Thursday 12 February 2015

Pro Gambler Series: Alan Woods

Alan Woods, was universally recognised as among the top three punters in the world. Woods, born and raised in New South Wales Australia was the pioneer of computer betting syndicates in Hong Kong and a key man in the development of computer analysis for betting. His fortune at the time of his death was estimated at $670 million. The Woods betting syndicate became a legend in the world of Hong Kong racing, where huge amounts of money are invested into the tote pools. For the 2006-07 racing season, the Hong Kong Jockey Club recorded a betting turnover of $US64billion ($71.46bn). It has been estimated the input to annual turnover by Woods and his syndicate was about 2% of that figure.

"I would not think that estimate is an exaggeration," said John Schreck, former chief steward for the Australian Jockey Club in Sydney and later for the HKJC in the late 1990s and into the early years of the new millennium when Woods' syndicate was operating at full steam.

"To my knowledge, he never ever came racing while I was there. But he employed dozens of Filipinos running around carrying mobiles and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash waiting for instructions on how and what to bet.

"There was a time the Jockey Club closed his account but this was through a silly policy adopted from a misjudgment in management. In the main, the Jockey Club was and is sensitive about these people (betting syndicates) being the big customers that they are. I saw these people as professional gamblers and not a problem at all to the integrity of racing."

Indeed, the syndicates relied on Schreck, and his fellow stewards to keep racing clean. Their profits, after all, were based on statistics for corrupt-free racing.

Woods turned an early passion for playing bridge and a fascination for mathematics into lifestyle at blackjack tables in casinos.

He cut his punting teeth on horse racing when he went to New Zealand in the early 1980s but turned his attention from there to the greater betting pools of punting-mad Hong Kong.

Woods teamed up with Benter in Hong Kong in the mid 1980s and together they formed the first betting syndicate whose success depended not on insider tips but on what the computer would spit out after being fed a range of information on the horse, current form, race times, sectional splits, weather, state of the track and jockey form.