Marjorie and Gerald Selbee may look like a kindly elderly couple, but the Massachusetts 70-somethings are actually sophisticated gamblers. They and a few others have figured out how to beat a lottery to the tune of millions of dollars.
According to a report in the Boston Globe, there is a very small lottery in Massachusetts called Cash WinFall. It is the usual six-ball drawing.
But because hardly anybody plays it, no one ever wins the top prize -- in fact, it has only been done once in the game's seven-year history.
The rules stipulate that when the lottery reaches its top prize -- around $2 million -- the awards for matching fewer numbers "swells dramatically." These "rolldown weeks" happen about once every three months, and it's when people like the Selbees enter the game.
Statisticians have figured out that during this period, anyone who buys at least $100,000 in tickets is virtually assured a profit.
The Selbees, who run a gambling company called GS Investment Strategies, went above and beyond that, buying $600,000 worth of $2 tickets.
It's not clear how much the Selbees won because the lottery does not track winning tickets that are worth less than $600. But the Globe reports that so far this year they have collected nearly $1 million on winning tickets ranging from $802 to $24,821. They likely have made much more.
"Cash WinFall isn’t being played as a game of chance. Some smart people have figured out how to get rich while everyone else funds their winnings,’’ said Mohan Srivastava, an MIT-educated statistician.
Just three groups, including the Selbees, claimed 1,105 of the 1,605 winning Cash WinFall tickets after the rolldown week in May, according to lottery records.
Srivastava said the top five players of Cash WinFall win $1 million to $6 million in profits every year from less than two weeks of gambling.