July 7, 2010 -- Ever wonder what you would do if you won the lottery? What if you won it four times?
Joan Ginther might be the first person with an answer to that question.
Last week, Ginther won over $1 million in the Texas lottery for the fourth time. She won the top prize of $10 million on a $50 scratch-off lottery ticket she bought in Bishop, Texas. Her odds of winning were 1 in 1.2 million.
Ginther's $10 million is one of three top prizes in the "$140,000,000 Extreme Payout" scratch-off lottery game. Of her four big lottery wins, this is her largest yet.
Her latest lotto success brings her total winnings to over $20 million.
No one knows Ginther's secret for winning. In fact, no one knows much about Ginther at all. She requested minimal publicity from the Texas Lottery Commission, and did not return calls for comment.
Public records indicate that she lives in Las Vegas, and had returned in the past to Bishop to visit her father. Though her father died in 2007, Ginther, a Bishop native, still goes back, perhaps to buy lottery tickets at the Times Market store. Of her four lottery wins, three have come from tickets she purchased in Bishop, and two of those three tickets were purchased at the Times Market.
The store is eligible for a $10,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket.
A neighbor of Ginther's parents, who did not want to be named, said she comes and goes to her late father's house in Bishop, but said he rarely sees her around anymore. He was not sure if she was currently employed, but thought that she had once worked as a university professor in California.
Ginther's lottery success began in 1993 when she won a $5.4 million portion of an $11 million jackpot in the "Lotto Texas" game. Her next win came in 2006 in the "Holiday Millionaire" scratch-off, which netted her $2 million. Her odds of winning those games were 1 in 15.8 million and 1 in 1,028,338.
Four-Time Lottery Winner
Ginther chose to receive her first prize annually over 19 years, but the following three prizes were all paid out in as lump sums. Her latest prize will amount to $7.5 million after taxes.
Texas Lottery Director of Media Relations Bobby Heith said winning multiple times is rare, but not unheard of.
"Ten million dollars is, I think, the largest prize we've ever given in a scratch-off ticket," Heith said.
Gail Howard, a lottery expert who writes books on how to maximize winning probability, said that while Ginther's luck is special, it is far from the first time someone has won big more than once. Howard knows of multiple people who have won big jackpots more than once, including one person who won a jackpot twice in one month.
Unlike some of the pick-five or pick-six numbers games that Howard studies, Ginther won three of her four big prizes with scratch-off tickets.
"As far as I know, there's no way to beat the odds with scratch-offs," she said.
Ginther appears to have figured out a way to beat the system, or she's just really lucky. Those eager to know her secret will probably never find out, given her preference for privacy.
The lack of information about Ginther makes her a bit of a mystery, but after winning over $20 million in the last 17 years, it is no surprise that Ginther wants to keep to herself.