Knowing the winning lottery numbers is the dream of many.
A retiree proved that knowing basic arithmetic can be more helpful. Jerry Selbee and his wife Marge have won dozens of winning tickets from two US state lotteries over the course of a decade.
They earned US$26 million (or R$140 million) between 2003 and 2012.
As? Due to a simple statistical calculation that didn’t break any laws and which Selbee resolved in an instant: “It took me less than two minutes to realize that this game could be profitable.”
His extraordinary story was passed over by Hollywood for some time until it was finally made into a movie, released in June of this year: Jerry & Marge Go Large.
Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening star in the Paramount film directed by David Frankel, known for The devil Wears Prada.
The film is loosely inspired by real events, but seeks to reflect the Selbee’s simplicity and how they kept their feet on the ground despite winning the lottery so many times.
Attention: this text reveals some parts of the plot of the film.
“It’s just basic arithmetic”
Selbee’s story is the complete opposite of Jordan Belfort, the New York financial and market manipulation expert portrayed in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
The couple lived their entire lives in the small, sleepy town of Everett, Michigan.
Jerry Selbee had just retired when, one day, he came across an advertisement for the Windfall lottery game.
He read the fine print of the ad and, with his nimble mathematical mind, honed since his days at the University of Western Michigan, he knew he had a great opportunity.
“I found a quirk,” Selbee said in an interview with CBS.
To win the Windfall draw, the player had to match all six numbers in the draw. If no one got it right, the prize was divided among those who got it right five, four and three.
Under these rules, the chances of winning by investing a good amount of money in lottery tickets are much higher than draws that do not distribute the prize among several winners.
Selbee calculated that by spending $1,100, he would have at least one winning 4-number ticket.
“From 18 (tickets) I won $1,000 for a 4-number winning ticket and 18 three-number winners worth about $50 each, which is about $900. So spending $1,100, I got about $1,900 back,” he said.
“It’s just basic arithmetic,” added the retiree, as if he was saying something obvious.
One company, hard work
Americans 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 of being a likely winner with such a high return on the first investment.
And it didn’t take long to raise the stakes. It went on to spend $3,600, getting $6,300 back. Then he invested $8,000 and pocketed $16,000.
It was at this point that he told his wife what he was doing.
The couple then began investing thousands of dollars more and created a company, GS Investment Strategies LLC, to manage the prize money they won. At one point, the Selbee decided to invite others from their community, selling them stock in the company for $500.
There were from farmers to Everett lawyers. Some went on to invest larger sums. One of the best prizes was $853,000, according to the couple’s accounting books.
Although the whole scheme brought extraordinary gains to a retired couple, who had a lot of free time, purchasing so many tickets also took a lot of time and effort.
Things got complicated when the Windfall Michigan lottery ended.
But a friend of the couple said that in Massachusetts, thousands of miles from Everett, there was a similar draw. Selbee saw a new opportunity there and that the same logic could apply.
And it was the same in lotteries in other states.
For six years, the couple crossed six US states to use lottery ticket machines at two stores and play Cash Windfall.
On average, they spent about $600,000 about seven times a year.
The Selbee spent 10 days in a hotel sorting tickets by hand into 10-hour shifts? something “fun”, considers the man who is now 80 years old.
“It’s a pleasure to be successful in something that paid off not just for us personally, but also for our friends and family.”
Was there anything illegal?
The adventure ended in 2012 after 18 million lottery tickets were purchased.
A journalistic investigation by The Boston Globe revealed that there were stores with lottery ticket vending machines in Massachusetts that had a high level of winners.
The Selbee were not alone: there was another group, students from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who also played a lot at Cash Windfall.
This prompted state authorities to investigate what was going on, whether there was any fraud or corruption in the game.
But to the surprise of the prosecutors, no illegality had taken place.
“I was shocked, surprised, that these nerdy math geniuses found a legal way to win the state lottery and pocket millions out of it,” Greg Sullivan, an inspector who led the investigation, told CBS.
In fact, the actions of the Selbee or the students didn’t stop the other Cash Windfall players from hitting all six numbers, something that would have ruined the retirement couple’s or MIT boys’ investments.
The Cash Windfall draw was eventually canceled and today there are no more lotteries of this type in the country that guarantee such high return probabilities.
But by the time that happened, the Selbee had made millions of dollars, which they used to fund their grandchildren’s education.
And just in case any audits are still needed, the couple still hold over 60 tons of Windfall lottery tickets.
– The text was published at https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/geral-62133938
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