The couple who found a mathematical crack in the lottery and won millions – USA – International

Knowing the winning lottery numbers is the dream of many. But one retiree proved that it can be more helpful to know basic arithmetic and read the fine print in quizzes.

Jerry Selbee and his wife Marge had their hands on dozens and dozens of winning tickets from two US state lotteries over the course of a decade.

They made $26 million between 2003 and 2012.

The key? A simple statistical calculation that did not break any laws and that Selbee solved in a jiffy: “It took me less than two minutes to realize that this game could be profitable.”

His extraordinary story had long been sought after by Hollywood until it was released last month under the title Jerry & Marge Go Large.

Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening star in the Paramount film that was directed by David Frankel, who is known for movies like The Devil Wears Prada (“The devil wears fashion”).

The film takes some creative license in the story, but seeks to reflect the simplicity of the Selbee and how they did not lose their minds for winning the lottery so many times, as they really did.

Warning: this text reveals some parts of the film’s plot.

“It’s just basic arithmetic”

The Selbee’s story is the complete opposite of that of Jordan Belfort, the New York financial and market manipulation expert portrayed in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The couple has lived their entire lives in the small town of Everett, Michigan, where nothing as exciting as what was seen starting in 2003 had ever happened.

Jerry Selbee had just retired when on any given day he walked past an advertisement for the Windfall state lottery game.

He read the fine print in the ad and, with his agile mathematical mind honed since his days at Western Michigan University, he realized there was a big opportunity.

“I found a quirk,” Selbee explains in an interview with CBS.

To win the Windfall draw, a player had to match all six draw numbers. If nobody got it, the prize was divided between those who guessed right five, four and three.

Under those rules, the odds of winning by investing a good sum of money in lottery tickets are much higher than draws that don’t spread the jackpot down.

Selbee deduced that by spending $1,100 he would mathematically have at least one winning 4-number ticket.

“Of 18 [billetes], I got $1,000 for a 4-number winner and 18 three-number winners worth about $50 each, which is about $900. So by investing US$1,100 I took away about US$1,900,” she explains.

“It’s just basic arithmetic,” the retiree points out, as if speaking of the most obvious.

A company, hard work

People in the United States spend about $80 billion a year on state lottery games, about $250 per person on average.

Selbee spent a little more than that, but with the certainty few can have of being a likely winner with such a high return on their first investment.

Jerry Selbee didn’t hesitate to take it to new heights, spending $3,600 and receiving $6,300. He then bought $8,000 and doubled it. It was at that moment that he told his wife what he was up to.

They began investing thousands of dollars more and created a company, GS Investment Strategies LLC, to manage the resources. At one point they decided to invite others from their community by selling them shares of the company for US$500.

There were from farmers to lawyers from Everett with whom they invested larger sums. One of the best prizes was $853,000, according to the couple’s up-to-date accounting books.

Although the whole scheme had good benefits for a retired couple, who had a lot of free time, carrying out the massive purchase of tickets required a lot of time and effort.

Things got complicated when Michigan’s Windfall draw was closed.

A friend let them know that in the state of Massachusetts, thousands of miles from Everett, there was a similar draw, Cash Windfall. After a few minutes of calculations, Selbee knew it would work.

For six years, the couple criss-crossed six US states to use the lottery ticket machines at two stores and play Cash Windfall.

On average, they spent about $600,000 about seven times a year.

The Selbee would spend 10 days in a hotel sorting tickets by hand in 10-hour shifts, something “fun”, considers the man who is now 80 years old.

“It gives you a satisfaction to be successful at something that was worthwhile not only for us personally, but also for our friends and family.”

Was there something illegal?

The adventure ended in 2012, after 18 million lottery tickets were purchased.

A journalistic investigation of the newspaper The Boston Globe detected that there were stores with vending machines for lottery tickets in Massachusetts that had a high level of winners.

The Selbee were not alone, there was another group, some students from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who were also playing big in Cash Windfall.

This prompted the state authorities to investigate what was going on, if there was any fraudulent scheme or corruption in the game. To the surprise of the prosecutors, no illegality had occurred.

“I was shocked, amazed, that these nerdy math geniuses had found a legal way to win a state lottery and make millions off of it,” Greg Sullivan, an inspector who led the investigation, tells CBS.

After all, the actions of the Selbee or the students didn’t prevent the other Cash Windfall players from matching all six numbers, something that would have ruined the investments of the retired couple or the MIT kids. And anyone who found the arithmetic logic of the prizes could win.

The Cash Windfall draw was eventually canceled and today there are no longer any Windfall-type lotteries in the country that guarantee such high-return odds.

The Selbee already had millions of dollars in their pockets which, far from being used for luxury and extravagance, were used to finance their grandchildren’s education.

And, by any audit, they also hold over 60 tons of Windfall lottery tickets.

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BBC-NEWS-SRC:, IMPORTING DATE: 2022-07-11 23:00:06

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