How did magician Derren Brown correctly predict the lottery result?

Since it started in 1994, Britain's National Lottery has not known anything like it.

British magician Derren Brown last night stunned the nation by correctly predicting the result of the National Lottery. He managed to correctly guess the six numbers before they were drawn out live on television.

There are several games that you can play in the National Lottery, including Lotto, Lotto Hotpicks, Thunderball and Dream Number. The National Lottery takes place every Wednesday and Saturday.

Derren managed to correctly guess the six Lotto numbers in last night's draw - 2, 11, 23, 28, 35, 39.

There are several machines used to draw the balls. These are called Merlin, Arthur, Galahad, Vyvyan, Lancelot, Garnet, Topaz, Opal, Amethyst, Moonstone, Pearl and Sapphire. Guinevere has retired. The machine drawing the balls is announced just before the draw takes place.

He wrote down the six winning balls of the Midweek Lotto Draw hours before they were randomly chosen by the machine .

He claimed he had written down his predictions on six white balls earlier in the day which were turned back to front from the audience because Camelot had allegedly said only the BBC could reveal the lottery result.

The chances of correctly guessing all six numbers, and therefore winning the jackpot, are 14 million-to-one.

Needless to say, Camelot, who run the lottery, banned Derren from buying a lottery ticket for last night's game.

But how did Derren do this amazing feat? Listed below are several theories, but he will reveal all on Channel 4, tomorrow, at 9pm.

How DID he do that? All of Britain guessing how Derren Brown stunned the world by predicting the lottery results

By Fay Schlesinger, Sophie Borland and Eddie Wrenn
September 2009
Daily Mail

The top theories:

  • Split-screen trickery?
  • A false wall hiding an assistant?
  • 'E-ink' balls?
  • Filming every possible combination?
  • Or is Derren just magic...

Since it started in 1994, the National Lottery has given away more than 20 billion in good causes.

Britain was awash with speculation today about how magician Derren Brown managed to predict the National Lottery results before the big draw last night.

Has he been blessed with the gift of foresight? Or was it simply a sleight-of-hand that will leave us smacking our foreheads with our palms when he reveals his method tomorrow?

Either way, the internet was soon flooded with ideas - from the rational to the crackpot - as to how Derren found the secret to lottery fortune.

Numbers up: Derren Brown makes history by becoming the first person to successfully predict the National Lottery numbers live on air

The illusionist seemingly wrote down the six winning balls of the Midweek Lotto Draw hours before they were randomly chosen by the machine.

He claimed he had written down his predictions on six white balls earlier in the day which were turned back to front from the audience because Camelot had allegedly said only the BBC could reveal the lottery result.

Seemingly overcome by much nervous excitement he then watched the lottery draw on a TV screen and, seconds later, turned round his white balls to reveal they were exactly the same as the numbers he'd copied from the TV screen on to a piece of white card: 2, 11, 23, 28, 35 and 39.

His seemingly incredible feat was broadcast from a small studio live on Channel 4 at the same time as the BBC1 screened its Midweek Lotto programme at 10.35pm - dispelling any rumours that the show was pre-recorded.

It is the latest seemingly implausible stunt the illusionist has performed in front of a live audience.

Previous TV shows have seen him apparently play Russian roulette with a gun as well as contact the dead, while he has also toured the country performing live shows claiming to read audience members' minds.

Before the screening had ended theories were flitting across the internet as to just how he could have achieved this remarkable feat.

It could be him: Derren seemed to correctly predict all six numbers

One rumour suggested that Brown was able to see winning numbers through a link to the BBC draw a few moments before they were broadcast live enabling him to quickly write the correct numbers down before they were broadcast to the audience.

Another rumour suggested that an assistant was writing down the correct numbers as the balls were being drawn.

There was also speculation it could have all been staged for the cameras.

Another slightly more dubious theory speculates that the illusionist has studied the lottery machine and realised that there is a problem that makes certain numbers more probable.

What is certain is that Brown would have walked away with 2.4million if he had actually bought a lottery ticket with those six numbers - there were no jackpot winners for last night's draw.

Experts have pointed out that past stunts of his have involved sleight of hand, behind-the-scenes trickery and psychological manipulation.

However magicians have remained tight-lipped as to how Brown may have achieved this particular trick.

Graham Harper, of the Nottingham Guild of Magicians, said he was flummoxed by the 'awesome spectacle'.

He said: 'I sat and watched that with three other magicians and none of us can fathom how he pulled that off. Because it's Derren Brown it was expected, but that doesn't detract from the skill.'

Mr Harper ruled out sleight of hand, distraction or TV wizardry. He added: 'This will shock the world of magic.'

Before the show, Brown said: 'I realise there are a lot of questions this brings up, and I hope they'll be answered on the Friday night show.

'For now, I'm really excited and really nervous and cannot tell you for sure how well it will work.'

Camelot, the lottery operator, said that Brown's trick would not interfere with the results.

Before the show a spokesman said: 'It is impossible to affect the outcome of the draw and Derren Brown is not suggesting he is doing this.'

No-one will know exactly how he did it until tomorrow night's big revelation. But there are many theories bouncing around the internet and there are likely to be clues scattered through the video...

So, starting with the rational and working our way down...

Theory 1: Camera trickery

Are the cameras playing tricks with us?

We know this wasn't pre-recorded (although check out Theory 4) as we saw the live BBC feed, and we have been assured the lottery footage wasn't delayed.

The BBC were nervous about his act - previously blocking him from doing a similar show on their own channels - and would be unlikely to have a hand in the illusion.

But could Derren have used 'split-screen tricks' to trick us? With the right-hand of the screen showing a live shot of Derren, whereas the left-hand-side is a pre-recorded snapshot of an empty podium.

This would allow a helper, invisible to the viewer, to scribble the numbers on the balls down as they are drawn.

The camera was, judging by the shaking image, hand-held, which seems to rule this out, but there is one 'cutaway' one minute into the broadcast, which some viewers have speculated allowed some camera tricks to take place.

Likelihood: Slight, Derren has eschewed technological wizardry in past acts, and such a simple trick would likely be beneath his ways, or seen as cheating. Also, introducing a split-screen on a bouncing visual is beyond the means of anything that doesn't come with a Holllywood budget.

However... Some commentators believe Derren is wearing a different shirt at the start of the illusion than at the end... Can you see a difference?

Also... Some viewers claim to see a break in the video when Derren reads out 35 as he writes the numbers down... Is this when the live footage comes back in? Is Derren's 'woooah' sound a few seconds earlier an indication that the switch has been made?

Theory 2: False walls

We've perhaps ruled out split-screen trickery, but could there be a 'false wall' in sight? For instance there could be a backdrop hanging from the television, or the podium, painted to match the far walls, behind which a helper could sit and scribble the numbers on the balls.

If the helper was under the podium, they could write the numbers on the balls without being seen by the viewers.

If they were behind the television, they could pass the balls to Derren when he leans in to switch off the television.

A further theory is that the whole back-wall is a painting, placed just a foot or two behind the podium.

Likelihood: Quite possible. The works of 3D artists such as Kurt Wenner, who has been featured before in the Mail, show that it is possible to produce perception-bending realistic backdrops. Someone out of sight could easily replace the white balls, or slip replacements to Derren Brown.

If so, it is most likely they hid behind the podium and scribbled the numbers on the balls directly, as there seems no opportunity - in our freeze-frame world - of Derren replacing the six balls without being spotted.

Also... Some viewers say they can spot 'something white' up Derren's sleeve. Can you see it?

Theory 3: The electric ink ball

One theory, favoured by the Mail Online's science editor, is that the white lottery balls have an e-ink screen to instantly translate the right numbers on to the balls.

As the lottery was called, the numbers could be translated wirelessly to the balls, which have a screen embedded in them, similar to how some mp3 players appear to have invisible screens until text is displayed.

Other variations on this theory include a distant inkjet 'firing' the numbers on to the balls from a distance, but this is likely to be too complex with a high-risk of failure to be taken seriously.

However this theory comes back in to play if there is a false wall just a foot or two behind the podium, as ink could then be shot directly onto the balls.

Likelihood: Possible, but not likely. Again, Derren does not like to use high-tech gadgetry to pull off a trick, so this is likely to be a 'no-no'.

Also, Derren promises 'we can try this at home' in the future, so this makes us lean more towards sleight-of-hand trickery.

Theory 4: Filming every possible combination

Derren would have worked himself into the ground for this one.

What if he 'invested a year of his life' by filming every single combination of numbers?

However this theory can be kicked right into touch - with nearly 14million possible combinations, Derren would have needed to start filming before he was born - and we'd quickly notice if Derren turned into a teenager while reading the results.

And there would also be a noticeable video 'cut' between Derren's live recording and a cut to a pre-recorded segment.

Likelihood: 0%

Theory 5: Derren has found a system

Every year someone claims to come up with a 'unbeatable' way of predicting the lottery. From statistical analysis of which numbers are 'bound' to come up soon, to using the sun, moon and stars (and your birth date) to find the right combination, you can buy a dozen such 'fool-proof' systems over the internet for a fiver.

But you might be better off just buying five tickets.

Likelihood:If it's true, Camelot is doomed.

Amazing: Derren watches as his numbers come up on the National Lottery draw

Other clues in the video

A feature of Derren's shows is, when he reveals his methods, to replay footage from earlier in the show where, with hindsight, it is easy to spot the joins.

So were there any tells in Derren's video?

First off, it is likely that some of Derren's 'facts' at the start of the show were more to heighten the illusion.

He told us that legally, the BBC has the first right to show the lottery numbers.

Fair enough, but why should that stop him showing us what was only - at this point - a prediction? It would have been a lot more incredible to see the six numbers on-screen before the live draw.

More likely - despite his prostestations - is that there was no prediction before the draw, and the numbers appeared on the balls only after they had been called.

What is worth noting is Derren's frantic, on-edge persona, which is a way to add drama to an act that, in likelihood, has been planned to such a degree that the outcome is inevitable. Not only does it add drama, but it allows for some mis-direction.

As such, the audience skirts over his blabbering on, but it is likely some of his words will be replayed tomorrow night with more significance.

For instance, why did he stress the word 'initial'? Why did he tell us there was a 'close-up there so you can see no travelling going on' - when there was no such close-up? What did he mean by 'travelling'?

What were some of the phrases he spoke at break-neck speed?

At the start of the video, Derren tells us there are two cameramen, but we only see through one camera - except for one brief moment after one minute.

Is this to allow some video wizardry to take place?

Some watchers believe they can spot something up Derren's sleeve while he writes down the numbers, they also wonder if he is passed six numbered balls as he goes to turn off the television at the end of the trick - possibly because of a well-painted backdrop masking someone standing behind the television.

What we can say for sure is that Derren is a master of mis-direction.

All those words he spoke about studying the numbers for a year? All those times he stressed 'I'm hoping for six numbers, I'll be happy to get five numbers right, I'll apologise in advance if I get them all wrong'...?

All just part of the act.

It would be dangerous to put our name to one theory or the other, especially with the reveal only a day away.

But one thing we can be sure of is that Derren is not magic, supernatural or mystical - or if he is, he's still keeping it to himself.

At some point during the ten seconds between the results being announced and Derren turning the podium around, the numbers appear on the balls. The big question is how, and it is one we will keep wondering until tomorrow night on Channel 4 at 9pm.
Last edited by Blackleaf; Sep 10th, 2009 at 11:14 AM..
Every time there's a jackpot winner, someone has predicted the numbers correctly.
Cool. Let's see him do it 5 times in a row and he's got to have 2 or 3 other illusionists with him to make sure he doesn't cheat somehow.
if he can't show ahead of time that he's predicted it, then all he's 'succeeded' in doing is putting the #'s on balls and paper before he has to show them. How hard can that be huh? huh? lol.
The real proof would have been if he'd bought a ticket.
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