The story of the couple who took advantage of the lottery to win millions and became a movie

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.

Marge and Jerry Selbee / CBS News

As? Due to a simple statistical calculation that didn’t break any laws and that Selbee solved 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.

Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening (at the ends of the photo) play Jerry Selbee and Marge Selbee – Photo: Paramount

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”said.

“It’s just basic arithmetic”added the retiree, as if he was saying something obvious.

Marge and Jerry in an interview with CBS News

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.

Annette Bening in "Jerry & Marge Go Large"
Oscar winner Annette Bening plays Marge Selbee

Although the whole scheme brought extraordinary gains for 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 the state of 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 would spend 10 days in a hotel sorting tickets by hand into 10-hour shifts — something “fun”, the 80-year-old considers.

The adventure ended in 2012 after 18 million lottery tickets were purchased.

But was there anything illegal? Read the full BBC story HERE

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