Perseverance pays off for long-time Lotto player
When Paul Hemphill picked the winning lottery numbers in 1995, he made just one mistake: He never bought a ticket.
He didn't make that mistake twice. Two months ago, the 66-year-old retiree strolled into Hollywood Food Mart, plunked down $2 and walked away.
Two days later, he was a multi-millionaire.
The winner of the May 28 jackpot — worth a hefty $35 million — asked for the cash up front. After taxes, he pocketed more than $20 million.
The Hallandale Beach resident says he's satisfied to have won the prize, but doesn't want any attention for his new-found riches.
"I don't want a situation where people are going to be camping out in my yard," Hemphill said. "I just want to melt into the woodwork."
The reserved retiree says he plans to use his winnings to provide a better life for his relatives. "It's just a satisfaction knowing I have the security to take care of my family," he said.
Hemphill said he's been playing the Florida Lottery from its inception, back in 1988.
Though the odds of winning the lotto are extraordinary — greater than one in 22 million — Hemphill says he's got a system that gives him an edge: He uses a computer program to pick his numbers.
He said this year's win isn't the first time the software has selected correctly: in July 1995, the computer screen displayed the numbers 2-6-10-18-27-44.
But Hemphill didn't act. "Something happened and I didn't play that particular night," he said.
Days later, the jackpot was announced, and Hemphill realized he missed out on a $7 million prize.
Three years later, he hit a financial setback: court records show he declared bankruptcy in 1998. He declined to discuss the case.
He said throughout it all, he felt someone was looking over him — and no more so than on the morning of May 29.
He awoke that day, he said, turned on his television and checked the drawing from the night before. The digits 7-36-41-42-44-47 flashed across the screen.
"I looked at the first two numbers and said, 'I've got it,' and I went back to bed," he said.
Last week, a $20,574,470 wire transfer hit the bank account of a company he created to receive the winnings.
Hemphill credits his win — and his almost-win — to Lotto Pro, a computer program made by Polk City company Data Solutions.
There, the owner knows Hemphill by name. "He's probably one of our most loyal customers," said John Lake, who started the company in 1989.
Lake said the $35 million jackpot is the largest anyone has ever won using the software, which he said has sold thousands of copies.
Though he said the software can't guarantee a win, it "reduces the odds against you" by analyzing previous wins to spot trends.
But experts say that's a daunting prospect, given that the lottery commission goes out of its way to ensure the numbers are random — and not influenced by any other factors.
The previous winning numbers "will only have a role if the lotto is very careless," said Subramanian Ramakrishnan, a professor of mathematics at the University of Miami. "They have a very elaborate process of checking the balls, making sure the weights are right, the mechanism is working well."
Those facts don't dissuade Hemphill, who says his system has already proven itself.
The one thing he says he will do with his new-found riches?
Keep playing the lotto.
"I'm going to hit again," he said.
Thanks to Nino224 for the tip.