Is Jerry & Marge Go Large Based on a True Story? Is the Movie Based on a Real Couple?

Image Credit: Jake Giles Netter/Paramount+

Directed by David Frankel, Paramount+’s 2022 comedy film ‘Jerry & Marge Go Large’ revolves around a retired line manager named Jerry Selbee and his wife Marge Selbee. Jerry, who is obsessed with mathematics, finds a flaw in the operation of WinFall lottery draws. He teams up with his wife to take advantage of the flaw by betting on the lotteries to gain enormous profits.

As the film progresses, Jerry and Marge make use of the flaw to change the lives of their friends and acquaintances living in the small Michigan town of Evart. The couple’s unbelievable and heartwarming success story is guaranteed to make one wonder whether the same has a real-life origin. Well, let us share the answer!

Is Jerry & Marge Go Large Based on a True Story? Are Jerry and Marge a Real Couple?

Yes, ‘Jerry & Marge Go Large’ is based on a true story. The film is based on the eponymous Huffington Post article by Jason Fagone, about the real-life couple Jerry and Marge Selbee, who teamed up to exploit the flaw in a Michigan lottery named Winfall. In 2003, Jerry found out that a lottery taker can claim profits by buying an enormous amount of Winfall lottery tickets due to the loophole present in the roll-down system of the Winfall draws. Using the numbers involved in the tickets, Jerry did some calculations based on “just basic arithmetic” to figure out the flaw.

Image Credit: Jake Giles Netter/Paramount+

Jerry’s first investment of $2,200 didn’t result in any profits since he got back only $2,150. Still, the first try made him realize that he should increase the sample size. The second time, he bought tickets for $3,400 and won $6,300 back. The third time, he bought tickets for $8,000 to win back $15,700. Soon, he told Marge about his discovery and how he managed to make more money. The couple then started to buy an enormous number of tickets, standing in front of ticket issuing machines for hours. The couple also started GS Investment Strategies LLC, a company for the sole purpose of playing lotteries.

Jerry and Marge weren’t interested in reaping the profits alone. They elaborated their plans to family members and friends. They all became the shareholders of GSIS. By 2005, Jerry and Marge’s company had around 25 members and they have won millions of dollars. However, they had to move their operations to Massachusetts when Michigan stopped the sales of Winfall. In Massachusetts, they started playing Cash WinFall, a similar lottery game with a similar flaw. They drove hundreds of miles to buy Cash WinFall tickets from two convenience stores, mainly Billy’s Beer and Wine, the inspiration behind Bill’s Liquor Hut in the film.

Image Credit: 60 Minutes/YouTube

Jerry and Marge weren’t the only ones who discovered and took advantage of Cash WinFall’s flaw. James Harvey and Yuran Lu, two MIT students at the time, and their Random Strategies Investments made use of the flaw to make an enormous profit. The characters Tyler Langford and his friend Eric, who study at Harvard University, are allegedly based on Harvey and Lu respectively. Jerry and Marge continued their Massachusetts adventure for six years. They traveled seven times a year and invested $600,000 on tickets per play. Jerry and Marge took all the tickets back home to store them safely to protect themselves from any federal audit. The couple had stored $18 million worth of losing tickets.

Jerry and Marge’s adventure ended when The Boston Globe published a feature concerning Cash WinFall’s flaw. Scott Allen, who led the Globe’s renowned Spotlight division at the time, worked on the story with journalist Andrea Estes, the apparent inspiration behind the character Maya Jordon. After the publication of the story, the Massachusetts state treasurer shut down Cash WinFall. By the time, Jerry and Marge’s company had grossed $26-27 million from nine years by playing the lotteries. Considering the profits alone, the couple’s company reportedly made $7.75 million before taxes.

Even though Jerry and Marge had to put unbelievable effort to make the money the way they did, the couple is contented about it since the whole adventure motivated them to do something worthwhile for themselves, their family members, and friends.

Read More: Where Was Jerry and Marge Go Large Filmed?