Winning the Lottery like Voltaire

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voltaire François-Marie Arouet, or Voltaire (the pen name he is most famous by) is often praised for being one of the great Enlightenment thinkers. He is a man celebrated for his contributions in the realms of science, history, theater and literature.

Yet, what remains almost untold is the tale of his fortune, his defiance of luck. Voltaire was not always a wealthy man. He was the rebellious and youngest born of a middle-class French family.

His early life was laced with run-ins with the French authorities, so much so that his first play was even composed from within a prison cell in Bastille. But how Voltaireearnedhis fortune was not through outright thievery, he managed to rig the lottery in a way that was not entirely illegal.

Rigging the Lottery: How it All Began

France and Voltaire both shared one thing, they both struggled with financial security. France at the time, had been getting a lot of their revenue from issuing government bonds and in an attempt to save money, they had to cut the bonds' interest rates.


As a result of the cuts, the market value of the bonds crashed and the crown was desperate to restore confidence in French credit.

Deputy Finance Minister, Le PelletierDesforts devised a plan to re-instill faith in France's finances. His idea was to offer the owners of the bonds the chance to buy a lottery ticket. Winning ticket holders would win back the face value of their bond plus an additional jackpot 500,000 livres.

Though it is impossible to put this amount into a modern day currency, at the time, the jackpot winnings would be nearly 17 times the annual salary of even the wealthiest of business men.

The Logistics

For every bond they owned French citizens could buy one lottery ticket at 1/1000 of the value of their original bond price.

However, regardless of whether or not the original bond was valued at 1000 livres (and cost 1 livres) or 10,000 livres (and cost 10 livres), each lottery ticket would have equal chances of winning the same 1/2 million livres jackpot. Condamine and Voltaire quickly came to the logic, that if people came together and formed a syndicate, they would be able to purchase a lot of cut-price bonds and divvy them up into smaller 1000 livres groupings.

And by buying up these bonds, they were able to purchase a significant amount of lottery tickets for cheap, and thus rig the lottery in their favour, a process which is now known as the enlightenment guide to winning the lottery

mille livres frances 1729

The end of Voltaire

The only potential downfall to the operation was that each lottery ticket had to be purchased from a notary. There were only a limited amount of notaries, so surely the government would eventually catch on if Voltaire kept claiming the winnings. Their solution? With the winnings each month they would pay off every notary involved.

Eventually Voltaire incriminated them both by accident through making a mockery of the government each time he signed the back of the ticket.

The tradition for most lottery players was to sign the back with a good luck phrase, Voltaire signed things like, “Here's to the great thinking of Marie de la Condamine.” The government eventually clued in and both Condamine and Voltaire were brought to trial.

But as they had technically done nothing illegal, the lottery was merely canceled and the two were free to spend their new found riches.

Voltaire went on to be one of the greatest enlightenment thinkers, philosophers and writers of all time. While Condamine went on to explore the world, map the Amazon River and define the length of the meter. None of this however would have been made possible if Voltaire didn't determine his own luck.

Would you dare to turn the odds in your favour?

voltaire quote

The modern day Voltaire

Beating the odds is something that people today still try to do and most of the time succeed in doing so.
stefan mandel

Stefen Mandel, a lottery masterminded has spent years creating a method for beating the luck of the draw and accomplished this over 13 times.

Mandel refuses exactly to say how to the system work as “it would be like Coca-Cola revealing their recipe.”

However, we can assume that it is very similar to the Voltaire method as Mandel creates a huge group of people and they gather funds to buy every possible combination of numbers. It worked and  Mandel's group found itself clearing $97,000, minus expenses.

Irish National Lottery

More Recently, a friend of Mandel's Stefan Klincewicz, organised a 28-person syndicate which purchased the winning ticket for the pounds 2.2m jackpot in the Irish lottery four years ago.

Mr Klincewicz arranged a plan with his syndicate in anticipation of a rollover jackpot. As soon as the jackpot increased to record levels the team travelled all across Ireland to buy the tickets in order to make it less suspicious. The investors managed to get a 75% return on the original investment. You can read the full story here.

The video below features a Stefan Mandel explaining the work and effort it took to win the Virginia Lottery in 1992.

One thought on “Winning the Lottery like Voltaire

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  1. Pat

    As they always used to say, the lottery is for those that are bad at math.

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