Gamblers across the globe have been obsessed with lottery winners for decades – all hoping to emulate their success and take home a big slice of the jackpot, if not the full amount. While it is no secret the odds are heavily stacked against every player, those who believe luck is on their side regularly fritter away cash each week. But behind every big lottery win is an even bigger mathematical equation and the saddening reality is that “not all lotteries are created equally”, LotteryCodex revealed. Probability calculations show that the chance of winning the Euro Millions is one in 139,838,159 – by comparison, getting struck by lightning has a one in two million chance, according to WebMath. Despite these highly unlikely odds, one man defied the system to win big a whopping 14 times. He made millions from cleverly devised mathematical calculations that for him appeared to guarantee lottery success.
While the exact sum earned by Stefan Mandel is a closely guarded secret, it is accepted that he made a fortune from his schemes to win lottery jackpots all over the world.
The economist first developed the hack as a way to escape his home in communist Romania and from there had his eyes on even bigger prizes.
He struck gold after concocting a carefully crafted plan to legally win the lottery in the US state of Virginia, all from the armchair of his home in Australia.
Mr Mandel knew that if he could “buy all of the equations” then the lottery was no longer a game of probability and luck but simply logistics, The Hustle revealed.
He set up a shell corporation the ‘International Lotto Fund’ and managed to attract 2,560 investors to buy into his scheme.
There was a lot of preparation to make sure the jackpot was big enough to make the venture was profitable to buy every combination and still be able to pay the tax, overheads, himself and other investors.
The preparations included printing every possible combination on paper to ship to a point of contact in the US – which cost more than £30,000 and took three months to achieve.
As is known with lotteries, when someone does not win the jackpot increases as it is rolled-over onto the next week – so for Mr Mandel, it was sheerly a waiting game.
In February, 1992, the Virginia Lottery jackpot total hit $27million (£21.6million) and he knew the time had finally arrived.
In the US, it was legal to print lottery tickets at home back then – but they would only be valid if the ticket was authorised by a retailer.
The whopping 1.4 million lottery tickets to overcome the 7,059,052 possible combinations had to be processed by hand, in just three days.
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For two straight days he paid couriers to take giant bundles of 10,000 tickets with prepaid $10,000 (£8,000) cashier checks to more than 125 gas stations and supermarkets to validate the tickets.
A worker from Farm Fresh, who sold a large amount of the tickets, told the New York Times in 1992 that he thought the couriers “were nuts”.
He said: “But if someone comes up and says they want to buy 700,000 lottery tickets, we’re not going to chase them away.”
But an unlikely hole developed in Mr Mandel’s ‘fool-proof plan’ – which relied on purchasing every single possibility.
By the deadline to have all of the tickets bought and validated, only 1.24 million of the 1.4 million tickets had been verified.
This put his guaranteed plan to win in jeopardy and reduced his odds significantly to becoming a “multi-million dollar game of chance”.
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Even if Mr Mandel did win, there were other threats to his grand scheme, including the possibility of multiple winners, which would have significantly lowered the jackpot.
But the lottery numbers were drawn at 11.20pm on February 15 and despite not having every single combination as he had hoped, they had won.
In celebration, Mr Mandel was reported to have sent out an extremely modest note to his 2,524 investors.
Collectively they had won $27,036,142 (£21.7million) jackpot and $900,000 (£722,000) in secondary prizes.
He wrote: “One of our target lotteries did jackpot to our required level. We entered and won.”
Mr Mandel, who is now believed to have “retired” from gambling, was reported to be living on the tropical island Vanuatu, off the Australian coast.
While many have theorised how he managed the impressive feat during a 20-year career working to win the lottery, he has never revealed his algorithm.
It appears likely that he will take the finite details of this to the grave, when he said in 1992: “That would be like Coca-Cola revealing their recipe.”
A decade on from that comment, Mr Mandel revealed his theory about luck, odds and probability to the newspaper Bursa, in Romania, his home country.
He said: “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.
“I’m a man who takes risks, but in a calculated way… the chances are in my favour.”
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