Gaming the Lottery: Math, Cash WinFall, and the Players That Can’t Lose

I’m updating the blog over lunch, so I don’t have a time to elaborate here… but this is an absolutely fascinating article about how a select few people are gaming a Massachusetts lottery game called Cash WinFall. One example is 70 year old Marjorie Selbee and her husband:

Over the next three days, Selbee bought $307,000 worth of $2 tickets for a relatively obscure game called Cash WinFall, tying up the machine that spits out the pink tickets for hours at a time. Down the road at Jerry’s Place, a coffee shop in South Deerfield, Selbee’s husband, Gerald, was also spending $307,000 on Cash WinFall. Together, the couple bought more than 300,000 tickets for a game whose biggest prize – about $2 million – has been claimed exactly once in the game’s seven-year history.

The main difference with Cash WinFall is that there are what are called “rolldown weeks.” These days occur when no one wins the jackpot, and the prize money reaches roughly $2M. At this time, payoff rates for smaller prizes (matching 2, 3 or 4 numbers) grows a great deal… allowing players to win markedly more money.

So far this year, the Selbees have claimed nearly $1M in prize money, entirely from tickets wins that range from $802 to $24,821. So far this year.

The math behind this lottery and the people who are working the system is pretty amazing. Liz joked to me that if she had a year to study the numbers, she could probably devise some kind of system like this. This was mentioned in passing, but I’ve been rubbing my chin a lot, ever since. Hmm….

[via MetaFilter, CC photo via 7bikeframesweldedtogether]

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This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Jeebus. $614,000 is a pretty big investment.

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