Jerry and Marge Selbee were high school sweethearts who eventually ran a convenience store together and raised 6 children in Evart, Michigan.
After retiring, they started using their spare time to figure out the lottery codes and in the end, they made $26 million in legitimate wins.
Their story has now been told in a Hollywood movie but they are rather humble about their success. They say that beating the lottery system was really just a matter of ‘simple arithmetic’.
When the couple retired, they were going to sit back and enjoy their golden years but then Jerry saw something that caught his eye. It was a lottery game called ‘Winfall’.
Jerry was always a self-proclaimed math wiz and even has a bachelor’s degree in math. He looked over the game and knew he was onto something interesting.
It only took 3 minutes before Jerry recognized the ‘Rolldown’ feature, which was different from the Mega Millions loto that just builds on the jackpot.
Winfall allowed the money to roll-down to lower-tier winners when nobody matched all of the numbers once the jackpot reached $5 million.
Jerry said: “I said if I played $1,100 mathematically I’d have one 4-number winner, that’s 1,000 bucks. I divided 1,100 by six instead of 57 because I did a mental quick dirty and I come up with 18.
“So I knew I’d have either 18 or 19 3-number winners and that’s 50 bucks each. At 18 I got $1,000 for a 4-number winner, and I got 18 3-number winners worth $50 each, so that’s 900 bucks. So I got $1,100 invested and I’ve got a $1,900 return.”
He decided to go all in and buy $3,600 worth of Winfall tickets his first time out. He was rather confident but it paid off, and they won $6,300.
He then went back and bought $8,000 worth of tickets and doubled the investment.
Now that they were sure they were onto something, they started investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into the system.
The couple, their kids and some friends started a betting group in Evart, GS Investment Strategies LLC. The would go to Sugar Rae’s Cafe to meet and plan.
Hundreds of thousands of tickets were purchased and they made somewhere between $7.5 and $8 million.
When they shut down the Winfall game in Michigan, they switched over to playing Winfall in Massachusetts.
Jerry said: “It is actually just basic arithmetic. It gave you the satisfaction of being successful at something that was worthwhile to not only us personally but to our friends and our family.”
All of the losing tickets were saved. Marge said: “We had the upstairs of the barn. I stored them in one end and in the other end.
“And then I thought, ‘Oh no, this floor is gonna fall through’. So then we stored them down in the pole barn. And we had probably 60, 65 tubs of tickets.”
Dave Huff, a friend, and fellow investor said: “It helped me put three kids through school and one through law school. So it was quite beneficial to me.”
Eventually, the Boston Globe got a tip about the possibility that the Winfall game was being scammed. The game was closed and the Selbees were investigated. They hadn’t committed a crime, however, they just took advantage of a loophole.