A Michigan retired couple revealed on “60 Minutes” how they used simple arithmetic to “crack the code” on state lotteries and win over $ 26 million.
Jerry and Marge Selbee owned a convenience store in Evart, Michigan, according to a CBS Report, before retiring and finding an escape from the lottery they exploited to get rich. The couple’s story is so compelling, according to the broadcaster, that a Hollywood film based on it is now apparently “in the early stages of development.”
The couple told “60 Minutes” that their winning streak was based on discovering a “special feature” that allowed them to win multiple state lottery games over the course of six years.
“Three minutes and you found the loophole in the state lottery?” Asked “60 minutes” Jon Wertheim, after Jerry Selbee recounted how in 2003 he read a brochure for a brand new lottery called Winfall and immediately realized that it could be played.
“Three minutes. I found – I found a peculiarity,” said Jerry Selbee, who has a math degree from Western Michigan University and said he always had “a head for math.” .
The logic of the game was that if no one won the $ 5 million jackpot, the money would be split among those who matched five, four or three numbers, in a feature called “roll down”. As the prize money “rolled” to lower level winners, it increased payouts for people who managed to match less than the six winning numbers.
“He’s a math genius,” said local lawyer James White, who, along with other friends and family of the Selbees, was invited to join the program and enjoy discovering the unique feature. of the lottery.
“Do you remember how much you gave him to invest?” Wertheim asked.
“I had about $ 8,000, then I put six more for the grandchildren,” said Loren Gerber, a retired farmer.
“But overall, have you been way ahead on this point?” asked the “60 minutes” interviewer.
Gerber confirmed, adding that “it was a good game”.
A ‘Mental Quick Dirty’
Selbee said that upon reading the lottery brochure for the first time, he did the math in his mind – what he called doing “quick mental mess” – and concluded the odds were there to beat.
“Here’s what I said,” Selbee told Wertheim, “I said if I played $ 1,100 mathematically I would have a 4-number winner, that’s $ 1,000. divided 1,100 by six instead of 57 because I made a mental nasty trick and got 18. So I knew I would have 18 or 19 3-number winners and it’s $ 50 each. 18 years old, I had $ 1,000 for a 4-number winner, and I had 18 3-number winners worth $ 50 each, so that’s $ 900, so I invested $ 1,100 and I have a return of $ 1,900. ”
The first time Selbee tried his idea, he bought $ 3,600 worth of Winfall tickets and collected $ 6,300. The second time around, he bought $ 8,000 in tickets and almost doubled his money. He then suggested that his wife start playing big.
“Jerry says, ‘I think I fell for the Michigan State Lottery.’ What are you saying to that? ”Wertheim asked Marge Selbee.
“It didn’t surprise me,” she said. “Because as long as nobody is winning and you are making money, you can see the numbers.”
The couple started gambling with hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Here is one that has been very successful,” Jerry Selbee told “60 Minutes.” “We played $ 515,000 and we took home $ 853,000.”
The Selbees started a company called GS Investment Strategies and invited friends and families to participate. The group grew to 25 members and, over the next six years, they made huge gains in the “Deployment Weeks”.
The Selbees said they sit in a hotel and sort tickets for 10 hours a day, 10 days in a row, playing over $ 600,000 per spin. They said at “60 minutes” that they did it seven times a year.
“It’s actually just basic arithmetic. It gave you the satisfaction of doing something that was worth it not only for us personally, but also for our friends and family,” said Jerry Selbee. “The only thing I found really remarkable was that no one else really seemed to understand it.”
It was later discovered that a group of math majors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) also figured out how to make the Cash Winfall game work for profit. The MIT Group had wagered more than $ 17 million, making more than $ 3.5 million in profit.
Eventually, the lottery was closed and an investigation into high volume betting was launched. But as it was found that the result was not affected by the betting practices, everything was legal.
In total, the Selbees’ company made a total of $ 26 million and made a profit of $ 8 million. They said they used the money to renovate their home and pay for the education of their six children, 14 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
They also sold the rights to their story to film producers for an undisclosed sum of money.