Gerald Selbee was never a big lotto guy.The 73-year-old retired store owner from rural Michigan who still prefers paper to computers occasionally played Pick-3s and Pick-4s, and even more rarely instant games or scratch-offs.
On Friday, Selbee and a host of others were named — but absolved of any wrongdoing — in a report from the Massachusetts Inspector General’s office on how large-volume betters cracked that state’s game.
One day in 2003, while buying a soda at a convenience store, he picked up a brochure advertising Michigan’s newest lotto game, a pick-5 called Winfall.
The game was structured so that if the jackpot hit $5 million but was not claimed, the money would “roll-down” to those who’d picked five, four and three numbers correctly.
While Selbee was not a frequent lottery player, he had earned a Bachelor’s in mathematics and had started Master’s degree in the subject.
So it took him “about 4 minutes,” he told us from his home in Evart, Mich. to realise that if you bought enough tickets, the odds of taking home money became overwhelming.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
His first attempt in Michigan was unlucky — he bought $2,400 dollars, and according to his calculations should have had two four-number winners, but only got one.
“So I lost 50 bucks,” he said.
The next attempts were much more successful — $6,300 from $3,600 worth of tickets and $15,700 from $8,000 worth of tickets.
He eventually roped in friends and acquaintances to form GS Investment Strategies, LLC, and for the next nine years schooled the system. When Michigan shutdown its Winfall game, he moved onto Massachusetts, where a similar game was founded in 2005.
Selbee estimates that for the period, the group won between $7.5 million and $8 million.
What did he do with his share?
“Two of my grand kids graduated debt-free from the University of Michigan,” he said.
And for his personal satisfaction? He bought gold.
“I think devaluation of the dollar is a certainty,” he said.