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    The Bettor Who Decoded the Horse Racing Algorithm (part1)
The Bettor Who Decoded the Horse Racing Algorithm (part1)
Bill Benter. Source: Bloomberg

The Bettor Who Decoded the Horse Racing Algorithm (part1)

Bill Benter achieved the seemingly impossible - he developed an algorithm that allowed him to consistently win at horse racing. After accumulating close to a billion dollars through his algorithmic betting system, Benter is now sharing his remarkable story publicly for the first time.

Hong Kong is a place where horse racing is deeply ingrained in the culture, with citizens betting more on the sport than anywhere else in the world. The city's premier racetrack is Happy Valley Racecourse, which is situated amid an iconic urban landscape of neon skyscrapers and hills.

On November 6, 2001, the city was abuzz about the massive HK$100 million (around $13 million) jackpot available for the Triple Trio wager at Happy Valley. The Triple Trio is an extremely complex bet that requires correctly predicting the top three finishers in three different races. With over 10 million possible combinations, the jackpot had rolled over for six consecutive races, drawing a massive influx of bettors - around 1 in 7 Hong Kong residents placed a wager that night.

The text sets the scene for Hong Kong's deep passion for horse racing and the incredible scale of the betting opportunities available, especially for the lucrative Triple Trio wager on this particular evening.

At the Happy Valley racetrack, young expats in beer tents were passing around drinks and celebrating, while the local Chinese spectators, who viewed gambling more seriously, intently read the racing forms and leaned over the railings. As the race began, the announcer's voice boomed over the loudspeakers, describing the final leg of the Triple Trio event. Two horses emerged at the front as the crowd roared, with Bobo Duck edging out Mascot Treasure at the finish line, followed by Frat Rat in third.

Across the street, high up in an office, two Americans named Bill Benter and Paul Coladonato sat quietly watching a muted television feed of the race. Their focus was on a bank of computer monitors displaying a matrix of 51,381 bets that their algorithm had placed. As the losing bets were systematically filtered out, they realised that 35 of their bets had correctly predicted the top two finishers, qualifying for a consolation prize. Remarkably, one of their wagers had accurately predicted all nine horses in the race.

Bill Benter. Source: Bloomberg
Bill Benter. Source: Bloomberg

Unsportsmanlike conduct

Even after realising they had won a massive $16 million jackpot from their algorithmic bets, Benter and Coladonato were hesitant to collect the winnings. They felt it would be unsportsmanlike and that they would feel bad about themselves for doing so. Coladonato agreed they couldn't accept the prize.

Veteran gamblers understand that it's impossible to beat horse racing consistently. There are too many unpredictable variables and possible outcomes - horses can get injured, jockeys can fall off, and even champion racehorses can inexplicably lose their motivation. The sport has been described as "animated roulette" by sportswriter Roger Kahn. The consensus is that over time, losing is inevitable for horse bettors.

However, what if there was someone who had devised a system that guaranteed profits from horse racing? 

After initially avoiding an interview, Benter eventually agreed to speak with the author in his office in Pittsburgh. The office space is luxurious, reflecting Benter's immense wealth earned from his successful horse betting system, which challenges the conventional wisdom that horse racing is impossible to beat in the long run.

On a nearby table, they had the individual betting slips that contained their 36 winning lines. The two men stared at these slips for a long time, contemplating their unprecedented success. Finally, they posed for a photo together, laughing about the biggest prize they had ever achieved but would never claim.

Benter figured it was no big deal - they could make back that $16 million, and more, over the rest of the racing season through their highly effective betting algorithm. Rather than collect the windfall, they simply locked the winning tickets away in a safe, intent on continuing to profit through their sophisticated gambling system.

Bill Benter with his wife Vivian Fung. Source: Facebook
Bill Benter with his wife Vivian Fung. Source: Facebook

Impossible Challenge

Bill Benter, a 61-year-old man, has a slight stoop in his posture and looks like a university professor with his wavy, grey-streaked hair and beard. He speaks in a soft, slightly Kermit-like voice. Benter claims he was not solely motivated by money. Given his intelligence, he could have earned more wealth working in finance, but Benter wanted to conquer the challenge of horse betting because it was considered an impossible feat, not because it was difficult. When he succeeded, Benter actively avoided public recognition, staying within the secretive circle of geeks and outcasts in his field. The details provided in the text have been corroborated through interviews with many individuals, as well as books, court records, and other documents.

Benter grew up in the pleasant Pittsburgh suburb of Pleasant Hills. He was a diligent student and an Eagle Scout and began studying physics in college. His parents had given him freedom from a young age, allowing him to hitchhike across Europe and drive through Russia on vacations. In 1979, at age 22, Benter left school, took a Greyhound bus, and went to play cards in Las Vegas, inspired by the book "Beat the Dealer" by math professor Edward Thorp. Thorp's book describes a system called card counting, which involves keeping track of high cards to gain a tiny advantage over the house in blackjack.

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