How did one man win the lottery 14 times? Lottery mastermind managed to crack the code

Stefan Mandel, a man whose name is closely associated with winning the lottery, managed to turn the tables in his favor by clinching the jackpot not once or twice, but an astonishing 14 times.

A vast majority of individuals may never get the chance to taste the thrill of winning a lottery during their lifetime. If luck does knock on their door, the windfall is more likely to be £10 rather than a staggering £1 million. The approach to selecting numbers varies, with some individuals relying on their chosen numbers, while others leaving it to chance through the lucky dip.

Stefan Mandel, however, approached the lottery from a unique angle, developing a technique that enabled him to amass a considerable amount of wealth. His journey towards lottery domination, fueled by financial desperation, was marked by a series of breakthroughs and eventual hurdles.

Employing his prowess as an economist, Mandel spent several years to refine a novel ‘number-picking algorithm’, rooted in a technique he coined as ‘combinatorial condensation’. In his in-depth analysis of the lottery system, he discovered that the cost of buying all possible ticket combinations for specific lottery draws was surprisingly lower than the jackpot’s value.

Consider a lottery where participants are required to select six numbers from a pool of 1 to 40. The total number of unique combinations that can be generated amounts to 3,838,380. In scenarios where the jackpot escalates to £10 million and each ticket costs £1, Mandel identified a potential opportunity for substantial profit.

Mandel, joining forces with a group of trusted allies, formed a syndicate to invest large amounts into purchasing tickets, covering all potential combinations. Their initiative bore fruit when they claimed the top prize amounting to more than £15,000. After the winnings were distributed among the team members, Mandel found himself with £3,000, a sum that allowed him to escape the clutches of the regime in his country.

Mandel, his wife, and their two children relocated to Australia in the 1960s to start a new life. Armed with his innovative approach, Mandel made a mark by winning the lottery 14 times, without transgressing any legal boundaries.

He persuaded a group of investors to pool their resources, leading to the formation of an expanded lottery syndicate, a cooperative where members contribute funds to purchase lottery tickets and share the winnings. As the syndicate grew, Mandel implemented an automated system, harnessing the capabilities of printers and computers, to generate tickets automatically, covering every possible number combination.

This approach significantly boosted the syndicate’s success, leading to 12 jackpot wins and several sizeable prizes in both Australia and the UK. However, the spotlight on Mandel’s remarkable success instigated investigations from the authorities. Consequently, lottery officials enforced new rules, banning bulk ticket purchases and computer-generated entries.

Undeterred, Mandel continued to seek fresh opportunities. Leveraging his substantial profits, he deployed ‘scouts’ across the United States and compiled a list of past lotteries where the jackpots exceeded the sum of all potential number combinations by at least threefold. His attention was drawn towards the Virginia Lottery, which limited its number selection to a range between one and 44, significantly reducing the total number of possible combinations.

In pursuit of his goals, Mandel established an official company, Pacific Financial Resources, and created a trust known as the International Lotto Fund. Through his economic background, he persuaded thousands of investors to pour in millions to bolster the collective funding pool.

At a warehouse in Melbourne, Mandel employed a dedicated team of 16 full-time staff who printed an astounding seven million tickets over three months. These tickets were then sent to a contact based in the United States. The syndicate’s efforts were rewarded when they won the coveted jackpot along with several other significant prizes.

While Mandel’s methods were not deemed illegal, they did spark suspicions leading to a lengthy legal battle that lasted four years. Eventually, he was cleared of any misconduct. However, despite pocketing millions from his wins, the returns for his investors were much less than expected, forcing Mandel to declare bankruptcy in 1995.

In reaction to Mandel’s tactics, all US states have since passed laws that disallow his approach. Mandel, now 89, lives on the tropical island of Vanuatu, alongside many of his former syndicate members who also chose to retire there. Despite the high stakes involved in his ventures, Mandel, in an interview with a newspaper in 2012, downplayed the risks. He stated: “I’m a man who takes risks, but in a calculated way. Trimming my beard is a lottery: There is always the possibility that I’ll cut myself, get an infection in my blood, and die — but I do it anyway. The chances are in my favor.”

Gayle Gordon

As a college student, making an extra buck now and then was very important. I started as a part-time reporter since I was 19 yo, and I couldn’t believe it might become a long-time career. I'm happy to be part of the Virginian Tribune's team.

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