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Excerpt: 'Money for Nothing'

Money for Nothing Book Cover

TIMING IS SOMETHING, ISN'T it? Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened had I never gotten involved with the lottery business. Sometimes, I thank God I found the business when I did. In a way, it saved me. Anyway, The Firm didn't turn me into anything. The seed was planted long ago. I was who I was long before I showed up at their door. The Firm just provided the right amount of sun and shade with which I needed to grow.

I'd do it all again, for the experience, and for the money. I'd be lying if I said the money wasn't great—addicting, but great. The money gave me options guys my age tend not to have. But things changed. The tail began to wag the dog. The money got me the big house. The big house came with the big mortgage. Suddenly, I needed my job. And, there's the rub. The day you realize that you, like every other schmuck in the world, need to work, you're an adult.

Why did I spend the better part of a decade chasing lottery winners? I could have done something else. But I had no earthly idea what else I wanted to do with my life. It's not as if I had big plans. And—did I mention my paychecks?—you should have seen my paychecks. I was clearing multiple six figures since I was twenty-eight. Don't be impressed, most of it's gone—just like with a lottery winner. It's as if I never had the money in the first place. I'm as jealous as you are.

I fell into this business ass-backwards, but it's an industry perfectly matched to my talents. If you are good at something that is bad for some people, does that make you a bad person? Try making heads or tails of that with your shrink.

Anyway, I'm writing this book because I know what really happens to people when they come into a lot of unexpected cash.

Plus, the last decade has seen a paradigm shift in the nation's gambling culture, and I've been a big part of that story—from both sides. I've earned a good living off gamblers because I know them inside and out. I'm also emblematic of the gambling epidemic our country faces today. When it comes to gambling, I'm both the shark and the mark.

Excerpted from Money for Nothing: One Man's Journey Through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions by Edward Ugel by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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Edward Ugel