Bill Benter: Math Genius & Richest Pro Gambler

Discover how Bill Benter's mathematical betting model made him the wealthiest pro gambler in history and his philanthropic impact on society.
Bill Benter

Bill Benter, a legend in the gambling industry and the richest professional gambler in history, has made a fortune using a mathematical model to bet on horse racing. Preferring to make money rather than talk about it, Benter trusts mathematics above his instincts. His love for mathematics began during his childhood in Pittsburgh and led him to pursue a degree in physics at Case Western University.

Discovering Card Counting and the Start of His Gambling Career

While in college, Benter discovered card counting by reading Edward Thorp’s book “Beat the Dealer.” In 1979, he began his gambling career in Las Vegas, earning approximately $80,000 per year. However, after casinos blacklisted him and his team, Benter turned to horse racing with Alan Woods. They focused on Hong Kong due to the sport’s massive popularity and the huge amounts wagered at the twice-weekly races.

Developing a Mathematical Model for Horse Racing

Before betting on horse racing, Benter and Woods needed to improve their chances of winning, just like card counting had helped them improve their odds when playing blackjack. Benter began researching and found an academic paper by Ruth Bolton of Arizona State University, which outlined how a horse’s race day performance could be estimated through the examination of several variables.

Benter calculated that by creating a model based on these variables, he could determine with greater accuracy the odds of each horse winning. This meant that he could bet with superior confidence and precision than those who made their choices solely based on the official odds. He coded his rudimentary system into a few computers and flew to Hong Kong in 1985.

The first racing season resulted in a total loss of $120,000. Benter spent a couple of years playing blackjack in Atlantic City to raise more money while continuing to identify more variables to add to his model. His algorithm became slightly more accurate with each variable identified. In September 1988, he felt prepared to try again, and his model factored in about 20 different variables, netting him $600,000 in his first season.

Incorporating Live Betting Odds and Winning Big

His annual winnings leaped into the millions when Benter began incorporating the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s live betting odds into his system. The 1990-91 season saw him win an impressive $3 million. As he approached the end of the millennium, Benter’s model examined over 100 variables and had resulted in over $50 million earned throughout the 1997 season alone.

In 2001, Benter’s increasingly accurate model led him to win the Triple Trio, a cumulative bet in which players must accurately predict the first three horses in three different races. His winnings for the Triple Trio alone totaled $16 million, a vast sum of money that he decided to leave unclaimed. As per the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s ruleset, the winnings were eventually distributed to charities.

Legacy and Impact on the Gambling Industry

Today, Benter’s mathematical model remains extremely relevant, popularizing many of the techniques used in the gambling industry, including statistical analysis, probability theory, and syndicate betting. His model factored in over 120 variables per horse, earning him an estimated $100 million per season at its peak. Benter’s success drew competitors who replicated his model, leading to increased competition and the end of the golden age of mathematical horse race betting.

Benter’s betting scheme was not a one-man show. He hired a team of individuals, including journalists, analysts, and mathematicians, to identify extra variables and place bets over telephone calls. When phone betting was banned, Benter hired runners to print out betting slips and place bets manually. However, the business-like nature of the betting schemes led to an investigation by the Hong Kong Inland Revenue Department, leading Alan Woods to flee Hong Kong and settle in the Philippines.

Contemporary Gamblers and the Digital Age

Many contemporary gamblers still use Benter’s model or others inspired by it. With the advent of the digital age, statistics are much easier to come by, allowing for more variables to be tested and incorporated into the model. However, with many bettors using an analytical approach to betting, the advantage gained from using a model like Benter’s is limited.

Despite his estimated total winnings at the racecourse of around $1 billion, Benter is widely accepted to be the richest professional gambler on the planet. He has dedicated himself to philanthropy, donating to various causes, including polio immunization efforts and scientific research. Benter also lectures on statistics and mathematical probability at numerous universities.

Benter lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and son and has launched The Benter Foundation, which supports causes focused on improving living standards, boosting the arts, and protecting open spaces.