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Rather than gambling at a chance of becoming a millionaire, you could try to make a heap of money by being a star!
Basic gambling principles go a long way toward explaining why Joan Ginther bet enormous sums on high-priced scratch-off games.
She may have purchased at least 80,000 pricey tickets worth $2 million or more, according to expert analysis of 28 instant prizes she won, including three totalling $15 million.
If she also was the source of two dozen lesser wins by her friend Anna Morales, Ginther might have spurred the purchase of as many as 100,000 tickets worth $3.3 million.
No answers were available from Ginther, who never responded to a series of interview requests, or Morales, who declined to speak.
That $3.3 million in tickets may have only actually cost about $1 million, thanks in part to Uncle Sam. Or perhaps she moved to Vegas in 2001 because she’s an advantage player, someone who zeroes in on ways to turn a profit gambling, suggested Yuran Lu, co-organizer of the MIT group that beat Cash WinFall.
In all the theorizing about Ginther, analysts have largely overlooked the importance of an assortment of basic gambling principles.
Here’s a rundown of a series of powerful factors she may have worked to her advantage. Thanks to her 1993 Lotto Texas win, Joan Ginther had $270,000 coming in every July through 2012. In mid 2000, $80,000 was the biggest lump-sum instant payout in Texas, for a game called Piece of Cake.
In 2007, Texas introduced its first $5 million prize with North America’s first $50 game, $130,000,000 Spectacular.
In 2009, Texas launched North America’s first instant game with a $10 million prize, $140,000,000 Extreme Payout, another $50 game. In a generous scratch-off game, less than than $10,000, thanks to a high rate of prize payback. This powerful factor has been overlooked or underappreciated in dozens of accounts about Ginther. In winning $2,000 in Run the Table in 2005, Ginther may have bought a thousand $25 tickets, an industry analyst calculated. Figure in an average 60 percent return rate for all her games, and the real cost of $3 million worth of tickets works out to about $1.2 million. From 2005 to 2012, when Ginther won 28 scratch-off prizes of $1,000 or more, the top tax rate was 35 percent.
If she lost $150,000 in a given year, she could have saved $52,500 on her taxes, making the real risk less than $100,000. In effect, with prize paybacks and tax breaks, she could have bought about $375,000 worth of tickets a year for $97,500. Some gamblers can legally boost their tax break further by declaring themselves professionals.
Each ticket has a dollar value just for its chances of winning, according to statisticians.
In such situations, the more the player can afford to bet, the more likely he or she will come out ahead in the long run. If Ginther thought she found such situations in Texas scratch-offs with gigantic prizes, her wild buying becomes more understandable. In January 2006, Texas became one of the first states to do so, a few months before Ginther won her first top scratch-off prize. It lets players exploit a simple process of elimination – other players scratching tons of tickets without finding a winner. When $140,000,000 Extreme Payout began in 2009, three top prizes of $10 million were scattered among 3.6 million tickets. In June 2010, when Ginther won $10 million, it was one of two top prizes still left, even though more than half of the tickets were sold. Scratch-offs do seem to work like that, as confirmed by an analysis of data for a few dozen games with top prizes of $1 million or more.

Maybe after she won big, she felt free to take more chances – knowing she was going to lose a lot of winnings anyway to Uncle Sam. Ginther could also have bet more heavily as the odds improved, and sometimes she clearly did. Perhaps most important of all, she might have justified her commitment to buy and buy on the fact that odds can steadily improve. Whether such a strategy is sound is complex, according to mathematician Skip Garibaldi, who holds positions at Emory University and UCLA. Although buying a ton of tickets would have improved her odds dramatically, winning millions was never guaranteed. New York NYC Crime Bronx Brooklyn Manhattan Queens Education Obituaries Sports Yankees Mets Giants Jets Knicks Nets Rangers Islanders Football Basketball Baseball Hockey Soccer College High School The Score News Crime U.S. Follow Us Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest YouTube Subscribe Follow UsNewsletter App Subscriptions Subscribe Get Our Newsletter A daily blend of the most need-to-know Daily News stories, delivered right to your inbox. Select Sport Football Basketball Baseball Hockey Soccer College High School Crime U.S.
The historic Powerball jackpot boosted to $500 million on Tuesday was all part of a plan lottery officials put in place early this year to build jackpots faster, drive sales and generate more money for states that run the game.
Powerball tickets doubled in price in January to $2, and while the number of tickets sold initially dropped, sales revenue has increased by about 35 percent over 2011.
Sales for Powerball reached a record $3.96 billion in fiscal 2012 and are expected to reach $5 billion this year, said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Des Moines, Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association, the group that runs the Powerball game.
It took nine weeks for the Mega Millions jackpot to get that high, before three winners - from Kansas, Illinois and Maryland - hit the right numbers, each collecting $218.6 million for their share of the split. With soaring jackpots come soaring sales, and for the states playing the game, that means higher revenue. Of the $2 cost of a Powerball ticket, $1 goes to the prizes and the other dollar is kept by the state lottery organization, said Lingle, who also is executive director of the South Dakota Lottery. Some states designate specific expenditures such as education, while others deposit the money in their general fund to help supplement tax revenue.
Powerball and Mega Millions games are seeing jackpots grow faster and higher in part because the states that play both games agreed in 2010 to sell to one another.
Still, just seven of the top 25 jackpots occurred after January 2010 when the cross-selling began. The Quick Shop in Ottumwa, Iowa, is one of the state's highest-volume lottery ticket sellers due to its location across the street from a John Deere farm implement factory.
Between $20 and $30 million in tickets were sold between Wednesday and Saturday drawings for most of October.
Small doesn't usually play the lottery herself but said she may buy a chance at the record jackpot. Powerball has posted sales exceeding $714 million in the current jackpot run since early October and it's possible more than $1 billion in tickets will have been sold by the end of Wednesday when the next drawing is held. A single winner choosing the cash option would take home more than $327 million before taxes.
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The following is a guest piece from our friend Derek James. In addition to writing for Hardwood Paroxysm, Derek covers the Minnesota Timberwolves for 1500ESPN in Minneapolis.
The Minnesota Timberwolves achieved something on Tuesday night that has only been done by two other teams in the last 20 years: win the draft lottery as the team with the worst record in the league.
Your odds of becoming a movie star are 1 in 1,505,000, which is at least a lot better odds than winning the lottery!
And months of painstaking analysis of Texas Lottery records cast doubt on the most common suspicions. And her chances were sometimes at least four times better than the published odds, thanks in part to player-friendly websites.
Many gamblers reason that winnings are found money, the lottery’s money, house money, so why not risk some, or most?

Over eight years, that’s $150,000 a year, leaving a lot of her annuity and all of her savings untouched. Gambling losses can be written off against gambling winnings on federal income-tax returns, and with her annuity, Ginther easily met that test. That would have allowed her to deduct expenses such as trips to Texas or even a home office in her condo, though pros also have to pay self-employment tax, according to New York tax attorney Brad Polizzano.
In $140,000,000 Extreme Payout, for instance, the payoff side fell well short of her discounted cost. And Nettles’ Lotto Report, a newsletter for Texas players, had already been providing that information for years.
Why not buy earlier, reasoning that the slightly longer odds will be balanced by even better ones later? After administrative overhead is paid, the remaining amount goes to that state's beneficiary programs.
There's no withholding in states without a state income tax such as Delaware, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Texas. The larger pool of players means jackpots roll over to higher numbers faster, which tends to increase the buzz about the jackpots which increases sales. The lottery also notices a significant increase in workers and other groups joining together in pools to combine resources to buy numbers, he said. She's just trying to decide if her chances are better buying it elsewhere since a jackpot ticket was sold at her store just two months ago - the old adage about lightning striking twice. The funny thing about my dad is when I would take jobs in Detroit and I went to Washington, I’d come home and he’d still be wearing a Minnesota Timberwolves shirt. Amidst all of the celebration and joy there was some emotion following the Timberwolves’ lottery win that had more to do with a father and son than ping-pong balls.
Or, maybe, as Texas kept sweetening the formula, Ginther realized some games weren’t such crazy gambles. 10 Times Lucky, a middling instant game back then, had a high payback rate, but its top prize was a puny $2,500. It’s like shuffling three decks of cards separately, instead of shuffling them together. Records show, however, that Ginther didn’t try that trick with $140,000,000 Extreme Payout.
It was first posted at $425 million but revised upward to $500 million when brisk sales increased the payout. However, winning the lottery seemed to strike a very personal chord with Timberwolves coach and president Flip Saunders. Sometimes progressive slots have such big jackpots, they’re worth relentlessly pursuing.
So, Ginther didn’t need a foolproof strategy or some pay-as-you-go ticket-screening process to justify a search for huge prizes. It's the second highest jackpot in lottery history, behind only the $656 million Mega Millions prize in March. Come next month’s draft, Saunders almost certainly will be able to add that next good player. If games were relatively reasonable bets, she could probably afford to risk sizeable sums every year.
Maybe because that was my first job and I was here so long, but  he was a huge fan and I can remember two months ago when he was watching games and we would talk.

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