WINFall: Retired Couple Used Math to Win a Whopping $26 million

Source: CBS / Unsplash/Karl Callwood

The state lottery has been a source of dreams and disappointment for millions of participants. While the odds always favor the house, certain games at certain times present opportunities for strategic players to gain an advantage.

For Jerry and Marge Selbee, two retired math teachers from Michigan, retirement became an opportunity to use their analytical skills unexpectedly. This unassuming couple used a mathematical model to beat the odds of a state lottery and win millions.

Understanding the WINFall Lottery Game and Prizes

The WINFall lottery game allowed players to win large cash prizes by matching six numbers chosen from a pool of 49. According to the Michigan Lottery website, the jackpot started at $2 million and increased by $50,000 each draw until it reached $5 million.

Source: Flickr/Shoshanah

The probability of matching all six numbers to win the P6 jackpot was 1 in 13,983,816. However, the probability of winning any prize was higher at 1 in 54. Each play slip allowed players to choose six numbers for $1. Players could purchase multiple play slips to increase their chances of winning.

The Price Pool

When the jackpot reached $5 million, the prize pool was distributed to lower-tier prizes, including matching five, four, and three numbers. The odds of matching five numbers, P5, were 1 in 54,201. The odds of matching four numbers, P4, were 1 in 1,032.

Source: Needpix

The odds of matching three numbers, P3, were 1 in 57. During a “WINFall,” these lower-tier prizes increased substantially, giving players a higher probability of winning a larger prize. The WINFall lottery game allowed players to win large prizes through a multi-tiered prize structure and occasional “WINFall” events.

The Incredible True Story of Jerry and Marge Selbee

Jerry and Marge Selbee were a retired couple from Evart, Michigan, who found an ingenious way to beat the lottery odds. In 2003, the Selbees discovered a loophole in a new lottery game called Cash WinFall that allowed them to make a sizable profit.

Source: BBC

Cash WinFall jackpots would often roll down to the lower-tier prizes if the jackpot reached $5 million and no one matched all six numbers. Jerry Selbee, a trained mathematician, calculated that if he spent $1,100 on tickets, he could statistically win $1,900 in prizes.

How the Couple Discovered a Loophole in the Lottery System

Through meticulously analyzing the Massachusetts State Lottery’s Cash Winfall game, Jerry and Marge Selbee detected a statistical quirk they leveraged to win millions. The Selbees, a retired couple from Michigan, discovered that when the jackpot in Cash Winfall reached $5 million and was not won, the excess funds would roll over into the lower-tier prizes.

Source: Dawn Tomlinson

Jerry Selbee, a former math professor, scrutinized the odds of the game and found that when the jackpot accumulated to $5 million, the expected value of tickets became positive. The Selbees would invest thousands of dollars in tickets, betting that the rollover of excess jackpot funds into lower-tier prizes would yield an overall profit.

The Thought Process

Jerry explained, “If I played $1100, mathematically, I’d have one four-number winner – that’s 1000 bucks. I divided 1100 by six instead of 57 because I did a quick mental dirty and came up with 18. So, I knew I’d have either 18 or 19 three-number winners, and that’s 50 bucks each.

Source: Unsplash/Clayton Robbins

At 18, I got $1000 for a four-number winner and 18 three-number winners worth $50 each, so that’s 900 bucks. So, I got $1100 invested and a $1900 return.” By exploiting this statistical loophole, the Selbees could generate an $800 return on a $1,100 investment.

The Math Behind Cracking the Lottery Code

The Selbees won millions by analyzing the math behind the lottery. They studied the Cash WinFall lottery and found a loophole they could exploit.

Source: Wallpaper Flare

Cash WinFall was designed so that if the jackpot reached $5 million and no one matched all six numbers, the money would roll down to the lower-tier prize winners. Jerry Selbee, a math whiz, calculated the odds of winning the lower-tier prizes. He found that for an investment of $1,100, he could expect to win $1,900 in prizes.

Cracking the Code

To find their loophole, the Selbees meticulously analyzed the game’s odds. The odds of matching all six numbers to win the jackpot were extremely small at 1 in 292 million. However, the odds of matching some but not all numbers were much higher.

Source: Insider

The Selbees focused on the smaller prizes that would become available once the jackpot reached $5 million and “rolled down.” At this point, the game offered favorable odds for matching 3, 4, or 5 of the six numbers. The Selbees were nearly guaranteed to win many smaller prizes by purchasing a high volume of tickets, adding to large winnings over time.

Beating the Odds: The Selbees’ Strategy to Win Big

When the jackpot was rolled down, the Selbees systematically spent over $2 million to purchase large blocks of tickets. They would buy enough tickets to cover a large percentage of the possible number combinations, guaranteeing themselves a profit.

Source: 60 Minutes

Their strategy was legal and within the rules of the game. Over seven years, the Selbees won over $8 million in prizes by playing when the jackpot rolled down. In 2011, the Massachusetts Lottery Commission ended the Cash WinFall game, having discovered the Selbees’ scheme.

Not a Quick Windfall

The Selbees were not looking for a quick windfall but took a systematic, patient approach over years of playing. They started small, invested gradually, and were willing to lose money at first as they refined their strategy.

Source: Unsplash/Karl Callwood

Their winnings compounded over time through reinvestment. While a multi-million-dollar jackpot is exciting, the Selbees earned their millions through persistence and discipline. The Selbees identified a quirk in the game rules that gave them an advantage.

Lessons Learned

For aspiring lottery winners, the Selbees’ story offers several key lessons. First, understand the odds and look for any opportunities to improve them. The Selbees realized that the odds of winning smaller prizes increased significantly when the jackpot reached a certain threshold.

Source: Unsplash/ Ryan Graybill

Jerry Selbee meticulously calculated the odds of winning different prize levels at different jackpot amounts. He figured out exactly how many tickets to buy to maximize their chances of turning a profit.

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Charlotte Clad

Written by Charlotte Clad

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