Alan Woods: Professional Blackjack Player and Horse Racing Gambler
Alan Woods was a mathematical genius who used his skills to become one of the
most advantageous gamblers of his time. Whether it was by counting cards in
blackjack or by helping develop software that could accurately predict the
outcome of horse races, this man has had a huge impact on the world of gambling.
Learn more about Alan Woods and his journey to finding success through
gambling by reading this detailed biography. We take a deeper look into his
childhood, his gambling history, and his personal life. You’ll surely discover
something you never knew before.
Alan Woods was born in Australia in 1945. His parents were entrepreneurs who
ran several successful businesses, including a news agency, a cordial factory,
and a hotel. His family was very well off, making young Woods quite spoiled. He
received just about any material possession he asked for and relied on the maid
to clean his room and do the majority of his school work.
He was first introduced to card games at an early age when his father taught
him how to play solo whist. Solo whist is an elaborate trick-taking card game
that is similar to bridge. Woods loved playing this game with his family and was
actually very good at it. It was through this card game that Woods discovered he
had a natural talent for mathematics.
After graduating high school, Woods attended the University of New England in
Armidale in hopes to obtain a degree in mathematics. Woods didn’t find his math
assignments to be too challenging, but he still received poor grades in college
because his attendance was so low. He was kicked out of the school just one
semester before graduating.
Introduction to the World of Gambling
A few of his college roommates encouraged him to go with them to a nearby
casino one weekend. Having never been to a casino before, Woods didn’t know what
to expect. He was overwhelmed by the hundreds of slot machines and table games
to choose from. Since the only game he was familiar with was poker, he decided
to try that out first. He found the rules to be complicated and the competition
to be stiff. That game wasn’t for him.
Luck was also not on Woods’ side when it came to the slots, as he lost a
significant amount of money on the slots his first few trips to the casino. His
parents actually stopped sending him money because they didn’t know how he was
spending it so quickly. With a limited bankroll, Woods was forced to avoid the
casinos for a while.
He eventually replaced his time spent at the casinos with trips to the
racetrack instead. He attended his first horserace with a good friend from
college and immediately got addicted to its atmosphere. The first bet he placed
was on a horse that was projected to get third place. Woods chose wisely that
day, as that horse surprised the entire crowd by taking first place while
breaking its own personal record.
The next time around, Woods decided to be a little smarter with his money. He
set a strict budget and kept track of his wins and losses. He started off very
well, winning a decent amount of money on his bets. As time went on, though, his
losses quickly surpassed his wins. Woods decided it was in his best interest to
give up horseracing for a while.
A Failed Marriage and an Addiction to Blackjack
After college, Woods started dating a beautiful woman named Meredith. She was
the daughter of one of his parents’ business partners. The two fell in love
quickly, and by 1972, they were ready to walk down the aisle. They started
having children almost immediately after they got married. They had a son named
Anthony and a daughter named Vicky.
Woods had a hard time keeping a job throughout his marriage, as he would
often oversleep and arrive to work late. This caused a strain on his
relationship. Woods and Meredith fought often, and their home had a very hostile
environment. Only seven years into their marriage, Meredith packed up her things
and left, taking the children with her. The loss of his wife and his children
caused Woods to turn to gambling for comfort.
One of his friends had taught him how to count cards in blackjack. After
practicing for several weeks, Woods decided he wanted to count cards in an
actual brick-and-mortar casino. His first attempt was successful, as he was able
to walk away from the casino with a couple thousand dollars in his pockets.
It was around this time that his friend recommended that he apply for a job
at the Wrest Point Casino, as they were going to be opening shortly in a nearby
town. They were in need of someone to calculate the house edge on all of their
games. Woods was just the man for the job, as he was able to do the calculations
twice as quickly as Wrest Point Casino was expecting.
Woods was particularly interested in what the house edge was on blackjack.
Initially, he calculated it out to be 0.7% when four decks were in use. After
taking into consideration the impact of card counting, Woods discovered that
this actually allowed him to gain an edge over the house. Now, he was more
determined than ever to win money through playing blackjack. What started off as
a hobby to cope with his divorce turned into a full-blown addiction.
At one point, he even spent six months in Vegas so that he could play
blackjack morning, noon, and night. By the end of his time in the United States,
he had won over $100,000. He then traveled across Asia, Europe, and Australia.
He played in a wide range of different venues, making millions of dollars along
As casinos started to recognize who he was, Woods started wearing disguises
to avoid being thrown out. He had fake mustaches, glasses, and wigs. He dyed his
hair often and would change up the style of clothes he wore on a regular basis.
Sometimes he would dress to the nines in his finest suit, while other times he
would wear just jeans and a t-shirt. In 1984, his picture was published in the
Griffin Book, which all casinos have access to. Even disguises wouldn’t be able
to prevent him from being tossed out of the casinos now. It was time for Woods
to give up card counting and move on to his next big adventure.
Back to Horse Racing
Remembering his love of horseracing, Woods decided to give it a second
chance. He moved to Hong Kong to join Bill Benter
and his team of professional gamblers. They were trying to find a way to make
accurate predictions on the outcome of horse races. In an interview with The
Monthly, Woods described their approach in this way, “You could say that our
whole theory behind betting on horses is to take a contrarian approach to
whatever the public is doing.”
At this time, no one was using computers to increase their chances of picking
winners at the racetrack. So, Woods helped Benter develop a computer program
that determined a horse’s chances of winning based on what track they were
racing on, what the weather conditions were on the day of the race, what their
form in previous races looked like, and a variety of other factors. This program
was developed using several different algorithms and complex calculations, many
of which Woods came up with on his own.
After two years of making adjustment to the program, it finally started to
make accurate predictions on a regular basis. By placing bets based on what
their program predicted, everyone on the team was able to make a decent amount
of money. Unfortunately, the team did not stay together for long because they
fought over finances. Some members believed they deserved to be given a larger
share of the profits than what they were receiving. Greed got the best of them,
so they were forced to part ways.
Reaching the End of His Life
Towards the end of his life, Woods became very generous with his money. He
donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to mental health research, as he had
several close friends who suffered from depression. He also had a soft spot in
his heart for the Philippines. He donated millions of dollars to various
orphanages, schools, and hospitals over there. His goal was to create a better
living environment for Filipino children. He even looked into adopting a child
from the Philippines, but he was unable to do so due to his declining health
He was diagnosed with appendix cancer in the early 2000s, choosing to spend
his remaining days in the comfort of his own home. He refused to go through
radiation and chemo treatment, so it wasn’t long before his cancer spread to
other organs in his body. On January 26th, 2008, Alan Woods breathed his last
breath. He would go down in history as one of the most prosperous gamblers in
the world, for he had accumulated over $500 million over the course of his
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