Registered: Apr 2002
Posts: 17625 - Threads: 840
I always thought it was possible to beat the lottery and the time to jump in was when the jackpot hit the maximum cap.
Turns out I was right, this couple made millions but they had to buy thousands of tickets to win, and only if the jackpot wasn't claimed for that draw.
It's a long read with much of it irrelevant to the lottery story, here's the principle:
It was on one of these mornings at the Corner Store, in 2003, that Jerry saw the brochure for the new lottery game. Though he’d spent tens of thousands of hours watching his old customers hope for the break that might alter their fortunes, he knew better than to believe the lottery was ruled by chance. “People have been conditioned to think it is luck,” he would later reflect. “They don’t look at the structure of games.”
This particular game was called Winfall. A ticket cost $1. You picked six numbers, 1 through 49, and the Michigan Lottery drew six numbers. Six correct guesses won you the jackpot, guaranteed to be at least $2 million and often higher. If you guessed five, four, three, or two of the six numbers, you won lesser amounts. What intrigued Jerry was the game’s unusual gimmick, known as a roll-down: If nobody won the jackpot for a while, and the jackpot climbed above $5 million, there was a roll-down, which meant that on the next drawing, as long as there was no six-number winner, the jackpot cash flowed to the lesser tiers of winners, like water spilling over from the highest basin in a fountain to lower basins. There were lottery games in other states that offered roll-downs, but none structured quite like Winfall’s. A roll-down happened every six weeks or so, and it was a big deal, announced by the Michigan Lottery ahead of time as a marketing hook, a way to bring bettors into the game, and sure enough, players increased their bets on roll-down weeks, hoping to snag a piece of the jackpot.
The brochure listed the odds of various correct guesses. Jerry saw that you had a 1-in-54 chance to pick three out of the six numbers in a drawing, winning $5, and a 1-in-1,500 chance to pick four numbers, winning $100. What he now realized, doing some mental arithmetic, was that a player who waited until the roll-down stood to win more than he lost, on average, as long as no player that week picked all six numbers. With the jackpot spilling over, each winning three-number combination would put $50 in the player’s pocket instead of $5, and the four-number winners would pay out $1,000 in prize money instead of $100, and all of a sudden, the odds were in your favor. If no one won the jackpot, Jerry realized, a $1 lottery ticket was worth more than $1 on a roll-down week—statistically speaking.
“I just multiplied it out,” Jerry recalled, “and then I said, ‘Hell, you got a positive return here.’”
I presume Camelot are aware of this, but they still operate the maximum jackpot system which distributes prizes to smaller winners in the event it's not won on the last draw.
Is it still possible?
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