“Investing” in Singapore Lottery? The Math behind Toto and 4D in Singapore

probablity of winning 4D and Toto in Singapore

Big Sweep, 4D, Toto… so many ways to win at the Singapore Pools. On the 11 February 2022, the $16 million snowballed Toto Hongbao grand prize will mark the largest prize ever in Singapore Pools’ history.

On top of that, a ticket is just a few dollars. Even if you it’s just a one in a million chance, that small investment is worth the potential payoff right?

Besides, there are systems – whole books – you can use to improve your odds. In this article, I examine the numbers behind it and talk to some serious lottery players.

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Odds of winning 4D, Toto and Singapore Sweep

Toto 4D Singapore Sweep
1st Prize
(Or Group 1 for Toto)
1 in 13,983,816 1 in 10,000 1 in 3,200,000
2nd Prize
(Or Group 2 for Toto)
1 in 2,330,636 1 in 10,000 1 in 3,200,000
3rd Prize
(Or Group 3 for Toto)
1 in 55,491 1 in 10,000 1 in 3,200,000

Just for the sake of reference, the odds of getting a Royal Flush in Poker, on the first 5 cards, is around 650,000 to 1. So with the exception of 4D, you might be better off just playing Poker. Or betting on the PGA tour. The odds of a pro-golfer getting a hole-in-one are 5000 to 1, around seven times more likely than winning Group 3 Toto.

Meteor striking earth
More probable than me winning 4D.

Winning punters’ success stories

I found some punters who claim to have won it big in the lottery. Coincidentally, one of them I meet every morning:

Ellice (pronounced ‘Alice’) Kwong is a housewife, with two children in JC. I run into her at the MRT station every morning. She tells me, “I’m not sure how much I spend also. You ask me also I don’t remember. Maybe $60 one month. $20 for 4D, $40 for Toto. I think should be more than most people spend. But you know I got win so many times! Four times already. If my luck is good just play lah.”

Dominic Wang is another serious punter. He’s a former house mover, who now deals in light fixtures. He says, “I spend around $50, maybe more. I think with the right system, it’s quite possible to win. I’ve won twice myself, once I won over $3000. I think as long as you know what you are doing, you don’t go and randomly tikam-tikam*, the odds are not as bad as most people think.”

*Tikam-tikam – Roadside gambling game, very popular in the ’60s. The irony is noted.

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Not-so-lucky punters who lost more than won

Most of the lottery lovers I spoke have an entirely different experience.

Jerome Quok is a Mass Communications student, who moonlights as a short order cook. He tells me, “I spend at most $10 a month. Maybe less. I don’t really go with the mindset that I will win. It’s just for the excitement when I check the results. It’s more like entertainment than an actual investment. I only ever won once, and it was something pathetic. Less than $100.”

Mind you, the win was after playing regularly for four or five years.

Aaron Siew is one of those friends I love to hate. He’s does typesetting for brochures and magazines. While he comes over to borrow more DVDs, I ask about his Toto obsession.

He says, “I guess I spend about $20 a month. I promised that I will win Toto at least once in my life. It’s a ‘must do before I die’ thing. I don’t care even if it’s consolation prize, so long as I win at least once in my life. I’ve never won ANY lucky draw or anything before.”

When asked if that was precisely why he should not buy, he shrugged and said he enjoys it.

I asked Jenna McCormick, who lives two floors below me. She’s a housewife, with one child in Primary school.

“I think Louisa (her mother-in-law) has a bad influence on me. When she buys, I’ll buy. That’s about $20 a month, but some months I don’t buy at all. I don’t really understand the different systems, she (Louisa) will tell me how to colour the slots in. I won once, it was a few hundred dollars. So I split it with her and we had a big party at Pizza Hut, and my share was all gone after that!”

Investment vs payoff

Of the 12 people I spoke to, only one has actually seen a return on his investment. Here is a cost-benefit comparison:

Punter Claimed Investment (Refers to total investment over five years) Claimed Payoff (Refers to total winnings over five year years) Profit / Loss
Dominic Wang $3000 $4500 (+) $1500
Ellice Kwong $3600 $2,500 (-) $1100
Jenna McCormick $1,200 $500. After splitting with fellow punter, $250 (-) $950
Jerome Quok $600 $60 (-) $540
Aaron Siew $1,200 $0 (ha ha!) (-) $1200

To put it in perspective, think about the last investment scheme you saw. How would you react if someone showed you an investment scheme where, after five years, your reward would be somewhere between $1500 and negative $1200?

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Pros and cons of playing the lottery

These are the upsides of investing in the lottery:

  • Ad-hoc payments: If you don’t have enough, just don’t play that month. This means you need less planning and discipline than if you used a regular investment scheme.
  • Affordability: Assuming you don’t get obsessed, you won’t feel the pinch of the lottery. The amount spent is small, unlike the monthly payments on an investment scheme.
  • Easy: No forms to sign, or documents to produce. Just buy a ticket, that’s it.
  • Fun: Some people use the lottery as a way to relieve stress or tension.

And the downsides:

  • Negative growth: The longer you play the lottery, the more you actually lose. In almost all cases, there is a negative return on investment.
  • High improbability: The odds of winning a prize, even enough to just break even, is very low.
  • Unpredictable payouts: Some forms of lottery, like Toto, vary the prize money based on the number of winners. That means there’s no way to accurately determine the potential winnings.

So there you have it: the only check you’re going to get is a reality check. Highly improbable wins, with a worse ROI than any financial plan on Earth. Which leaves one to wonder: would people actually invest more in banks if the advisers just threw up their arms and said: “Who knows? Just give us the money and we’ll randomly pay it out!”

Do you have better or worse odds at the Singapore Pools? Tell us in the comments!

Image Credits: Kevin LimLydia SnyderZento Fitness, Universe Today