When the Massachusetts State Lottery listed the chances of winning for various letter combinations, it did it incorrectly.
They unwittingly made themselves vulnerable to a flaw that was discovered by none other than Jerry Selbee, a math teacher.
He had been good at solving puzzles for years and had done so all his life. He was photographed with Marge in 1976.
Condensing a sequence of happenings:
Many years have passed. The retiring Jerry and Marge. They also take pleasure in playing the lottery, like many retirees.
Tickets for the Winfall lottery were available for purchase at retail stores. When six numbers matched, the main jackpot was awarded.
Each week, the lottery pot increased if no one won. But it did what was known as a “Roll Down” after six weeks, or when the jackpot reached the $5 million dollar ceiling. When rewards are distributed to the 5, 4, and 3 level match winners—the lower tier winners—a roll down occurs.
Jerry researched the timing of the Roll Downs, the winning odds, and the patterns of the letter combinations. He was aware that, in those last few weeks, a single $1 lottery ticket was statistically worth more than $1.
Jerry then started dipping his toes into the Roll Down weeks. He instantly saw that he could prevail.
As he continued to win, his wagers rose steadily, reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars some weeks as he and his wife cleared out all of the city’s convenience stores.
He won more than $26 million at the state lottery over a period of seven years.
The government looked into him shortly after, but they were unable to uncover any wrongdoing on his behalf.
The Winfall game was subsequently abandoned by the state.
After outwitting “the man,” Jerry and Marge laughed all the way to the bank.