You know what they say when the odds of somethinghappening are really low?
“It’s like winning a lottery.” Well, what would you say if I told you thatone man, over the course of 30 years,actually did win the lottery 14 times in a row?
Sounds improbable, but this is the real storyof a mathematical genius, Stefan Mandel. It all began in the 1960s, when a poor Romanianaccountant was trying to make ends meet and feed his family. His salary was so low that he was gettingdesperate —
living basically on $88 a month was a torture. Mandel couldn’t find a job with a higherpay at the time, and resorting to illegal activities was against his moral code. So he came up with a solution that, perhaps,only he could think of: lottery. Now, for most people that would be lunacy. I mean, what chance do you have, one in amillion?
I don’t think I’ll surprise you if I sayit might be even less than that, depending on the number of tickets distributed,
winningcombinations, and some other factors. But Mandel wasn’t like most people, andhe certainly didn’t come unprepared.
He called himself a “weekend mathematician”who’s fascinated with numbers. And it showed: he spent every minute he hadoff work and family life analyzing papers on math and working on his own algorithm.
And finally, after several years, it was ready. Mandel called the result of his research “combinatorialcondensation.
” He didn’t want to disclose the method, buthe claimed that, in a lottery with 6 total winning numbers, he could accurately predict5 of them. That brought the probability of winning thelottery from one in several million to one in several thousand — a drastic drop, don’tyou agree?
Using his algorithm and having gained supportof his friends and relatives, Mandel managed to buy huge quantities of tickets with numbersthat were most likely to win. And the risk paid off: he won the first prize,which was about $19 thousand, paid his debts to everyone who helped him, and still benefitedquite a lot: his net profit was 4 grand — enough to start a new life. And that’s exactly what he did.
Mandel packed his family’s stuff and wentto Western Europe where he moved from place to place for 4 years. Such a lifestyle is tiring when you’re notalone, though, so he finally settled in Australia (quite a far cry from Europe, huh?). There, he decided to continue his researchinto the lottery business — and succeeded. You see, when he earned his Australian citizenship,he got access to every Commonwealth resource available for anyone with this status. And that meant he could take part in the UKlottery system, which happened to be much less complicated than the Romanian one thathe cracked before. So he sat down, took a good long look at thesystem, and after some time got an idea that would make him a millionaire — and a prisoner.
But that’s getting a bit ahead of the story,so let’s first see what came to Mandel’s mind. His new and advanced method was pretty muchgenius in its simplicity. Mandel realized that, in order to win everytime, he only needed to buy all the number combinations there were! Sounds crazy, I know. But even so, he made it work with a very deliberatesolution. His plan included six steps. First, he would calculate the total numberof combinations possible in any given lottery. For example, one where you had to pick sixnumbers from 1 to 40 would have 3,838,380 combinations.
Yeah count ‘em yourself if you don’t believeme! Second, he would find lotteries where thejackpot was at least three times as big as the number of combinations. This was a requirement because otherwise hewould either win nothing at all or even lose money. You’ll see why in a few moments. Third, he’d raise money to buy every singlecombination.
This was the toughest part of all. He would convince people his method workedand persuade them to sponsor his venture by buying as many lottery tickets as they couldafford and sending them to him. He promised them to share the winnings amongthe investors and himself, so, after a while, his ideas got popular enough to attract hundredsof backers willing to win some part of the jackpot. Fourth, he would print out literally millionsof tickets. Doing this, he ensured that every possiblewinning combination would be somewhere among those millions. And that, in its turn, made Mandel a multiplewinner of every lottery there was: not only did he win the jackpot, but he also took thesecond, third,
and other minor prizes. Fifth, having printed out the tickets, hewould deliver them to the official dealers. They had no choice but to accept the tonsof paper Mandel hauled to them because, however crazy it sounds, the whole operation was legal. The British Commonwealth and Australian authoritiesjust couldn’t believe anyone would be so bold as to do something like this.
Stefan Mandel was one of a kind, and he probablyknew it himself. And finally, the sixth step was to take theprize. And this one is exactly why he needed thejackpot to be three times the number of possible combinations. You see, after winning, Mandel had to payhis investors their due. That meant the more backers he had and themore they paid, the more money he had to cough up after winning the lottery. But that wasn’t all, since Mandel also hadother costs to pay, including printing and logistics, so eventually he would be leftwith not a very astonishing sum on his hands. If the jackpot had been smaller, he would’veprobably found himself with less money than he’d had before the whole affair.
Since charity wasn’t exactly what he wasafter, he needed some sort of security — hence the prize amount. The plan was incredibly simple, come to thinkof it, but at the same time it needed a lot of effort. Stefan Mandel worked day and night to makeit come true, and over the years he succeeded in creating what he called a “lotto syndicate”:a network of hundreds of investors who believed in his method and were more than willing tohelp. With 1980s came the computer era, and Mandelwas more than happy to embrace new technology. He bought several computers and a dozen printersthat ran on an algorithm he created, and filling out the combinations became easy-peasy.
By the end of the decade he and his “syndicate”managed to win 12 lotteries across Australia and the UK. But such a scheme couldn’t have gone unnoticed. Although perfectly legal, it bothered theauthorities that one person could perform such a trick, so the lottery laws were changedtwice in Australia: first they prohibited printing tickets at home (now you had to buythem first hand from a store), and then banned purchasing them in bulk. That made Mandel look to the west. Despite his many successes, they brought modestamounts of money. What Mandel wanted now was to make headlinesall over the world, so he set his sights on the Virginia lottery in the US.
It was 1992, and the jackpot was more thanthree times larger than the number of combinations: $27 million against approximately 7 milliontickets. It was exactly what he needed. Given credit for his previous achievements,he quickly gained support of over 2,500 investors, each of them paying about $3,000 to bulk purchaseall the combinations. Then he printed all those tickets at his baseof operations back in Sydney and shipped the bulk to the US. That’s where the big game started. Hired couriers worked tirelessly all aroundthe state, paying for tickets at stores in cashier checks worth $10 thousand each. They were short on time, but that wasn’tthe biggest trouble.
The one that made Mandel bite on his nailswas that just hours before the deadline for entry one of the stores that bought ticketsin bulk became overwhelmed and stopped its operation. As a result, out of 7.1 million tickets boughtby Mandel’s syndicate, only 5.5 million were processed, leaving too much to chance. There was nothing he could do to ensure hisvictory, and he only had to hope none of those missing 1.6 million combinations were winning. On February 15, 1992, the moment of truthcame: the final draw on live television. Mandel’s team were frantically rifling throughthe combinations to see whether one of them was the winner. And at last, a triumphant cry: they’d won! The lotto syndicate hit not only the jackpotbut also the second and third prizes, along with dozens of minor ones, their overall winningsamounting to about $30 million.
It was the greatest victory of Mandel’sventure yet, and it did make international headlines just like he’d wanted. But as we know all too well, money spoils. While Stefan Mandel himself became a millionaire,his investors received only a meager compensation for what they had spent. And they couldn’t even sue him for not carryingout his obligations because technically he did. On a larger scale, Mandel’s actions causedthe US authorities to change the lottery rules so no one would ever repeat his stunt. That made him the first and last person toperform it in history.
He didn’t really stop pursuing his ambitionseven having earned millions. And in 2004 it brought him to a 20-month prisonsentence in Israel, where he tried to pull another lottery stunt and failed. Perhaps that was what brought Mandel to hissenses: since his release in 2006, he’s been living a quiet life on a tropical islandoff the coast of Australia.
But he’ll forever be remembered as a manwho changed the game of lottery in the whole world. Have you ever played lottery yourself? Let me know down in the comments! If you learned something new today, then givethis video a like and share it with a friend. But – hey! – don’t go betting the farmon the lottery just yet! We have over 2,000 cool videos for you tocheck out. All you have to do is pick the left or rightvideo, click on it, and enjoy! Stay on the Bright Side of life!