How Voltaire Made a Fortune Cheating the Lottery

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Cheating the Lottery

Imagine visiting the best casino in town, and there is a jackpot to be won. The dealer has set his rules, but you notice a loophole in it. You use the loophole to set the secret rules that would make you the obvious winner of the jackpot and this becomes your line of income for the next two years.

How it worked out

Voltaire didn’t play in the best casino online, but he made a fortune due to a loophole in a government bond that was attached to the lottery. The Hotel de Ville, Paris, had credited the French government a large amount of money.

To be able to pay, the government decided to issue a bond. A lottery was attached to the bond to encourage citizens to buy. Each ticket had a value proportionate to the bond and a further 500 thousand livres per month for the person with most tickets.

Voltaire’s old friend, mathematician Condamine is the one who spotted the loophole and informed Voltaire, who immediately drew a plan. The loophole was that the value of the tickets elevated the price value but winning chances remained constant.

The trick was to buy a lot of tickets in small denominations, which would result in huge returns. The catch was tempting, the plan was in place but there was a problem. Voltaire didn’t have money and there was a limit to the number of tickets an individual could buy.

How it carried on

Through his business relationships, Voltaire was able to convince influential people in the government and the business community to contribute cash to buy the bond and the lottery. He managed to play his charms at the registry where the tickets were sold.

He would use the profits, pay his business associates their commission, and then pocket the rest. The syndicate went unnoticed by the French government for the next two years. It is estimated that Voltaire made a fortune of about one million livres monthly. By the time his tricks were discovered, Voltaire had made 500 thousand livres.

The ending

If that was done in today’s sportsbooks, every channel airing the latest sporting news would have a breaking news story to cover. If 500 thousand livres were converted into the current value of the USD using the minimum wage value as the base, it would amount to about $121 million.

Going by today’s value, Voltaire made a fortune that would sustain him for the rest of his life. A renowned writer in his time, Voltaire lived the rest of his life dodging arrest and did not spare the life of anyone who seemed to be a threat to his fortune.