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How To Choose a Lottery Syndicate

Do you run your own, play online or offline, choose professional or amateur. Here's the pros and cons of the different types of syndicate, and some guidance on how to choose the best one for you.

Should You DIY?

go diy?

If you want to play in a syndicate, that doesn't necessarily mean you want to run it yourself.

In fact, the more you think about it, the more you may realise you DON'T want to be the one running it!

I've been there, and it's a lot more work than most people think. Collecting the money every week is probably the most painful bit, particularly for office lottery pools - chasing people for small amounts of cash can sometimes feel like you're trying to repossess their car :-).

And then there's managing the agreement (yes, you DO need one), the leavers and joiners, people who want to change numbers, those who want a share of the winnings paid even when they are tiny.

Oh, and don't forget those who complain when you don't win - that's your fault too! :-)

Now don't get me wrong. I've really enjoyed running small syndicates for friends, family and coworkers. It can be a lot of fun. I'm just trying to warn you to think carefully first and maybe not to be too quick to volunteer :-).

But if you do want to have a go, read how to run a lottery syndicate first, and it should help ease some of the pain.

Join Somebody Elses

So you don't want to run your own, but you still want to join one.

The cheapest option is to find somebody locally who runs their own syndicate. Ask family and friends. Ask around at work - office pools are very common.

Dilbert and the office lottery pool

Of course the drawback is you're now joining somebody elses pool, which means they make the rules. Hopefully those rules cover the game you want to play, on the days you want to play it, at a budget you're happy with.

If not, you can either keep looking or make do.

But also make sure in particular that the syndicate manager is the right kind of person for the job. They don't need to be your new best friend, or the sort of person you'd happily while a way an evening in the pub with.

But they do need to know what they are doing. And be very reliable and organised.

The last thing you want to be doing on a Monday is spending all morning looking daggers at the syndicate manager because they forgot to buy the tickets. Particularly if you just spent the weekend celebrating your groups big win after checking the numbers that should have been played!

Looking Further Afield

try online

If you're not finding what you want locally, you can expand your search to online syndicates.

Now like a lot of 'online' services this could vary from an amateur group with a 1 page website saying 'email us to join', through to a fully managed professional syndicate with online payment facilities and a full blown members area behind it.

So the first step to choosing is to decide if you need amateur or pro, and that comes down to your personal preference.

Do You Want To Go Amateur or Professional?

Let me be clear first of all, that 'amateur' does not mean low quality. We distinguish between amateur and pro simply by how the syndicate is managed.

If it's a business where somebody is getting paid to manage everything for you, that's a professional syndicate. If it's being run by an individual or group with no fees, or just covering minimal costs, then that's an amateur syndicate.

One is not automatically better than the other, although there are distinct advantages and disadvantages with each.

But this choice is often a good place to start, as some people feel quite strongly about one or the other.

The Amateur Option

amateurs do it with spreadsheets

Amateur syndicates are usually run by enthusiastic individuals from their own home. Normally without any charges, with the syndicate manager simply taking a position in the group (or each group).

The downside of course is that you are typically very reliant on 1 person to keep the group alive. That person may have to do all the ticket buying, administration, claiming of winning and keeping the group updated on entries, results and what's happening. It's a lot of work, which is why only the most enthusiastic managers tend to last beyond the first year of operation.

You also need to bear in mind that there may not be any sickness or holiday cover. If the unexpected happens, tickets may not get bought.

The upside of going amateur is of course that there are no extra charges.

Going Professional

pro office

A professional syndicate will have a normal business structure in place. That means they will have offices, and staff. So there should be someone there 9-5 during weekdays to answer your emails or pick up the phone if you have questions.

It also likely means you have a more formal contract in place. After all, you are now paying a business to provide a specific service.

And whilst it's not a 100% guarantee, a registered business with accountants and returns is a lot more visible and open to account than a one-man amateur group. Which can provide a greater level of trust.

Choosing a pro syndicate doesn't of course guarantee great service. So you still have to take the usual precautions and read reviews for example. But if someone is getting paid to manage your syndicate then it is fairly likely they will do a decent job of it. Otherwise they won't be in business very long!

The downside of going pro is of course that you pay for it. There are costs to put people in an office so they can be on the other end of a phone call. So it is expected that you will pay more for a professionally managed service.

What Else To Look For

So if you feel strongly one way or the other about joining an amateur or professional group, then that choice alone will help you narrow down your syndicate choice.

But whichever you prefer, or even if you have no preference, these are the things you need to look for next:-

  • What game(s) do they play
  • The number of players in a group
  • How often they play
  • And how many tickets they buy
  • What payment options are available
  • Do they pick numbers, or can you choose

Game & Group Size

Most people want to play a particular game. That's fine, but don't let it rule out other options.

It's more important to get a decent balance between jackpot size and number of players in a group. Too few players and your odds aren't improved much. Too many and your odds may be much better but the payout in the event you win might be too small.

This also comes down to how much you want to win.

I know the usual answer to that is 'as much as possible'. But if you set yourself a realistic figure that you would be happy with, then you can choose a game with much better odds. Because bigger jackpot games are always harder to win.

Remember, this doesn't have to be the only game you play. So long as you stick to your sensible budget, you can play in a good, sensibly balanced syndicate - and still buy the odd ticket yourself in the crazy jackpot games too.

Frequency, Tickets & Cost

This all adds up to fun factor and your chances of winning.

If a group only plays when the jackpot is a certain size, that may help balance the group well. But if it means only playing every month or two, does that kill the fun for you? Would you prefer to play every week?

It's quite common for the setup to simply be 'each player funds 1 ticket'. But that's definitely not always the case. There could be 50 players buying 200 tickets, or 40 players buying 20 - whatever the syndicate manager has decided they think is best.

Obviously the number of tickets bought overall, together with the number of players buying them and how often they are bought determines how much it will cost you to play. Syndicates rarely fund many hundreds of tickets simply because it's too expensive for most people to do on a regular basis.

Payment Options & Admin

This often comes down to a pro/amateur decision really. Typically with an amateur syndicate your payment options are going to be very limited - you'll be paying by good old fashioned cheque or some kind of bank transfer.

(Watch out for Paypal being provided as an option, as this is in breach of their Terms & Conditions and could cause problems down the line)

Any queries, problems, changes of personal details etc are most likely to be managed by email.

Professional syndicates will normally offer credit and debit card options, as well as other electronic payments such as Moneybookers/Skrill. They may also offer more manual methods too.

On the admin side you are more likely to be able to log-in and update information yourself if you change your payment details, or your address for example. Queries may be dealt with by email, phone or online helpdesk systems or chat services.

Picking Numbers

Some syndicates ask you to submit your own numbers (typically for those groups where each player funds a set number of tickets). Others may not offer that option, which some people feel quite strongly about.

Groups that pick their own numbers may do so for a reason. They may be playing a particular 'wheeling system' (what's that..?) for example.

Or in some cases they may believe they can pick better numbers than you. They can't of course, but it doesn't stop people claiming it. This won't hurt your chances of a big win though, so we generally don't mark anyone down for these kinds of crazy claims.

In Conclusion

Running a syndicate is not easy. So plan carefully before launching one yourself.

And if you choose to play in somebody elses, whether pro or amateur, it will help a lot if run through our 'what to look for' list above first. That way you'll end up with the right syndicate for you from the start.

It may seem like a lot to consider, but once you've found the one you like you could be playing with them for years to come.

So, if you made it this far, you've probably decided that an online syndicate is your best choice. If so, the best place to start making your shortlist is the syndicate charts here.

Good luck in your quest, and if you need any help or have any questions please get in touch.