbers, from design through to execution, is subject to testing and auditing.

See also | No probe into SA’s 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 ,10 Powerball draw, regulator says – though SA remains unconvinced

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