Hacking the lottery, gaming the game


Due to a quirk in the design of the Massachusetts state lottery game Cash WinFall, a handful of players — including MIT and Boston University statisticians — has been able to invest piles of money into the game at strategic times to claim the vast majority of the prizes.

The quirk works this way: in weeks after the grand prize jackpot hits $2 million, the payouts for smaller prizes grow. By purchasing over $100k in tickets during these “rolldown weeks,” a player is guaranteed a huge return on investment without ever winning the top prize — which has been awarded only once in the game’s history.

Now that the hack has been discovered, the state has started policing the game, and suspended a few stores that broke the rules to sell more tickets to the power players, but Cash WinFall is still in business for now.