Jerry and Marge Selby won billions of dollars using lottery tricks.
Winning the lottery is a rare occurrence for most people. But one American couple kept winning prizes by resorting to simple arithmetic and careful attention to the terms of the lottery.
Jerry and Marge Selby won a prize worth 2.6 million US dollars or 3.5 billion rupees after winning the lottery dozens of times between 2003 and 2012 in two US states.
What was their strategy? A simple calculation that Jerry says “can be done in three minutes” without breaking any laws.
The couple’s extraordinary story has now reached Hollywood: Jerry and Marge Go Large, a movie inspired by the couple’s story, was released last month. The movie stars “Breaking Bad” actors Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening.
Directed by David Frank, known for films such as The Devil Wears Prada, the film adds some creative storytelling but tries to show the simplicity of the Selby couple and how they won the lottery and didn’t let money get the better of them.
‘It’s just simple arithmetic’
Inspired by the story of this couple, Hollywood made a movie called “Jerry and Marge Go Large”
Jerry and Marge, parents of six, sold their business in 2003. Now while thinking about how to spend the rest of his life, one day Jerry’s vision came to the notice of the Windfall State Lottery (a lottery program operated in the said state).
After studying the fine print of the lottery rules, Jerry did the math in his head. There he found a great opportunity.
“I found a flaw in it,” Jerry said in a 2019 interview with CBS Television.
Players had to match six different numbers to win the windfall lottery. But if no one could match the six digits of the lottery program, the prize money was distributed to those who matched only five, four, or three digits.
The odds of winning under such a rule would be higher than winning a jackpot lottery that matches all the numbers.
Jerry figured that buying a large number of lottery tickets would give him a better chance of winning.
According to his calculations, buying a $1,100 ticket would yield at least one winning ticket with a chance of matching four numbers.
The Selbys bought a large number of lots
“I got one winning four-digit ticket for a $1,000 prize and 18 three-digit winning tickets for a $50 prize or $900,” he explained.
“That means I made $1,900 for spending $1,100.”
“It’s just simple arithmetic,” he explained.
Company to buy tickets
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans spend $70 billion each year participating in state lottery programs. That is, on average, each American spends $230 a year on lottery tickets.
The Selby couple, on the other hand, spent significantly more than that average. But it increased their chances of winning the lottery.
And Jerry didn’t hesitate to increase his investment: later he invested $3,600 and won $6,300. Another time he bought an $8,000 ticket and made twice as much.
He then narrated all this to his wife.
Now the Selbys began investing thousands of dollars and formed a separate company called GS Investment Strategies LLC to manage the resource.
At one point they got other members of the community to participate in their scheme by selling shares in the company for $500.
Among the participants were farmers and lawyers from the city of Everett. The lot fell. Their accounting records show that they have won up to $8.5 million at one time.
Was the Selby couple’s job legal?
Their exciting journey came to an end in 2012 when an investigation by the Boston Globe found that some stores in Massachusetts were selling a suspiciously high number of winning tickets.
Others, like the Selbys, are doing the same. A group of students from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is also playing Cash Windfall.
After the news, the state officials investigated whether there was any kind of fraud or irregularity in the lottery program. But no illegal activity was found.
In particular, the Selbys or the students only won the prize money when no one else in the cash windfall matched all six numbers—if anyone had won the jackpot, the investment for the couple and the MIT students would have been wasted.
That is, anyone who calculated the statistical probability of winning the lottery could win the prize. Also, as Sullivan pointed out, the cash windfall program was a profitable business for the state of Massachusetts as well amounting to almost $120 Million