6 Math Geeks Who Outsmarted the Lottery System

Maths geeks
Friday April 5, 2019 12:14 pm

The Lottery Lab Staff

Here is a compiled list of math geeks who have used their computational skills to decode the lottery system or other forms of gambling and get rich. Most of them used completely legal techniques and simply used their skills to their advantage. On the other hand, there have been some instances where people used their math skills to cheat their way to millions. Here is a list of math whizzes who used their skills to crack the lotteries and make money-

1. Joan Ginther

Joan Ginther was a Ph.D. in Mathematics but there is no solid proof that she used her math skills to help her win. Instead, there is only speculation about how she managed to win multi-million dollar prizes  FOUR times. Not only did she win four million-dollar jackpots from the Texas lottery, but she also won various smaller tier prizes in scratch-off lottery games. Some believe that this former statistics professor used her math knowledge to help her crack the code for the lottery’s algorithm. Considering that the odds of someone winning four jackpots are one in septillion suggests that she was more than just lucky. According to the lottery commission, Ginther won fair and square. However, people still believe that she had a little help from her math degree.

2. Michael Larson

Michael Larson is a gaming legend who memorized the pattern of a TV game show to win prizes. In 1984, he entered a TV game show named “Press Your Luck.” Larson had figured out how the patterns on the board moved and using probability, he determined which squares would be more likely to contain money. Larson started off slow, but eventually, he started hitting bonuses on every turn, bagging a total amount worth $110,237 (adjusted for inflation that would be worth about $233,000 today). He was disqualified from participating in future shows and the show made some major changes in their format as a result of the incident.

3. Gerald and Jerry Selbee

Gerald and Jerry Selbee retired store-owners and high school sweethearts, opened their own gambling company, bought over $614,000 worth of tickets for the relatively obscure lottery game named Cash WinFall through July of 2011. They claim that they won about $26 million within the time span of 9 years. Gerald had a mathematics degree and was a natural with numbers. According to Gerald, he just looked at a lottery brochure for 3 minutes and recognized the loophole in the lottery game. The Cash WinFall lottery had a roll-down rule which restricted the jackpot to a maximum of $2 million. Once the jackpot reached $2 million and no one wins the jackpot, the entire amount is then assigned to lower-tier prizes. Therefore, Gerald would wait for the prize money to reach the $2 million limit and then buy thousands of lottery tickets to make sure that he would get several tickets with 5, 4, and 3 matches. Gerald became so good at it, that they start their own corporation. But the state recognized the loophole in the lottery game and ended it.

4. John Kelly, Jr.

John Kelly, Jr. had a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas and he worked in Bell Labs in the early 60s. He was well known for his famous invention named the Kelly Criterion, a formula used for determining the optimal size of a series of bets, whether on the stock market or in a casino. Various gamblers like Thorp or his assistant, Claud Shannon. put this theory into practice. But Kelly never earned any profit from his theory or perhaps never got the chance to do so as he died early in 1965. He left his formula behind which was used by business moguls like Warren Buffet, Jim Simons, and Bill Gross to make fortunes.

5. Steven Skiena

Probability is not limited to casino games and lotteries only but also applies to sports betting as well. Computer science professor, Steven Skiena proved that there is a system that works when it comes to the complex betting system of Jai Alai. In 1977, he started working on a system to predict the winning chances of various sports. At first, he was able to predict the outcome of NFL games with 65% accuracy. He constantly worked on his system to refine his methods and turned an initial investment of $250 into $1851. After that, he devised an advanced system with a complex mathematical system to make a more accurate prediction about the outcomes of NFL games. For him, it was just a mathematical project as he never used his system for the purpose of money-making. In fact, he donated all of the winnings to charity.

6. Stefan Mandel

Stefan Mandel, a natural math geek managed to pick all 6 numbers in the lottery and won a cash prize worth $27 million in 1992. It wasn’t as simple as it sounds. Stefan Mandel was a Romanian economist who observed the size of lottery jackpots and decided to win big. He specifically played the Virginia lottery because the cash prize was huge and the odds were favorable as compared to other lottery games across the US. He formed a group of investors to buy every possible combination to guarantee the jackpot. It was just a lottery game for Stefan, rather an investment. They established a lab with a computer and printers to fill out millions of Playslips. They printed every possible combination, managed to match all 6 numbers, and won the jackpot. However, he wasn’t granted the prize right away as there was a 4-year long investigation. As a result of this incident, the lottery association banned mechanically printed Playslips and increased the number pool to increase the number of possible combinations. For his brute-force achievements, Stefan Mandel is still remembered as a lottery legend.