Stanford PhD student Joan Ginther is either the luckiest women in the world or has a secret she has not revealed. Ginther has won multi-million dollar lottery jackpots on four separate occasions playing scratch off tickets with the smallest jackpot being $2 million.
Jackpots: $5.4 million (1993), $2m (2003), $3m (2005), $10m (2007).
Joan Ginther’s odds of winning four different major jackpots were about 1 in 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (that is 18 septillion). For comparison, it is estimated that there are only one septillion grains of sand on Earth.
Adding to the improbability is the fact that three of Ginther’s wins came from the same market in the small town of Bishop, Texas although she lives about 1,400 miles away in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bishop only has a population of about 3,100 according to the 2010 census, making it very improbable that so many winning scratch tickets would be shipped there to begin with.
Joan’s secret is speculated to be improbable luck or some kind of predictable nature of the scratch off games from which all of her wins came and maybe cooperation in some fashion from the market that sold three of the winners. Ginther happens to have her PhD in statistics from Stanford University.
Perhaps she found out the algorithm used to determine where a winner is placed in a stack of tickets, or where and when a winner would occur. Whatever it is, she isn’t saying. She has always refused to grant interviews, and the Texas Lottery has never investigated.
Before you head off to the market that sold three of the winners, you should know it has closed and is no longer in business.
Update (23 August 2015):
New information has come to light since the original publishing of this article. Records obtained from the Texas Lottery shed a lot of light on how Mrs. Ginther was likely able to win her jackpots.
She apparently worked with an accomplice, purchasing thousands of very expensive ($50 each) scratch tickets in stacks. Both Ginther and her partner stopped all lottery claims after her last $10 million jackpot.
The Philly.com source below has a very extensive write-up, but can basically be summarized as a game of odds. Likely using her PhD in statistics, Joan was able to identify where or which games to buy large stacks of scratch off tickets to increase her chances of winning.
Then she spent tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars buying thousands of scratch tickets and probably months scratching them all, or working in conjunction with the store to scan all the barcodes to identify winners.
She has never agreed to an interview and the Texas Lottery has never investigated, so we may never know the exact truth or method.
- Lottery Legends: How Joan Ginther won millions 4 times (link is external). Peter Mucha, Philly.com. 2014. Overview: Very in-depth article analyzing how Joan Ginther likely won her jackpots. This source obtained documents from the Texas Lotto to reveal information about Joan’s winnings and interesting information on how it was likely achieved.
- Meet The “Luckiest” Woman In The World (link is external). Kiri Blakeley, Forbes. 2011. Overview: Thorough overview of Joan Ginther’s wins, and the odds of such luck.
- Featured Image: Youtube