Predicting the lottery...bah!

If, like me, you were one of the 3m viewers that tuned in to watch Derren Brown predict the lottery numbers live on Wednesday night, then it’s quite likely that you are feeling as stumped as I am.  Channel 4 broadcast a rather nervous looking Brown pacing back and forth next to a TV that was tuned into BBC1 whilst the lottery was taking place.  To his side there was a stand with a line of balls facing away from us, upon which he claimed to have written his predictions for the winning lottery numbers earlier that day.  Once the lottery numbers had been announced on BBC1 Derren Brown jabbered, “That’s a year of my life right there.  I can’t believe it.”  Seeming genuinely flustered and high as a kite he proceeded to turn the balls around reviewing his correct predictions.  These balls had been in shot for the duration of the show and had not been tampered with at all, no one had even come close to them, or so it seemed.  Now wouldn’t it have been much more convincing if we had been able to see his predictions before they results had been broadcast on BBC1, however for legal reasons the BBC had to announce them first.  Convenient this, but how did he do it?!  Could it somehow have been a digital trick, and the balls next to Derren Brown were being updated by some clever technological feat as the results were announced?  It certainly didn’t look that way, but it wouldn't would it, and what is the other explanation?  Brown claimed the trick took a year of his life, so maybe he spent it filming himself unveiling millions of different predictions, any of which could be reclaimed from a pre-recorded archive at the time of the live broadcast.  Is it possible he could have already seen the results and somehow convinced the BBC to broadcast with a delay? Surely to believe for one split second Brown’s claims that the lottery it is not a random event but infact predictable, undermines the entire game.  Moreover how could the lottery continue if there was some crazy method of predicting its results…  

 Brown’s work has always been composed by some clever illusion.  There is no doubt about it that whichever theory of how he pulled off the stunt is correct, it is clever and highly entertaining, even if it is totally frustrating!   It will be interesting to see what he has to say in his show tonight ‘How to win the lottery’, will it live up to the hype that it has created?  I’m sure that whatever he says, in true Derren style, he won’t be giving much away. 


  1. We have been talking about this a lot at work.
    I am really looking forward to tonights show because I want to know how he did it because I can't see any way how it could be possible (and so that I can also learn myself and thus win the lottery :) ).
    I personally do not think that he used any sort of digital trickery/ multiple set ups because I think that if he said, "oh its just a camera trick," it would undermine everything he has ever done because it wouldn't be real illusion or wheatever it is anyone could do it.

    I'm thinking maybe it is something to do with percentages and statistics, maybe he spent the last year watching every single lottery draw ever done to see the most likely numbers??? But how would be know what order they would draw in??
    And I think you are right about it possible undermining the lottery. Obviously the way to win is to get the numbers right, but Derren didn't seem to be guessing, he seemed to know the exact numbers. And if it can be learnt it would make the lottery no longer be a random event.

    Maybe he really is magic!

  2. There was one little bit that didn't add up for me:
    "Now wouldn’t it have been much more convincing if we had been able to see his predictions before they results had been broadcast on BBC1, however for legal reasons the BBC had to announce them first. "

    If he wasn't allowed to show the results before the BBC then surely he already knew that they were right.....?


  3. Steph's right... I don't know the complications of the legality, but surely it's not illegal to attempt to predict lottery numbers. If the BBC insisted on him not revealing them first, it suggests that they might have known or at least suspected that his numbers were right. Might this not have been some sort of collaboration on a publicity stunt for both Derren and the BBC?
    The explanation (wisdom of crowds) given on Friday didn't seem right to me... how could he have jumped from getting 3 or 4 numbers right to all of them? Using something as unpredictable as automatic writing? Still, there are a lot of less sceptical people than me out there who are probably clamouring for 24 friends to help them win the lottery... and then more lottery tickets are sold.

  4. I personally do think its just some sort of stunt. Valid point about him not being allowed to show them, but I was thinking maybe he wasnt allowed to just in case his claims were true...maybe it wasnt so much a legal requirement but instead part of the deal he had made with the BBC which allowed him to go ahead with the whole thing...hmm definitely a puzzler, I suppose we'll never know!

  5. His description of how he predicted it was rubbish in my eyes...
    Automatic writing??? that would never have worked...

    You're point of why he wouldn't have been able to show the numbers before does make sense.
    But if we had seen them before then it would have made it much more exciting and actually believable.

    I've been talking about this a lot with my friends and they are convinced they just put whatever ball came up as soon as it appeared on the actual lottery. There was a split screen, so its plausible... but like you said Matt, it would go against everything he's done before...

    Who knows.....