FEELING LUCKY: Prof Roberts says the fantasy of a lotto win keeps us going.
FEELING LUCKY: Prof Roberts says the fantasy of a lotto win keeps us going.

Why you didn't win lotto and how to better invest your cash

THEY say Aussies will bet on anything and while entering the lottery isn't quite a bet, it's similar in the sense that you're giving money you may never see again.

For many who entered last night's epic $100 million Powerball this will be the case.

Some will have a little money returned, but the chances of winning big are actually microscopic.

University of Queensland mathematician Associate Professor Tony Roberts says numbers are hard to comprehend, so it's easier to use an analogy to reveal the odds.

"The chance of winning Powerball with a single game is around the chance of dropping a dart on a one millimetre wide line drawn at a random place on the drive between Bunderberg and Hervey Bay," he said.

"Actually it is about 18 per cent lower, but this gives an idea of how very unlikely a first division win is."

And when it comes to lotto, the odds are firmly stacked against us.

"I think we all know that buying lotto tickets is not a good investment, in that on average we get back less than we put in," Prof Roberts said.

"After lottery company profits and government taxes perhaps 70 per cent of players' money is returned in prize money."

So what's the best way to throw your cash around with the highest chance of a pay-out?

"Possibly the best returns for games of chance is provided by a single-number bet on the roulette table where (on average) 97.3 per cent of bets are returned as prizes," Prof Roberts said.

"Better than both is a $1 investment on the ASX200 share-market, where the average expected return every year is around $1.08."

It's the fantasy of a life without financial pain that keeps us all buying up tickets though.

"It is clear that lottery players buy the idea of winning a life-changing sum for a few days, and don't care about the expected return," Prof Roberts said.

If you love your lotto too much to give up, Prof Roberts has one simple tip.

"After recommending positive return investments as a first choice, my advice as a mathematician would be to buy the cheapest ticket possible - the dream is the same, and each extra dollar does very little to increase the chance of winning," he revealed.