The Lotto numbers to avoid to maximise your winnings

What are the chances 40 people could all pick the same winning Lotto numbers?

Wednesday night's draw set a new record, surpassing the 38 who took home first division in September 1993.

While the two who hit the Powerball won a cool $2.525 million each, the other 38 will only get a measly $25,000 - less than the second division prize of $27,431.

Though it's nothing to be sneezed at, $25,000 is a lot less than the usual $1 million prize - and the disappointment appears to be real.

"We haven't heard from any of our winners yet," Lotto spokeswoman Kirsten Robinson told The AM Show on Thursday morning.

But how did 40 people manage to pick the numbers correctly, when there's only a one-in-3,838,380 chance any one line will get it right?

Every draw, about 1 million tickets are sold. If every ticket was a Lucky Dip with eight lines, crunching the numbers we get an 87.6 percent chance there will be at least one winner. If it's a good week and 12 million lines are sold, the chances go up to 95.6 percent.

Forty winners however, is so incredibly unlikely it shouldn't happen. University of Auckland statistician Russell Millar told Newshub the chance is one in 3,500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

"The reason that one had so many winners is because it's such an obvious sequence," said Assoc Prof Millar.

What he's saying is that people don't play random numbers. Around 30 percent of Lotto players choose their own numbers, and many of these would be based on things like birthdates, patterns and lucky numbers.

For example, around 2100 people - every draw - play the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. In March last year 2, 3, 4 and 5 were drawn in the main six, and the Bonus ball was 1 - this created a bizarre distortion in the prize packages. The division four winners, who picked four numbers correctly and the Bonus ball, took home only $17 each - but division five and six winners got $32 and $19, despite picking fewer correct balls.

That draw was similar to the most recent one, in that more people won higher divisions than the ones below.

"That's extremely rare - very unusual," said Ms Robinson. "There were only five second division winners last night."

In September 1993 when 38 players won first division, the numbers were strange too - 31, 32, 33, 35, 36 and 38.

While last night's strange odd-numbered sequence might seem spooky, any combination of numbers is equally as likely as any other - whether it's 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, or 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 40. So there is no way at all to increase your chances of winning, at least legally, except buying more tickets.

How to better your chances of not having to share the winnings

But there's a way to increase the chances you'll take home a decent-sized jackpot if your numbers do show up, and that's by picking numbers few others use.

Don't use birthdates, for starters. This popular strategy restricts you to numbers 31 and below - there are no months with more than 31 days - and especially 12 and below, which covers dates and months. More players means less winnings.

Powerball winnings can go into the tens of millions. Photo credit: Supplied

Individuals' lucky numbers are also very likely to be on the low side - did you ever hear of anyone whose lucky number was 39? And a pattern like the one in last night's draw - a sequence of odd numbers - is more likely to be used by the average player than something more complex, for example a Fibonacci sequence or prime numbers. But even these are fairly well-known and should be avoided, if you want to maximise your winnings.

In 2011, more than 25,000 people won a small prize in the United States' Mega Millions draw when four of the six lottery numbers made famous in hit mystery TV show Lost were drawn. Usually only about 1000 win that particular division, according to the Mega Millions website.