UK Thunderball

By Nicholas Christensen
Last Updated: October 3, 2018

UK Thunderball is a simple lottery game patterned after the mechanics of the mega popular US Powerball. Several key features differentiate it, like the fixed prizes, the tri-weekly draws, and the overall favorable odds. What else does it have in store? Join me as I dig deeper and see what makes the UK Thunderball tick.

About UK Thunderball

UK Thunderball logo

Launched way back in June 12, 1999, UK Thunderball—a game under the UK National Lottery and is operated by Camelot—has undergone several changes in its infancy. Minor changes include the addition of Wednesday and Friday draws in October 23, 2002, and May 14, 2010, respectively, as well as the introduction of new Smartplay Halogen II draw machines on November 2009.

The biggest changes to the UK Thunderball format happened on May 12, 2010. They increased the size of the selection pool—from 34 to 39; they doubled the jackpot—from £250,000 to £500,000; and they created a new prize category for those who match only the Thunderball.

Quick UK Thunderball Facts

  • Based off US Powerball: UK Thunderball’s mechanics are based of its cousin lottery, the US Powerball.
  • Tri-Weekly Draws: Draws are held three times a week, every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
  • Nine Prize Tiers: UK Thunderball offers nine prize tiers you can win in—that’s nine chances to win in each draw!
  • No Mega Jackpots: While it is patterned after US Powerball mechanics, that’s where the similarities end—don’t expect mega jackpots here that go as high as nine figures.
  • Relatively Good Odds: Despite not offering mega-sized jackpots, UK Thunderball does have, at the very least, some very favorable odds.

How Does UK Thunderball Work?

The Basics

As I’ve mentioned earlier, UK Thunderball is patterned after the US Powerball, so some of its mechanics are quite similar (but, obviously, not the same). You pick five main numbers from a selection pool of 1 to 39, plus an additional number (a.k.a the Thunderball) from a separate pool ranging from 1 to 14.

To win the jackpot, you must match all five of your numbers along with the additional Thunderball. Matching only 5 will net you the second prize, while matching 4 (plus the Thunderball) will net you the third prize, and so on. All in all, players can win in up to 9 prize tiers.

One thing to note about the UK Thunderball is that, unlike other lotteries, its prizes are fixed—where the jackpot amounts to £500,000. Like I’ve said earlier, don’t expect huge prizes here as it isn’t a mega lottery. Check out the prize breakdown below to see for yourself:

Prize TierPrize

The Odds of Winning

Despite the relatively small, fixed prizes, the great thing about UK Thunderball is that the odds are quite favorable. In fact, you have a 1 in 12 chance of winning any prize! Check out the complete breakdown of odds below:

Numbers MatchedOdds of Winning
5 + 11 in 8,060,598
51 in 620,046
4 + 11 in 47,416
41 in 3,648
3 + 11 in 1,437
31 in 111
2 + 11 in 135
1 + 11 in 35
Thunderball1 in 29


Odds of Winning Anything1 in 12

So What Happens if You Win?

UK Thunderball jackpots work differently than most lotteries. Where other games would split the top prize evenly among multiple players (should there be more than one winner, that is), winners here will receive £500,000 each. Even better, all prizes are tax-free! Also, it’s worth noting that prizes are paid out in the form of a lump sum. Finally, like other games under the UK National Lottery, winners of the UK Thunderball has a maximum of 180 days to claim their prizes. Unclaimed prizes will go to the Good Causes Foundation.

The Biggest UK Thunderball Winners

As far as record wins go, UK Thunderball is in a curious spot. Because of its unique jackpot mechanic, there really isn’t a winner that can be considered as having bagged the “biggest” jackpot. Like I’ve said before, every jackpot winner receives the same amount—regardless of the number of tickets sold during the draw, or how many players end up winning the top prize on the same draw. In that sense, every jackpot winner is on equal standing—they are all the “biggest” winners here.

UK Thunderball Fun Facts

  • Like other UK National Lottery games, a portion of the UK Thunderball funds help charity via the Good Causes Foundation.
  • It is one of the more unique lotteries wherein prizes are of a fixed amount.
  • You can win even if you don’t match any of your main numbers—just match the Thunderball!

The Bottom Line on UK Thunderball

UK thunderball winner
With odds this good, YOU might just be the next €500,000 winner!

UK Thunderball will never be able to beat US Powerball, Mega Millions or Euromillions in terms of profitability, but it’s proven itself in other areas. For one thing, draws are held thrice a week for more chances of winning—plus you can win in nine prize tiers. More importantly, the odds are pretty great compared to bigger lotteries. Just don’t expect to win insanely huge prizes here.

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