Caught Stealing

And it’s all perfectly legal, because it’s all in the math.

A game with a windfall for a knowing few

Billy’s Beer and Wine sold exactly $47 worth of lottery tickets the day before Marjorie Selbee arrived, just another sleepy day for the liquor store in this tiny Western Massachusetts town. But from the moment the 70-something woman from Michigan entered the store early July 12, Billy’s wasn’t sleepy anymore.

Over the next three days, Selbee bought $307,000 worth of $2 tickets for a relatively obscure game called Cash WinFall, tying up the machine that spits out the pink tickets for hours at a time. Down the road at Jerry’s Place, a coffee shop in South Deerfield, Selbee’s husband, Gerald, was also spending $307,000 on Cash WinFall. Together, the couple bought more than 300,000 tickets for a game whose biggest prize – about $2 million – has been claimed exactly once in the game’s seven-year history.

But the Selbees, who run a gambling company called GS Investment Strategies, know a secret about the Massachusetts State Lottery: For a few days about every three months, Cash WinFall may be the most reliably lucrative lottery game in the country. Because of a quirk in the rules, when the jackpot reaches roughly $2 million and no one wins, payoffs for smaller prizes swell dramatically, which statisticians say practically assures a profit to anyone who buys at least $100,000 worth of tickets.

During these brief periods – “rolldown weeks’’ in gambling parlance – a tiny group of savvy bettors, among them highly trained computer scientists from MIT and Northeastern University, virtually take over the game. Just three groups, including the Selbees, claimed 1,105 of the 1,605 winning Cash WinFall tickets statewide after the rolldown week in May, according to lottery records. They also appear to have purchased about half the tickets, based on reports from the stores that the top gamblers frequent most.

See also:
Elderly Couple Games Lottery, Wins Millions
Elderly Couple Finds Loophole In Massachusetts Lottery
How to Win the Lottery: Couple Profited From Quirk in Massachusetts Cash WinFall Game
Beating the System: Couple Spends $600,000 to Win Lottery Millions
Talk about making your own luck! Elderly couple who spent $600,000 on lottery tickets to win millions in prizes
Massachusetts Lottery Loophole Virtually Guaranteed a Profit
Massachusetts Lottery Players Exploit Game for Profit
How three groups collected almost 70% of lottery winnings
Gamblers find loophole in Mass. lottery game
Lottery scheme appears to cause trouble for area outlets
Massachusetts restricts lottery ticket sales after couple cracks secret to winning millions
Lottery restricts high-level players
Broken Lotteries

How stupid is Massachusetts for not catching this after the first time? Limiting the amount of tickets an outlet can sell in a day now is a lot like closing the barn door after the horse is long gone.

/oh well, all good things must come to an end and the Selbees are laughing all the way to the bank

Watson Wins!

Okay, so it’s only a practice round but, nonetheless, it’s pretty damn impressive. Just remember, these aren’t ordinary Jeopardy! Champions that Watson is beating like a drum, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter are the top two all time Jeopardy! Champions.


Computer beats Jeopardy! champs – is world domination far behind?

IBM recently created a supercomputer named Watson that will compete against humans in the “Jeopardy!: IBM Challenge.”

The other two contestants? Previous “Jeopardy!” champions Ken Jennings, who won 74 consecutive matches, and Brad Rutter, who won a record-breaking $3.3 million as a contestant. The televised match will air in February, but today IBM offered a teaser in a three-round test battle.

Watson has been in the works for approximately four years. It is powered by 10 racks of IBM servers and has 15 terabytes of RAM. However, Google or KGB are no help to the machine, as it’s not connected to the Internet. Instead, it gets its information from myriad encyclopedias, dictionaries, books, and other sources of information it has digested. According to IBM, Watson has access to the equivalent of 200 million pages of content.

Watson also works just like a human contestant would: he has a buzzer and answers in the form of a question. Although as a bonus for the audience, the top three answers that Watson believes are correct are projected on a screen, giving insight into its decision-making process.

The results of the today’s match shouldn’t be too surprising. Tech blog Engadget.com
reports that no question went answered incorrectly by any of the contestants, but the computer beat the human champs, as Watson led with $4,400, Jennings was second with $3,400, and Rutter rounded out the scoring with $1,200.

See also:
IBM’s Watson supercomputer destroys all humans in Jeopardy practice round (video!)
IBM’s Jeopardy supercomputer beats humans in practice bout
IBM’s Watson wins Jeopardy practice round: Can humans hang?
Are You Smarter Than A Computer The Size Of 10 Refrigerators?
Machine Bests Man in “Jeopardy!” Practice Round
Domo arigato, Mr. Watson: IBM computer takes on ‘Jeopardy’
Jeopardy! supercomputer: Is the next game show champ a machine?
The computer wore Jeopardy’s buzzer
Computer wins first test against 2 ‘Jeopardy!’ champs
The DeepQA Project
Watson Research Center
I’ll Take Machines That Play Jeopardy For $500, Trebek

Did you watch the way Watson destroyed those two hapless human Jeopardy! champions? Instead of Jeapardy! trivia, they should stuff Watson full of all the known economic, military, scientific, and political knowledge.

/I’d vote for Watson over Obama for President in 2012, America would be a much safer and more prosperous country

I’ll Take Machines That Play Jeopardy For $500, Trebek

What is Watson, Alex?

IBM supercomputer to appear on ‘Jeopardy’

What is the end of the world?

For some, it would be dedicating your life to appear on a TV game show. For others, it would be creating a machine that can prove itself better than anyone who dedicates their life to appear on a TV game show.

For myself, it seems clear that IBM has created something that will be the apogee of appointment television by honing a supercomputer to compete with the finest mailmen, insurance brokers, and nurses to prove that it can, well, find the question in the answer.

Yes, IBM’s Watson is, according to The New York Times, to appear on “Jeopardy!”!

Eric Brown, Watson’s research manager, said on the IBM video here embedded: “A question can be posed in natural language and, having read a whole bunch of information, data, documents, it can come up with a very precise answer to that question.”

This does sound very slightly like a large box of Google with human tendencies.

One of the Watson team members describes it in extremely romantic terms. He posits the “Jeopardy!” appearance as a competition between a human, who is all “carbon and water,” and Watson, rippling with its silicon and its unslippable disk.

See also:
Supercomputer plays ‘Jeopardy’
This supercomputer plans to beat humans on Jeopardy!
VIDEO: IBM’s Supercomputer to go on Jeopardy!
IBM’s Jeopardy! computer plays to win (and does)
There’s Nothing Elementary About IBM’s Remarkable Watson
What Is I.B.M.’s Watson?
IBM invites you to outwit supercomputer
The DeepQA Project
Watson Research Center

Oh sure, it’s a cute publicity stunt, man versus machine and all.

/but can Watson beat Ken Jennings?