- Jerry and Marge Selbee, 80 and 81, recently sat down for an interview with „60 Minutes“, explaining how they made $26 million through the lottery over nearly a decade.
- Jerry Selbee realized in 2003 that he could almost guarantee making a profit playing a Michigan state lottery game called Winfall.
- Unlike Mega Millions, where the jackpot keeps growing until someone draws all six numbers, in Winfall the jackpot rolled over to lesser winners every time it reached $5 million.
- The Selbees got so successful at the game that they set up a corporation, helping friends and family take advantage of the system.
A small-town Michigan couple recently sat down with „60 Minutes“ to tell the unlikely story of how they used „basic arithmetic“ to find a loophole in the lottery that helped them win $26 million over nearly a decade.
High school sweethearts Jerry and Marge Selbee, 80 and 81 respectively, used to run a convenience store in the small town of Evart, Michigan until they sold the store and retired in their 60s.
In 2003, Jerry made a run to their old convenience store when he saw a brochure for a new lottery game called Winfall. Jerry, who majored in math in college, told „60 Minutes“ he realized within just minutes that he could almost guarantee making a profit.
He explained this was because the winnings rolled down every time the jackpot reached a cap of $5 million. Unlike lottery games like Mega Millions, where the jackpot keeps growing until someone matches every single number, with Winfall, if the jackpot reached $5 million and no one drew a ticket with all six winning numbers, people with tickets that had five, four, and three winning numbers could cash in.
While that may be hard for some to follow, Jerry says it’s „just basic arithmetic“ and he figured others had figured it out, too.
The first time he heard a roll down was happening, Jerry bought $3,600 in Winfall tickets and won $6,300. Then he bet another $8,000 and nearly doubled his winnings, he told CBS.
The Selbees helped friends and family win, too
Soon the Selbees were betting hundreds of thousands of dollars on Winfall, they told „60 Minutes“.
They said they got so good at the game that they set up a corporation, G.S. Investment Strategies, and invited their friends and family to buy into the business for $500 apiece.
The group had grown to about 25 members in 2005 when the state ended Winfall, citing lack of sales.
But soon after, the Selbees learned of a similar game in Massachusetts called „Cash WinFall.“
For the next six years, the Selbees said they would make the 14-hour drive to Massachusetts anytime a roll down was happening, buying hundreds of thousands of tickets at two convenience stores. They would then rent a motel room and spend 10 hours a day sorting the tickets.
But in 2011, their game came to an end, when the Boston Globe received a tip that certain Massachusetts locations were selling large numbers of Cash WinFall tickets. The Globe’s investigations team discovered that two groups were cashing in big on the game — the Selbees and a group of math majors at MIT.
The state launched an investigation, but realized that what the two groups were doing was completely legal and that the state was actually making a lot of money through it. By then, the state lottery had decided to end the game anyway.
Over the nine years that they played Winfall, the Selbees said their group won a total of $26 million, and they made about $8 million in profit before taxes. They used it to renovate their house and help pay for the schooling of their six children, 14 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.
They also optioned the rights for their life story to be turned into a movie.
Source: Business insider