What are the odds?

This activity reveals the odds of winning the lottery, comparing it to the likelihood of other events. It provides the opportunity to discuss the differences between the perception and the reality of how likely a National Lottery win is.*



Materials to print:

Event handout cards, Odds handout cards (optional), Practitioner answer sheet, Practitioner notes: Recent changes to the National Lottery

What are the odds


  1. Provide the group with a set of ‘Events Handout Cards’.
  2. Ask the group to put the cards in order from the most likely event to the least likely event.
  3. Go through the order they have chosen, asking them to guess what the odds are for each event.
  4. Provide the group with the ‘Odds Handout Cards’ and ask them to guess which cards correspond with each event, before revealing the correct odds.
  5. Encourage discussion of the correct likelihood for each event and how perception might affect someone’s decisions around gambling. Particularly, reflect on the implications of 1:97 chances of winning £30 with a lottery ticket (minimum cash win at the national lottery, when matching 3 main numbers):
    • this is of course much more likely than winning the jackpot (1:45 million);
    • 1:97 means that on an average every 97 tickets there is one winning ticket for £30 (yet it’s an average, so sometimes there could be none and in other cases there could be more than one £30 winning ticket);
    • given that 1 lottery ticket costs £2, even if I win £30 once, the reality is that every 97 tickets I will have spent £194 to get £30 back, so I will be still in a loss of £164;
    • on average, for every 97 people who buy 1 lottery ticket each, there will be just 1 person winning £30, yet this winner will usually tell other people about the £30 win, whilst all those who have lost will stay quiet. This may change people’s perceptions, who might not realise how common losing is.


Alternative options:

If it’s a big group, you could divide it into teams and use multiple sets of cards. We have provided 3 sets: A, B, C.

You could give one card to each person and then ask the group to stand up, forming a line from the person with the most likely event to the one with the least likely event. Then proceed from step 3.

*Activity created by the Addiction Recovery Agency (ARA), Bristol