The 14-Time Lottery Winner
Stefan Mandel and the word ‘lucky’ aren’t synonymous. You may think this odd given that he’s a 14-time lottery winner. Not so for Mandel. Instead of relying on lady luck, the former economist made turned to a far more rational and dependable mistress: mathematics.
Born in Romania in 1934, Mandel held an obsession for numbers from an early age. Unsurprisingly he began his career as an accountant before moving into economics. It was during the 1950s that he started playing lotteries as a way of raising much-needed cash.
While this helped him to eke out a threadbare existence in the oppressive and impoverished Ceaușescu-era Romania, he soon began to analyse lottery systems to find a way of guaranteeing first prize.
Making full-use of his mathematical abilities, he began to work out the millions of combinations that went in to picking 6 numbers in a state lottery and how to list them all without creating duplicates.
After several years he came up with an elaborate algorithm which solved the problem. But because he couldn’t afford to buy every single ticket, he used a supplementary method he called ‘condensing’. This system guaranteed that at least 5 of the 6 guessed numbers would be correct.
Confident of his chances, Mandel applied his methodology to the Romanian National Lottery and actually won first prize. Soon afterwards he left Romania for Israel, eventually settling in Australia.
It was during his time in Australia that Mandel perfected his system to such an extent that he won another 12 lotteries. After eventually being banned, he founded an international betting syndicate called ILF whose members contributing $4000 each.
Once he had 2500 people on board, there was enough money to game a bigger, more lucrative foreign lottery. To this end Mandel started to search for lotteries which offered jackpots that were three times the cost of each combination. In 1992 he identified the Virginia State Lottery as the ideal target.
The 6/44 game, which was $1 to play, featured 7.1 million possible number combinations.So Mandel calculated that in order to make a substantial profit he needed to wait until the jackpot had rolled over to at least $25 million.
For a year and a half he and the syndicate waited unit the conditions were favourable enough to start the purchasing process. When finally it reached $28 million the group set about buying every single combination of numbers.
Mandel and his associates printed out all the pre-filled coupons in Australia with the use of 30 computers and 12 laser printers – all in all they produced around 30 tons of paper. These were then sent to the UK by air freight.
In order to officially purchase the tickets, deals were struck with convenience stores and chain retailers in Virginia which allowed for bulk-purchases with cashier cheques. Racing against the clock, the syndicate only managed to purchase 5.6 million out of the 7.1 million combinations with some outlets running out of tickets due to the inflated demand.
Despite the shortfall, the syndicate scooped the jackpot as well as 135,000 secondary prizes. Today, Mandel lives on a tropical island in the South Pacific.
The win caused some controversy in the US and resulted in investigations by the US Internal Revenue Service, the FBI and even the CIA. However no wrongdoing was ever found for the simple fact that buying every single lottery combination was and remains legal.
However, repeating such a feat has become more difficult with most operators on the lookout for large scale purchases. Moreover, companies such as Camelot refuse to pay out on a ticket that it suspects has been resold or transferred by the way of trade. Nevertheless, Stefan Mandel’s strategy proved an outrageous success that has yet to be repeated.