Alan Woods

Professional punter. Born Murwillumbah, NSW, 1945. Died Hong Kong, January 26, 2008, aged 62.

Alan Woods donated $250,000 to the success of the 2008 PABF and the Queensland Bridge Association thank his family for such a generous donation.

The world of horse racing lost one of it biggest punters with the death of Australian-born Alan Woods in Hong Kong last Saturday.

Woods, 62, was universally recognised as among the top three punters in the world.

His colleagues in the penthouse of betting turnover are his former business partner, American Bill Benter, and Zeljko Ranogajec, an Australian-based recluse whose turnover on sports gambling is said to outweigh the massive investments of the Woods-Benter organisations combined.

But it was Woods, born and raised at Murwillumbah in northern NSW, who was the co-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 legend in the cauldron of Hong Kong racing, where huge amounts of money are invested into the totalisator pools.

For the 2006-07 racing season which ended last June, 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 per cent.

“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 (Hong Kong). But he had in his employ 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 police clean racing. 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.

He was diagnosed late last year with appendiceal cancer. He began chemotherapy three weeks ago but died last Saturday in the intensive care unit of the Sanitorium Hospital in Happy Valley, close to the racecourse.

Woods is survived by two ex-wives, a son and a daughter.