Some call it luck, but Keith Selix knows better. The 81-year-old Waterloo man has won three big lottery prizes since last year — a streak he believes would normally be impossible.

But since his wife died in February 2005, the man's fortune has mysteriously changed.

"I'm still thinking that I'm being led from up above," said Selix, a retired John Deere machinist who spends about $200 a week on lottery scratch-off tickets. "I'm firmly in belief of that."

Ironically, Selix's wife had often scolded him for wasting his money on "those cotton-picking tickets."

But Selix kept scratching after his wife's departure, and he has since cashed in three winning tickets totaling $81,000.

Selix's latest win came late last month and included $30,000 from the "Wild Crossword" confetti instant-scratch game. He also won $30,000 in June playing the "Wild Crossword" lizard game and $21,000 in September playing the "Double Blackjack" instant-scratch game.

The odds of winning the grand prize in either "Wild Crossword" game is 1 in 89,775, according to the Iowa Lottery. The odds of winning the grand prize in "Double Blackjack" is 1 in 119,700.

Joe Hrdlicka, the Iowa Lottery's vice president for marketing, couldn't guess the odds of winning three times. Repeat winners are pretty rare, he said, "but it does happen."

Selix said he hasn't grown bored of winning yet. After discovering his latest jackpot, he just about fell out of his chair.

"I'll tell you, I was sitting here at the kitchen table and the only one I could tell it to was the three dogs," Selix said. "They knew something was up."

Selix has used most of his winnings to remodel his home. He has a new kitchen, with new cupboards, appliances and ceramic tile. He's put vinyl siding and new windows on his house. "And now I'm going to start on my bathroom and living room," he said.

Selix plans to continue playing, though the chances of getting struck by lightning are greater than his chance of winning a fourth time. According to the National Weather Service, there is 1 in 3,000 chance of lightning striking someone in an 80-year life span.

Selix has never been hit by lightning, and "that convinces me I'm getting help from upstairs."