JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There have been a lot of theories over the years on how to beat the lottery, from lucky numbers to playing the same sequence over and over. But here's one thing you might not have heard of: a lottery syndicate.
Think of it as an office pool -- only on much, much bigger scale. And, some people have actually used these syndicates to beat certain lotteries and win.
To simplify it, say the odds of playing a certain game is one in 5 million (because that's how many number combinations can be chosen). If you get a group of investors to buy 5 million tickets with every number combination, that's a lottery syndicate. If the jackpot ballooned to a $6 million payout, you could make money.
In Massachusetts, a few groups used this method to beat the odds. Jerry Selbee beat a lottery game in the state called Cash Winfall. The Boston Globe first uncovered his story, and he was profiled on Inside Edition.
Selbee found a totally legal method and spent around $300,000 on lottery tickets to guarantee a win. That particular game has since been discontinued.
"They got together with the groups of people and got the money together and made the investment essentially in filling out the tickets," said Jacksonville attorney Mitch Stone.
Stone deals in gambling law and says on the surface there's nothing illegal about buying up as many tickets as you can -- even if you're talking about tens of thousands of tickets.
"There's nothing illegal about it. That's more along the lines of what everybody does when Powerball goes to $675 million, and everybody says if we have an office pool and all put our money together, we can buy more tickets and give ourselves more of a chance," Stone explained.
News4Jax reached out to Lottery-Syndicate-World.com, and a representative told us that syndicates vary from a loose arrangement between a couple of friends to a big commercial group with hundreds, or even thousands, of members (typically split into smaller groups).
"The vast majority of syndicates are just regular people -- often family groups and work pools. There are some 'gotchas' and things to be careful about, such as having a clear agreement between members," the representative said. "The basic premise is that everyone pools their money together to buy more tickets."
"You buy 10 times as many tickets, you get 10 times the chance of winning. Simple as that," they added.
This is done globally with certain lotteries all over the world. We found multiple websites set up for lottery syndicates, but Stone says the legality could be murky. For instance, in Florida, you need to be in the state of Florida to purchase the ticket, meaning you can't buy in bulk over the internet or through the mail.
One of the biggest hurdles could be logistics. You need to fill out all those lottery forms to cover enough number combinations, so even if three of you are doing it or 100 of you, filling out hundreds of thousands of tickets isn't easy.
Then there's finding the right game with a high enough payout versus the amount of number combinations.
"They're looking for the expected value. How much can they make in the long run on over the time period?" said FSCJ math professor Sharon Sweet.
She says to even consider something like this, you need to calculate the odds versus the payout you could win, plus the amount of hours it would take for the legwork.
"They spent lots of hours just looking at their winners," said Sweet. "Ten days non-stop, 10 hours a day looking through every card they bought. I couldn't spend that time looking."
Sweet adds the games where you get payouts for matching only three or four numbers might give lottery syndicates better odds.
"Like the one they did here. It would have been one out of 10.7 million. When you go down to just picking three out of those six numbers, it goes down to one out of 16,000," she said.
The odds of recreating what happened in Massachusetts are slim, and the Florida Lottery was to tell us that the Massachusetts case was a faulty game and have never heard of that happening here.