Stefan Mandel was one, if not the only one, who was able to turn lottery games into an art form back in the 1980s and 1990s. The Romanian and Australian economists have won the lottery at least 14 times and all it took was some simple math. Romanian-born Mandel scored his first win in his home country as part of a syndicate where investors deposit money to buy lottery tickets and distribute prizes. He was driven to win the lottery to raise enough money to evict his family from the then communist country. In fact, his first victory allowed him to settle in Australia with his family.
While living there, he continued playing the lottery and developed an ingenious system. First, he examined various lotteries to figure out how many combinations were needed to cover each possible draw. For example, if a particular lottery uses numbers 1 to 40 and he needs 6 number combinations to win, there are 3,838,380 possible outcomes for him. Mandel realised that buying enough tickets to cover each combination can sometimes cost less than a potential jackpot. For example, if the jackpot is $10 million for him and the ticket is $1, someone could buy all the tickets and win, winning spectacularly. All he had to do was raise enough money to buy the tickets.
During his stay in Australia, he won several jackpots and many other small prizes. Mandel formed larger and larger syndicates and always adhered to the rules and regulations of the game. At the time, it was legal to print tickets at his home, so Mandel was able to buy millions of tickets and automatically fill out the various combinations.
After big wins in the Australian lottery, rules were adjusted to prevent mass buying of tickets and block the use of computer-generated tickets. This effectively blocked Mandel in those countries, allowing them to aim further. He began looking for lotteries in the United States, considering six state lotteries that seemed to work. Of his six states selected, Virginia, the first to win the desired jackpot, became the primary destination.
Only numbers from 1 to 44 were used, so the number of combinations was much lower than in other states. Mandel founded a company called Pacific Financial Resources and a trust called the International Lotto Fund. Thousands of investors poured millions into the fund, employed 16 people, and spent three months printing his 1,411,811 tickets needed to cover all 7,059,052 combinations and guarantee a win.