Just like countless other people across America, Marge and Jerry Selbee took an interest in playing their state lottery. But when the latter took a closer look at a particular game back in 2003, he made a stunning discovery. Jerry found a loophole of sorts, and it helped the couple win millions of dollars over the next several years.
In moderation, gambling can be a fun endeavor for those who like to test their skills at games of chance. If played right, participants could be the beneficiaries of a sizable cash prize. And in the case of the Selbees, Jerry realized that he could win big by implementing a unique method.
After reading the rules of a new lottery game named “Winfall” back in 2003, Jerry put his method into practice. Both he and Marge were soon winning vast sums of money – changing their lives forever. In the end, the pair brought home over $25 million during an unforgettable nine-year period.
Jerry and Marge used the profits from their winnings in a fairly meaningful way. The retired couple ensured that their family was well taken care of, but they did spend some of the money on themselves, too. And as we will discover later, they finally revealed the intricacies of the “lottery loophole” when they sat down for an interview in June 2019.
For those of us who like to gamble, there are few better feelings than scoring a winning hand or bet. Away from the slot machines and card games, though, there’s an additional activity that can bring in a lot of money if you’re lucky enough. Of course, we’re talking about the lottery.
In the United States, the lottery is a very popular game. For instance, back in 2016 the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries claimed that over $73 billion was splashed on traditional tickets. That number gets even bigger when taking electronic lottery games into account – reaching about $80 billion.
After taking a closer look at the rules of the lottery, those figures begin to make a bit more sense. As a simple game of chance, it has the potential to transform your world in an instant – just ask Jerry Selbee and his wife Marge. However, their success story was also incredibly unique.
We’ll explore just how the couple managed to win the game a little later, but first let’s a bit more about them. Residents of Evart, Michigan, Marge and Jerry first became a couple during their high school years. After that, the latter looked to continue his studies and subsequently enrolled at Western Michigan University. And he focused his attention on one subject in particular: mathematics.
The decision to study math paid off in the end, and Jerry walked away from college with a degree in the subject. His life back at home, meanwhile, proved to be just as rewarding. For you see, he and Marge started a family together – welcoming six children into their lives.
To help support the family, Jerry later took on a job in Battle Creek, Michigan. He was hired by the famous breakfast brand Kellogg’s, and the role proved to be very interesting. The math graduate was actually responsible for devising the packaging of the cereal during that period of time.
Jerry tried to make the cereal last longer through his specially designed packages. And that extended to some of Kellogg’s other products too – suggesting that he had a lot of responsibility. Following his stint there, the Evart resident then decided to start his own business with Marge back in their hometown.
Jerry and Marge eventually opened a convenience store in the local area – running it for 17 years. The couple each had their own assigned roles during the day, as they dealt with different aspects of the business. And given how long the shop stayed open, the dynamic seemed to work.
Marge was responsible for making sandwiches, while also keeping watch over the store’s finances. As for Jerry, he was in charge of the cigarettes and alcohol inside the shop. In the end, though, the owners made a big decision once they hit a certain age, as we’re about to find out.
Speaking with 60 Minutes in June 2019, Jerry and Marge looked back on that period of their lives. The former said, “[We’d had the shop for] 17 years. I was 62. Marge was 63. And I thought it was a nice time to sell and see what we could do after that. We were gonna enjoy life a little bit.”
The couple then retired from work in 2003 and left their old business behind. The store was subsequently taken over by someone else, and it continued to run in the couple’s absence. However, later that year, the Western Michigan University graduate popped back into the shop to grab some supplies.
As Jerry strolled around his old store, he caught sight of an interesting advert for the state lottery. At that point in 2003, a new game had been devised for the residents of Michigan, named Winfall. Intrigued, Marge’s husband went on to pick up one of the pamphlets and began reading the details.
Before long, Jerry believed that he could score a major profit from the Winfall game. He told 60 Minutes, “I read [the pamphlet]. And by the time I was out here, I knew what the potential might be. [It took me] three minutes. Three minutes. I found… a special feature.”
As we mentioned earlier, the lottery is a fairly simple game that offers great rewards to the winners. More often than not, players pick various numbers between one and 49 ahead of a draw, where six numbered balls are pulled out. And should your six numbers match them, you earn a sizable cash prize.
The matching of all six numbers is usually referred to as the “jackpot,” but due to the odds there isn’t always a winner after the draw. When that happens, the money rolls over into the next game – making the prize even bigger. Under normal circumstances, this process continues until someone finally has the correct numbers.
That wasn’t the case with Winfall, though. For you see, if this particular game didn’t have any winners after a draw, the jackpot wouldn’t roll over like you’d expect. Instead, when the prize money hit a total of $5 million, a “roll-down” came into effect for the players.
But how did Winfall work at this point, exactly? Well for instance, when a game didn’t have an outright winner, the jackpot would roll-down to the players who matched fewer numbers. People were also informed about this prior to the draws, and that would encourage them to purchase a ticket.
Jerry saw an opening to exploit the roll-down draws after reading the Winfall pamphlet. And in those aforementioned three minutes, he managed to devise a method that would help him and Marge take home some of the jackpot. The former math student went on to describe his plan in more detail with 60 Minutes.
Jerry revealed, “Here’s what I said. I said if I played $1,100 [on the lottery], mathematically I’d have one four-number winner – that’s $1,000. 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 three-number winners and that’s $50 each.”
“At 18 I got $1,000 for a four-number winner, and I got 18 three-number winners worth $50 each, so that’s $900,” Jerry continued. “So I got $1,100 invested and I’ve got a $1,900 return. It’s just basic arithmetic.” Believing that the method would work, the Evart resident dived into the game at that stage.
Jerry kept his ears open for the next roll-down draw, which was soon made public by Winfall. From there, he purchased around $3,600-worth of lottery tickets – hoping to score a nice profit. Incredibly, his plan worked almost immediately, and the father-of-six took home $6,300 in prize money.
Fresh off his success, Jerry played the game again, but this time he spent about $8,000 on Winfall tickets. Thanks to his method, the retired store owner brought in almost twice as much cash after that draw. Given everything that was happening, he then decided to tell Marge about the idea.
Marge wasn’t that shocked when she started to think about what her husband was doing, however. She admitted to 60 Minutes, “[Jerry] just, you know, it didn’t surprise me. No, I wasn’t surprised. Because as long as nobody wins [the jackpot outright] and you win money, you could see the numbers.”
So with Marge on board, Jerry began to splash even more cash on tickets. In fact, some of their spending sprees reached into the hundreds of thousands, as they were now playing for really big money. And due to those numbers, the retired couple eventually devised another plan to help them along the way.
Jerry and Marge subsequently started their second business together, which they named G.S. Investment Strategies. Under that banner, the Selbees continued to buy tickets in bulk. In addition to that, they also offered their friends and family the chance to buy into the organization as well – costing them $500 each.
To give you an idea of just how much money was flying around at the time, Jerry provided a jaw-dropping example in his interview. He told the TV show, “Here’s one that was pretty successful. We played $515,000 and we got back $853,000. That was a good return.”
And for those who invested in G.S. Investment Strategies, they also enjoyed the riches from the roll-down draws. Dave Huff was one such individual, and he explained how far the money went for him. He revealed to 60 Minutes, “It helped me put three kids through school and one through law school.”
As a result of Jerry and Marge’s staggering success, there were said to be 25 investors in their organization by 2005. Incredibly, it’s believed that they’d won millions of dollars at that stage. Yet their profitable venture appeared to come to an end later that year, as the state canceled Winfall.
But Jerry then received an intriguing message. He recalled, “One of our players emailed me and he said, ‘Massachusetts has a game called Cash Winfall. Do you think we could play that?’ I looked at the game and once I [had] researched it, I got back with him and I said, ‘We can play that game.’”
Despite Jerry and Marge’s advancing age, they came up with a truly remarkable schedule to make that happen. Over a six-year period, the pair drove to and from Massachusetts around seven times every 12 months. That’s a 900-mile journey each way, but it didn’t stop them from grabbing Cash Winfall tickets in bulk.
Every time Marge and Jerry went to Massachusetts, they spent around $600,000 on tickets. And while they continued to bring home big money, the couple opted to keep all of their losing efforts, too. In terms of a figure, the passionate mathematician claimed that the aforementioned stubs had cost a whopping $18 million.
“We had the upstairs of the barn,” Marge informed 60 Minutes. “I stored [the tickets] in one end and at the other end. And then I thought, ‘Oh no, this floor is gonna fall through.’ So then we stored them down in the pole barn. And we had probably 60 [to] 65 tubs of tickets.”
By the time 2011 rolled around, though, Jerry and Marge’s efforts were noticed by a very famous newspaper. The Boston Globe found out that Cash Winfall tickets were being bought by the bucket-load in specific locales. And when the publication did some digging, it then unearthed another group using the same strategy.
As it turned out, a number of MIT students were also trying their luck. Following that, Massachusetts state inspector general Greg Sullivan launched an investigation into the game to see if any foul play was involved. In the end, he realized that wasn’t the case, as Marge and Jerry weren’t doing anything illegal.
After the investigation concluded, Cash Winfall was replaced by another lottery game which didn’t offer the same money-spinning opportunities. So Jerry and Marge went back to enjoying their retirement in Evart and called it a day. As for their business, it brought in around $26 million from roll-down winnings.
Personally, Marge and Jerry earned an $8 million profit themselves too – spending some of that cash on their grandchildren’s schooling. But while Hollywood executives are looking to adapt this unbelievable tale into a movie, the latter played everything down. He told 60 Minutes, “The only thing I found really remarkable is nobody else really seemed to grasp [my method].”