Stats professor shares hacks to maximize success with Tim Hortons’ Roll Up To Win

Gone are the sweet days when you could roll up the physical rim of your Tim Hortons beverage cup to win a prize. Canadians are now used to trying their luck digitally on the Tim Horton’s app or website.

A statistics professor from the University of Waterloo made headlines last year when he revealed that he was consistently beating Tim Hortons’ Roll Up To Win (formerly called “Roll Up The Rim”) contest.

Michael Wallace moved from the UK to Canada in 2013 to work as a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University. In 2016, he joined the University of Waterloo as an assistant professor, teaching students about biostatistics and probability.

He began using his skills to create the most favourable conditions to win Tim Hortons’ Roll Up To Win, which paid off. Back in 2020, Wallace’s win rate stood at 98%. Over the years, changes to the contest’s rules have lowered this win rate, but not by much. His victories still average 77%.

In 2023, the assistant professor bought around 30 coffees from Tim Hortons to conduct his experiment. He rolled them all up to win at what he calculated to be the best and worst times to play – a 15:15 split.

It paid off — he won 16 coffees off 15 rolls from playing during the “best” time.

tim hortons

Michael Wallace

“I’ve loved mathematics for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I went to university that I began to find my passion for statistics in particular,” he told Daily Hive in an interview last year.

The 37-year-old’s passion for the subject is not limited to work or study — he enjoys the versatility of probability 24/7. Wallace has used biostatistics on projects about treating childhood eye diseases, and as a sports fan, he’s also predicted the outcomes of matches.

With all these Roll Up successes, Wallace has enjoyed many free Tim Hortons beverages and snacks. We asked him if the chain was his go-to for coffee, but he told us he’s more of a tea drinker.

“As I’m originally from the UK, finding good tea is absolutely essential, and Tim Hortons steeped tea is my go-to every time,” he revealed. “I have very strong opinions about tea, and most places will throw a teabag in a cup of lukewarm water, so the fact Tims brews its tea in pots makes a big difference to me.”

Besides tea, Wallace doesn’t buy many items from Tim Hortons. He is, however, partial to a hashbrown, which, he says, is the most cost-effective item to purchase using Tim rewards points.

Outside of Roll Up, the mathematician can usually be found at his local Tims once or twice a week, generally picking up a tea to drink as he wanders around Waterloo thinking about more statistical problems to solve.

Winning tips from the pro himself

One of the main reasons Wallace conducts these experiments is to use them as examples in class for his students.

“I’ve had examples from Roll Up for years—even when the game was Roll Up The Rim, on physical cups. Back then, there was a theory that buying an extra-large cup made you more likely to win,” said Wallace.

Per his calculations, the Roll Up The Rim theory was wrong. “I could use data to show there wasn’t any evidence of this in class,” he told us.

“I often get a laugh out of students when I talk about this stuff — they understand that it’s fundamentally a bit silly, but I’ll take any chance I can find real-world examples with which to engage my students.”

We might not be his students, but Professor Wallace does not discriminate. He has generously shared his favourite tips and tricks to maximize wins with our readers.

Tim Hortons

Michael Wallace

Here’s what you should keep in mind:

Uncover strategy secrets using Tim Hortons data

Wallace’s core method to score wins this year was using data that Tim Hortons already provides publicly.

“If you go to the Tim Hortons website or log on to the app, you’ll see the number of prizes awarded so far,” he told us. “This number updates in almost real-time, so by tracking how this number changes during the day, we can see when more (or fewer) prizes are being won and, by extension, figure out when people are (and aren’t) playing so frequently.”

Play during ideal roll times

The uncrowned king of Roll Up used some statistical methods to calculate the best time to roll up — 3:16 am ET. That’s late, but you must make sacrifices if you’re trying to get freebies, eh? It’s not so bad if you’re on the West Coast (12:16 am).

Wallace’s experiments also concluded that the worst time to try your luck is 11:46 am ET. So basically, try to play when other people aren’t playing.

The professor says he’s known this since the old Roll Up The Rim was digitized, but in 2023, Tims published additional data that allowed him to take a more analytical approach.

Find ways to earn free rolls

Wallace reminded us that if you order through the Tim Hortons app this season, you get an extra roll. Thus, purchasing a single coffee can result in two rolls—one for the beverage and another for buying it using the app.

But there’s a bigger hack to take advantage of here if you look at the fine print.

“The bonus roll is once per order, so if you order two coffees on the app in one order, you only get three rolls. Instead, you could split that into two orders of one coffee each. Each of those orders would earn two rolls, giving you four rolls in total,” the pro revealed.

Embrace your inner statistician

Wallace believes one of the most incredible things about statistics is that everyone is a statistician to some extent.

“We are all making decisions in our daily lives based on probabilities, from deciding whether to take an umbrella out on a walk to budgeting time for traffic on the drive to work to going for a run or having a quiet night in,” he said.

“So even if you’re not a statistics professor, you can still look at problems, like Roll Up To Win, and ask yourself, ‘Could I be doing something different to someone else playing this contest?’”

If the answer is yes, you’re beginning to figure out a strategy. Revisit the data available via the Tim Hortons app and analyze it more.

“Often, the simplest solutions involve the data right in front of our noses,” stated the teacher. “If I see data, I often think, ‘What can these numbers tell me?’ — and that’s a question anyone can ask!”

Try Wallace’s tips and let us know if they work for you.

We know what we’re doing at 3:16 am ET. The coffee will help us stay up.

This article was originally published on April 5, 2023.