Gerald and Marjorie Selbee are both over 70, but they are not your typical pensioners.
Over a period of 3 days the couple from Massachusetts spent $314,000 each buying lottery tickets for the Massachusetts Cash WinFall lottery game.
Why would anyone in their right mind risk so much money on lottery tickets?
This elderly couple had been planning their strategy for months. And they knew almost for certain they would walk away with more money than they started with.
Because the Selbee’s run a small company that specialises in investment style gambling.
They don’t play the Cash WinFall game every week. Instead they wait for the jackpot to rollover and build up to a certain point. This game has been running since 2004, but only ever had 1 jackpot winner, so rollovers are pretty reliable.
The key to the Selbee’s strategy is to wait for the rolldown draw. This rule is applied by a number of different lottery games, and stops the rollovers from building up beyond a certain number of weeks or a certain jackpot value.
Rolldown rules vary, but a rolldown draw for Cash WinFall sees the entire jackpot ‘roll down’ to the lower prize levels, if nobody wins it. That means greatly increased second tier prize payouts – up from around $4,000 to around $40,000. And similar boosts to other prize levels too.
And the Selbee’s have done their figures – working out that for this particular rolldown draw they are extremely likely to win so many second tier prizes that they will walk away with a substantial profit.
But the key to the strategy is in buying enough lottery tickets.
It takes $100,000 just to give a 74% chance of walking away profitably from this draw. And around $500,000 to virtually remove any risk. The only risk is if somebody else wins the jackpot so there is no roll down.
Statistician Mohan Srivastava says that if you buy 200,000 tickets for this game during a particular 4 week period, you would likely make somewhere between $240,000 and $1.4 Million profit.
He also adds that there are 5 top players of Cash WinFall that make between $1 Million and $6 Million profit every year.
After the rolldown in May this year, just 3 different groups which include the Selbee’s actually claimed 69% of all winning tickets for the entire State. Those groups also bought about half of all tickets sold.
Apparently the Selbee’s themselves have claimed as much as $1 Million so far this year. All in prizes of between $800 and $24,821.
So why isn’t everyone doing this?
Two major reasons. You need a lot of money to be fairly certain of walking away profitably. And you also need an awful lot of time on your hands. The Selby’s pretty much occupied the lottery terminals of two different shop for 3 solid days – just to buy their tickets. And lottey rules state the player must be present when every ticket is issued.
You can also imagine how much time goes in to planning, printing playslips and claiming prizes too.
But the word is out.
The Selbee’s are reportedly quite upset that their strategy has become public knowledge. After all, who is going to play a lottery game just to fund the pockets of big time investors?
It would seem the days of the Cash WinFall game are numbered. The rules are not being broken. The lottery officials say the game is working as designed.
But public confidence in the game must now be on the way to an all-time low. A hint as to the future of the game came from the Director of the Massachusetts lottery himself
…we’re always looking to freshen up our portfolio.