Alan Woods: Successful Blackjack Player and Racehorse Gambler
Alan Woods is what one would call a well-rounded gambler, as not only has he won millions of dollars from betting on horse racing, but he has also accumulated millions through playing blackjack, poker, and other various casino games.
At the time of his death and still to this day, Woods is regarded as one of the best gamblers in the world thanks to his phenomenal mathematic abilities and for becoming a billionaire thanks to his wide variety of gambling endeavors.
Alan Woods was born in Murwillumbah, Australia, in 1945. His parents ran a news agency when he was first born, purchasing a hotel later on in their life. Even as a small child, Woods was naturally good with numbers, being able to count to one-hundred before he started kindergarten.
He excelled in school, receiving a scholarship to attend the University of New England in Armidale to pursue a degree in mathematics. However, Woods struggled to attend his classes regularly and was ultimately kicked out of school only a semester away from graduating.
Introduction to the World of Gambling
It was during his time at the University that Woods really started developing an interest in gambling. He started out like most people do, playing cash games at a local casino, particularly taking an interest in poker and solo: a card game that he used to play with his parents.
Towards the end of his last semester at the University, Woods started betting on horses. His first bet was on the third favorite for the race, who was up against the two best horses in Australia at the time, a nearly impossible feat. Despite the odds, this mysterious horse surprised the crowds that day, taking home first place and landing Woods his very first win.
After that initial win, Woods started attending horse races more often, always making sure to record how much he bet and on what horse. After about three years, he realized he was losing a lot more money than he was winning, so he decided it would be in his best interest to quit before he was too far behind.
An Addiction to Card Counting and Blackjack
In 1972, Wood's old friend from college called him up and told him of a job opportunity at a new casino in Hobart that was going to be opening soon called, Wrest Point Casino. They needed help calculating the house edge and after many months of punching numbers into a calculator, Woods and his friend worked out that the house edge on blackjack, when playing with four decks, was 0.7%.
Something just didn't add up in Wood's head though and after doing a more thorough investigation and intensive research, he realized that he could use the process of card-counting to gain an edge over the house and become practically unstoppable.
Woods gathered a bunch of his friends and travelled to a nearby casino to play blackjack and test out his theories. The players who weren't card-counting lost their $500 initial stake, but the ones that were card-counting won over $1,000. Woods continued to play at casinos across Australia, finding success in most every venue he encountered.
This was around the time that he married his longtime girlfriend, Meredith and had two beautiful children. Wood's addiction to gambling greatly jeopardized his home life though, as he even missed the birth of his second child because he wouldn't leave his game at the Wrest Point Casino.
Needless to say the marriage didn't last and after the divorce Woods addiction to blackjack spiraled out of control. He played often, but he also won often and within six months, he was up $100,000. Woods decided to become a professional blackjack player, taking a three year long journey to play blackjack at hundreds of casinos across Europe and the United States, bringing home millions of dollars along the way.
Giving Horserace Betting a Second Chance
After the trip, Woods was still interested in gambling but was ready for a change, so he headed to Hong Kong to join Bill Benter's team of gambling professionals that were looking for ways to enhance their chance of accurately predicting horse racing bets which was an increasingly popular market in Hong Kong at that time.
Woods was able to assist Benter in developing a computer program, based on mathematical equations that gauged which horses were going to win based on the track, form, weather, and a plethora of other factors that could possibly affect the outcome of the race.
To be more specific, in an interview with Sydney's, Monthly Magazine, Woods named a few more factors, "We had a factor called bad rides. We had a factor called not trying. If a couple of horses disputed the lead together, the guys would give it numbers for that too." It seemed like their team took into account almost everything.
Unfortunately, their team was highly unproductive the first two years while they were in the process of perfecting their methods, losing a total of $150,000 over that time span. Finally from 1986 to 1987, they were able to turn a profit, winning over $100,000 and they certainly hadn't peaked yet. Before the turn of the century, all members of the team were multimillionaires, but they decided to part ways due to disagreements in how funds should be dispersed among team members.
Reaching the End of His Life
Upon retirement, Woods wanted to spread his wealth to those less fortunate than him, so he donated a substantial amount of money to the Filipino community. He also financially supported several mental health research facilities and a foundation that seeks to preserve the art of Australian bridge.
In his later years, Woods became a recluse, never leaving his sweet abode unless he wanted to sunbathe or swim in his private pool. Alan Woods passed away on January 26th, 2008 at age 62 in Hong Kong, China from cancer of the appendix. At the time of his death, Woods was worth over $500 million dollars and could easily be considered one of the most successful gamblers in the world.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: November 2015
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