## Hacking the lottery

Jerry and Marge Selbee were a semi-retired couple in rural Michigan who ran a convenience store. Among their biggest sellers were lottery tickets. One day, Jerry realized that if you only played on certain "roll-down" days (when a four-out-of-six winner would get part of a five-out-of-six prize, and so on), the odds weren't just better for players; they were positive. You just had to buy a lot of tickets.

Lottery terminals in convenience stores could print only 10 slips of paper at a time, with up to 10 lines of numbers on each slip (at \$1 per line), which meant that if you wanted to bet \$100,000 on Winfall, you had to stand at a machine for hours upon hours, waiting for the machine to print 10,000 tickets. Code in the purchase. Push the "Print" button. Wait at least a full minute for the 10 slips to emerge. Code in the next purchase. Hit "Print." Wait again. Jerry and Marge knew all the convenience store owners in town, so no one gave them a hard time when they showed up in the morning to print tickets literally all day. If customers wondered why the unassuming couple had suddenly developed an obsession with gambling, they didn't ask. Sometimes the tickets jammed, or the cartridges ran out of ink. "You just have to set there," Jerry said.

The Selbees stacked their tickets in piles of \$5,000, rubber-banded them into bundles and then, after a drawing, convened in their living room in front of the TV, sorting through tens or even hundreds of thousands of tickets, separating them into piles according to their value (zero correct numbers, two, three, four, five). Once they counted all the tickets, they counted them again, just to make sure they hadn't missed anything. If Jerry had the remote, they'd watch golf or the History Channel, and if Marge had it, "House Hunters" on HGTV. "It looked extremely tedious and boring, but they didn't view it that way," recalled their daughter Dawn. "They trained their minds. Literally, they'd pick one up, look at it, put it down. Pick one up, put it down." Dawn tried to help but couldn't keep pace; for each ticket she completed, Jerry or Marge did 10.

Naturally, of course, the couple hits trouble when they shift their game to Massachusetts and bumps up against a group of MIT students who have the same idea. Hijinks ensue.