The Great Lottery Hack: Stefan Mandel - The Man Who Won The Lottery 14 Times

The Great Lottery Hack: Stefan Mandel - The Man Who Won The Lottery 14 Times

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Published Date · Dec. 15, 2023 · Last Updated · Jan. 11, 2024 ·Read Time · 4 mins

Stefan Mandel is the name of the Romanian-born Australian economist who won the lottery jackpot a whopping 14 times, in different countries across the world. Miraculously, he didn’t spend one day in prison because his method was perfectly legal…

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The Great Lottery Hack

The economist and skilled mathematician created a lottery syndicate - a group of people willing to pool their money together to create an increased chance of winning the jackpot - in order to monopolize the sale of lottery tickets.

Why Did Mandel Do It?

He was born and raised in Romania during its communist era and, reportedly, his monthly salary was around 360 Lei ($10/ $78 accounting for inflation) a month. Striving to get out of his situation at the time, during the 1960s, he figured a way to out-calculate the lottery; all he needed was some investors.

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In preparation for his soon-to-be first jackpot win, in Romania, Mandel teamed up with four friends and they all purchased 228 tickets each. The jackpot was 72,783 RON (circa $2k or $15,700 adjusted for inflation), and after splitting the profits, Mandel made $500.

This win was life changing for him and allowed him, and his family, to escape communism in the 60’s and flee to Australia to start a new life; where he would soon continue his master plan on a much bigger scale…

How Did Mandel Do It?

Mandel was quite the mastermind and he spent years, day and night, researching how to create the perfect number-picking algorithm. He called this method ‘combinatorial condensation’.

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The method was, if you buy as many tickets as possible you increase your chances of winning. He realized that sometimes the cost of purchasing enough tickets, to use every possible combination, was actually less than the value of some of the jackpots.

He has previously stated that if a lottery requires you to have six numbers between one and 40, there would be a total of 3,838,380 possible combinations of numbers that could be picked to win.

Mandel's Global Success

Continuing to use his method, he was successful in winning the jackpot around 12 more times in and around Australia. The lottery hacker soon noticed that certain jackpots in other lotteries rose to more than three times the price of buying every combination…

Making It Big Down Under

Whilst in Australia, and thinking of ways he can out-smart their lottery system too, Mandel set up a company with a trust named the ‘International Lotto Fund’. This trust allowed him to encourage thousands of investors across Australia to take part; increasing the fund by millions. He needed this when it came to participating in his biggest project yet - the Virginia State Lottery.

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In Melbourne, stood the headquarters with 16 members of full-time staff printing out seven million Virginia lottery tickets. Alongside the staff, the printing took around three months, and required 30 computers, 12 laser printers and $60,000 in shipping costs.

Sweet Virginia

On February 15, 1992, the Virginia State Lottery ball machine spat out six winning numbers on live television: 8, 11, 13, 15, 19 and 20.

Just before this, Mandel had persuaded over 2,500 trusting Australian investors to pool in $2,500 each in order to buy all of the tickets in the next Virginia lottery jackpot.

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The jackpot was just over $27 million, which was an unbelievable amount for the 90’s, and Mandel and his syndicate managed to purchase approximately 99.3% of the possible combinations.

To little surprise, it worked - again! Not only did they win the jackpot but they also won a mix of secondary prizes, third prizes, as well as a load of minor prizes; totaling another $900,000.

The winnings were supposed to be paid out in 20 annual installments of $1.03m. But in the coming days, officials caught on and began investigating.

The Aftermath

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The win drew the attention of the CIA and FBI who then started investigating. However, after two weeks he was declared to have committed no crime. But to prevent anything similar happening in the future, every US state changed its lottery laws.

Not Technically Illegal… Yet

To prevent this method being used again in future, a ban was put on bulk-buying lottery tickets as well as printing your tickets at home.

In a rare interview in 2012, Mandel said: “I’m a man who takes risks, but in a calculated way,” to a Romanian newspaper called Bursa. He continued: “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.”

Where Is Stefan Mandel Now?

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In 1995, Mandel ended up filing for bankruptcy and went on to spend the next decade running various investment schemes.

Now, he lives a quiet life on a small tropical island country called Vanuatu, in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, known for its volcanoes and waterfalls. Mandel is seemingly a guy who has lived one million different lives in one!

Author

Lucy Wynne

Content Writer

Reviewer

Tim Williams

Head of Content