When a Michigan couple retired in their early 60s, they wanted to find a fun way to spend their newfound free time. A simple trip to the grocery store then turned into a lottery discovery of a lifetime.
Now Jerry and Marge Selbee are $26 million richer and have even earned their friends some money in the process.
One morning in 2003, Jerry was in a corner store when he saw an ad for a new lottery game called Winfall. Jerry, who said he always had “a head for math," looked at the game and realized how he could beat the odds in a matter of minutes.
“I read it and by the time I was out here I knew what the potential might be.”
In the game, there was a feature called "Rolldown,” which means, unlike building a jackpot until someone hits it, like the Mega Millions, the jackpot “rolled down” to the lower-tier prize winners who matched five, four or three numbers.
“Here's what I said. I said if I played $1,100 mathematically I'd have one 4-number winner, that's 1,000 bucks. I divided 1,100 by six instead of 57 because I did a mental quick dirty and I come up with 18. So I knew I'd have either 18 or 19 3-number winners and that's 50 bucks each. At 18 I got $1,000 for a 4-number winner, and I got 18 3-number winners worth $50 each, so that's 900 bucks. So I got $1,100 invested and I've got a $1,900 return,” Jerry told CBS’ 60 Minutes.
When a rolldown was announced, Jerry bought $3,600 in Winfall tickets and won $6,300. Then he bet $8,000 and nearly doubled it.
Soon after his discovery, Jerry and Marge Selbee started playing for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They even began a corporation, G.S. Investment Strategies, and invited friends and family members to buy shares of the company.
In 2011, the Boston Globe conducted an investigation into the lottery after getting a tip that Cash Winfall tickets were being sold at an extraordinary volume.
Scott Allen, who oversees the Globe's investigative Spotlight team, said it all began when a student at MIT realized how to beat the game.
“He got a bunch of his friends to pool in their money so they became, as time went on, professional Cash Winfall players, recruiting their friends and raising money from backers until they too were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Allen told 60 Minutes.
Over the next seven years, he earned at least $3.5 million in profits.
After the investigation, the Massachusetts State Lottery had moved on to a different game without a statistical twist. With that, Jerry and Marge Selbee, who would drive 14-hours to Massachusetts for Winfall tickets, brought their money-making venture to an end.
In nine years, their company grossed over $26 million.
After the couple’s incredible story was featured on CBS, Hollywood took notice. The Selbee’s officially sold the rights to their story, which is now in the early stages of development.
(Photo: CBS News)