Lottery Legend Joan Ginther: A Timeline of Luck

Wednesday June 12, 2019 09:03 am

The Lottery Lab Staff

Joan Ginther made headlines around the world because she won four separate multi-million-dollar prizes. Skeptics suspected that she cheated or used a system to pinpoint winning tickets. The mystery has deepened because Joan has refused to grant interviews. However, with time, we have learned facts that answer some questions and create more.

To understand this complicated lady, it helps to start with the timeline of her life.  In 1976, Joan Ginther was a PhD student at Stanford University in the School of Education.  Many articles about Ginther suggest that she was a mathematics student and even a statistician, but her dissertation is actually about pretraining students for a mathematics test.  As a Ph.D. student, Ginther was likely trained in many fundamental statistical techniques, but it does not appear that she was creating new mathematical techniques.

For the next few decades, Ginther taught math at several universities.  Then something very interesting happened.  In 1993, she won a Texas lottery worth $5.4 million.  What is interesting is that the numbers drawn were 1, 4, 7, 10, 47 and Dr. Ginther was born on 4/1/47.  That is, it appears that she won using a very common technique of simply using birthdays to pick numbers.  Not only is this technique common, it has a number of statistical flaws which serious lottery players attempt to avoid.  This suggests that in 1993, Dr. Ginther wasn’t using any special scientific approach to pick her numbers.

Joan Ginther took her lottery winnings as an annuity.  Since the Texas lottery pays their annuity over a 20-year period, this meant that she would be getting an annual check worth several hundred thousand dollars every year until 2013.  In the early 2000s, Ginther became known in her small town of Bishop, Texas for purchasing large numbers of scratch-off tickets.  In fact, she sometimes went so far as to buy all the tickets of a particular game sold at her local convenience store.

In 2006, Ginther won $2 million playing Holiday Millionaire.  In 2008, she won $3 million playing a game called Millions & Millions.  Then in the year 2010, she won $10 million on a game called Extreme Payoff.

The degree of luck demonstrated by Joan Ginther surpasses tricksters like Ed Tipton who triggered the Hot Lotto Scandal and mathematicians like Stefan Mandel.  Her luck begs the question: Did she have a system?  Did she have inside help?  Or was she just unusually lucky?

Stay tuned for answers to these questions and more!