Joan Ginther, Serial Lottery Winner: Lucky Or a Genius Who Gamed the System?

You may remember Joan Ginther, the woman who's racked up four Texas Lottery million-dollar-plus wins over the years.

The lottery said she had just gotten lucky, but now one expert thinks she might have figured out how to game the system in a completely legal way.

Nathaniel Rich, writing in Harper's Magazine (it's subscription-required but summarized here), notes Ginther has a PhD in math from Stanford, which we guess is harder to get than a journalism degree from UH.

He says she's figured out the algorithm used in printing scratch-offs, and the lottery's method of delivering cards to stores, to greatly increase her chance of buying a winner.

[Rich] believes that after Ms Ginther figured out the algorithm, it wouldn't be too difficult to then determine where the tickets would be shipped, as the shipping schedule is apparently fixed, and there were a few sources she could have found it out from.

Scratch-off tickets aren't manufactured randomly, since the state has to guarantee a certain percentage of winners. So some formula has to be devised to create them. Two of the winning tickets were sold at the same convenience store.

Ginther has been extremely secretive with her wins, choosing the "no publicity" option each time. She's won at least $20.4 million over the years, and lives in Las Vegas, although she was for a time a resident of Bishop in South Texas.

When she won her most recent prize, a lottery spokesman said that the agency does not keep track of multiple winners. We have a call in to them, but have not heard back.

We've contacted the lottery for their take on whether Rich's theory is feasible, and if implementing it would break any laws, but haven't heard back. We'll update when we do.

Update: And here it is.

The Joan Ginther story has been in the public domain since June 2010 when she claimed her fourth lottery prize at Texas Lottery headquarters in Austin, Texas. No allegations or hints of wrongdoing have been brought to our attention and no investigation has been conducted.

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