Stefan Mandel, a name synonymous with the enigmatic world of lotteries, made his legacy accomplishing what many deem impossible: winning the lottery 14 times! However, his journey was not a dance with luck but a symphony of mathematics, strategy, and sheer determination.
Born in Romania and later an Australian citizen, Mandel didn’t just play the lottery; he cracked it. His method, though simple, was Herculean in execution. He exploited a loophole in the system: when the jackpot’s size exceeded the cost of playing all possible combinations, one could guarantee a win by purchasing every combination. The catch? One needed the financial backing to purchase millions of tickets and the logistical means to manage them.
Mandel’s first two wins were in his native Romania, where he was trying to earn enough money to escape the then-communist country. It was in the 1960s, and his earnings from these wins were enough to get him and his family to Israel, and then to Australia, where his real lottery journey began.
Mastering the Australian Lottery
In Australia, Mandel refined his formula. He didn’t rely on luck; he played with certainty. He meticulously calculated combinations, ensuring the jackpot was three times the cost of tickets, thereby guaranteeing profit. He convinced investors to pool in money, and with an organized group, Mandel won 12 more lotteries.
The Historic Virginia Win
His most audacious win was the $27 million Virginia lottery in 1992. Mandel, undeterred by the logistical nightmare of purchasing 7 million tickets, navigated through it with the precision of a maestro conducting a symphony. He shipped the tickets to the US and enlisted volunteers to hand-write the combinations. This victory, though legal, attracted the scrutiny of authorities, marking the beginning of his fall.
Changing the Game and the Aftermath
According to News.com.au, Mandel’s repeated wins forced several countries, including Australia, to change their lottery laws, outlawing the purchase of every ticket combination. He tried to adapt, even starting a lottery company, but the golden days were behind him. The man who once bested the system was now on the radar of authorities and eventually faced legal battles.
Legacy and Lessons
Despite the controversies, Mandel outsmarted a system designed to be unbeatable, not through supernatural luck, but through the application of simple mathematics and the audacity to dream big.
However, Mandel’s story also serves as a cautionary tale. His strategic brilliance was undeniable, but the aftermath of his victories brought legal scrutiny and financial turmoil. He fought a four-year court battle and was cleared of any wrongdoing but the legal bills were hefty. Stefan declared bankruptcy in 1995 as a result.
The lottery, for all its allure of riches, carries pitfalls that winners like Mandel learn about only after their wins. It’s not just about beating the odds; it’s about handling the consequences that follow. Now 89 years-old, he lives on an island near Australia called Vanuatu as reported by the New York Post.