In the 1990s, Romanian-Australian economist Stefan Mandel and his small team entered the lottery and won. Over and over and over again.

The feat, of course, wasn’t achieved through having a really

The odds of you winning the lottery are pretty low. The chance of you winning the

You’ll notice, though, that assuming you can buy more of those combinations eventually you will reach a point where your odds are 139,838,160 in 139,838,160. Now instead of a math problem you have a logistical problem: getting your hands on 139,838,160 tickets, without having already won the jackpot.

Mandel noticed, according to

Though not against the explicit rules, it wasn’t exactly in the spirit of the game. The problems, though no longer

With a stack of tickets printed and ready to go, then came the matter of waiting for a big enough jackpot, at which point the team would purchase those tickets in shops. Even then, given the sheer bulk of tickets involved, it didn’t always go smoothly, as was the case in Virginia.

Having cleared up in multiple smaller lotteries in Australia, Mandel spotted lotteries in the US whose jackpots vastly outweighed how much it would cost to purchase every combination. Of particular interest was the new Virginia lottery, which only used numbers 1 to 44 in its draws. This meant that there were 7,059,052 possible combinations, far fewer than the usual 25 million or higher.

When the jackpot was high enough – $15.5 million – he ordered his team on the ground to buy the tickets in bulk. Mandel had of course

After two days of purchases, Mandel’s team had purchased 6.4 million of the possible 7 million combinations needed to guarantee a win. Though tense, they did have the winning ticket in their unreasonably large pile of losing tickets.

Though he was investigated by the FBI and CIA, no wrongdoing was found. In total, Mandel won 14 different lotteries, bagging millions of pounds of prize money for himself and his investors, before retiring to a beach house on the tropical islands of Vanuatu.

*An earlier version of this article was published in June 2023.*