The Secretive Gambling 'Nerd' Whose Algorithm Won $1B

So says Kit Chellel in his fascinating piece on horse-racing wiz Bill Benter
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2018 2:42 PM CDT
Is Bill Benter the real deal?   (Getty Images/quentinjlang)

(Newser) – Nearly 15% of the people in Hong Kong placed wagers on a huge horse-racing competition on Nov. 6, 2001—but it was American Bill Benter, who'd put in more than 51,000 bets with an associate, who won the Triple Trio by predicting the top three horses in three different heats. How they did it: by using an algorithm created by Benter that crunched countless factors and "couldn't lose at the track," writes Kit Chellel at Bloomberg. But in a bizarre twist, Chellel writes that the pair opted not to collect the $16 million prize because, in the words of Benter, "it would be unsporting." He made plenty of money on other races, however. In an in-depth Bloomberg piece, Chellel notes pro gamblers have long believed they couldn't game the horse-racing system, but then muses: "What if that wasn't true? What if there was one person ... who'd made almost a billion dollars, and who'd never told his story—until now?" That person is Benter, from whom Chellel says he received a hesitant email last fall saying he was ready to talk.

The 61-year-old code-cracker says his feat was only partly spurred by money—instead, he yearned to achieve the impossible in the gambling world. It all started after Benter read a book printed in the '60s called Beat the Dealer, which revealed how to one-up the house in blackjack. From there, the "complete nerd" hooked up with a card-counting guru, then switched over to horse racing in Hong Kong, where betting was big. Benter gave himself a crash course in statistics, began writing code, and, after some hiccups, started winning millions in the early '90s. But constantly circumventing tax laws and feeling a disconnect with his fellow gamblers made Benter want to pack it all in and move back to the US—and then came the November 2001 Triple Trio bet. Read more on Benter's fascinating story here, including why he's been reluctant to be in the limelight and why he now says, "Unfortunately, I'm not a billionaire." (Read more Longform stories.)

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