The Actuary

Like most Australians, Roger’s first exposure to racing and betting came with a 50 cents win bet on a Melbourne Cup. Of course, it won. His one 50 cent quinella also lobbed. I’m sure, like most of us, he thought to himself “how long’s this been going on’.

More likely though, in his case, it would have been more akin to ‘what mathematical approach can I take to turn this consistently to my advantage’. Even though he was just fourteen at the time when – in 1986 – At Talaq beat Rising Fear – the winner was 10/1; the runner-up 50/1. A handsome quinella.

However, unlike most of us, that initial flutter eventually developed into a full-time pursuit and one which now has a monolithic annual wagering turnover.

Who is Roger?

Roger is a remarkable character. A maths savant who is sharp, driven, opinionated and sometimes harsh in his judgement of others’ inability to cope with what life throws at them. But there’s the also the contradiction of his generosity, funding of a maths scholarship and loyalty to old friends some of whom he employs.

He will have you completely and utterly absorbed in his conversation, even to the point of beguiling at times, and then occasionally leave you wondering – ‘did he really just say that?’

A qualified actuary, he has a great mathematical brain. Given his analytical and investigative mind, the police have sought his assistance in certain investigations. His brain races in such a manner that I can scarcely do justice to conveying much of what he had to say. He’s a man who didn’t finish submitting his thesis as it would have revealed too much of his betting intelligence.

I’m not sure I can reveal much of it right here, but I’m intrigued by the man himself.

He’s a man who sees greed as the ultimate driver of capitalism which he embraces and yet would like to be something of a philanthropist. Something of an ‘obsessive compulsive’ – especially now regarding his health and fitness – and intolerant of those not so applied, I must admit I was breathing in at lunch.

A man who’ll go to the gym at 2am more often than in daylight hours.

And, along the way, he’s worked in radio; called races; been a school teacher; competed successfully in professional athletics and frequently been quoted in newspaper articles including one which looked at the statistical probability of a long-term relationship based on when couples first had sex (with each other).

Those articles have not necessarily always named him, and we had a general agreement that this article would have him fundamentally anonymous. But really, Roger, what’s the point – people know who you are.

He’s the man who had $2.5 million on Rafael Nadal in an early-round match at the 2011 Australian Open to win $25,000 which he promptly donated to the Queensland Flood Appeal. “The $1.01 was good odds,” he said.

“Roger says his resolve was probably steeled through his time in what he calls a ‘tough’ high school east of Melbourne. “Nobody gave you a break where I went to school. You had to toughen up,” he said.”

Again, like most of us, he concedes that he started off as a losing gambler but that also meant he had to ‘toughen up”. His first prediction model, developed while completing his science degree with a major in mathematical statistics, was based on the usual form parameters and lost.

Thus, in a nutshell, he began plotting a graph of his computer assigned probabilities for each runner with the probability of each runner as measured by the bookmaker’s odds……finding the statistical outliers.

Bank-rolled by his first footy coach, a $200,000 collect from landing a quadrella in country Victoria, on a heavy track in 2001, when he was teaching in the bush, gave him the capital to build an empire.

“Roger’s modus operandi, like many of his ilk, is high turnover with a low but sustainable profit margin.”

I was struck, during our interview, by how often he referred to the fact that anybody could do what he does. He even outlined the blueprint.

All you need is a maths degree, a bankroll, incentives to increase turnover and the technology. Rather than being ‘smart’ it is more a statement of fact and he stresses a contemporary emphasis on technology.

“I’d add that you need street sense and no fear but technology is key these days. The fastest servers and the best programmers. Maths is my strength. I’d say I’m half good at programming, so I source the best,” he said.

His office featured fewer television screens and bells and whistles than I’d expected but an adjacent room housing several servers spoke loudly to the sophistication of his technology. And, naturally, there are back up electricity generators.

For all the sophistication there’s still an element of subjectivity, he concedes, in his ratings and manual intervention required to trigger a ‘last into the market clean-up off the overs’.

He says he is always set on basically holding his position. “I’m not a trader, not an arbitrager.”

There’s a quirky side to the man who bets in 17 countries around the world – all of his Bots are named after characters from the movie The Usual Suspects.

And he’s happy to lose – but only at the beginning of implementing any new application. “Losing’s a bloody good teacher,” he says.

In Keno, he takes on the biggest and beats them. You know who we’re talking about.

“You play when the jackpots reach a certain threshold and with a ten percent rebate, I can make a two percent profit on turnover,” he said.

He’s not fixated on profit and loss.

“I’d look at the figures every six months. I’d be tracking stuff along the way, but I don’t want to over-react to any single event,” he said.

The following is a smattering from investment gospel according to Roger.

  1. Get away from the herd mentality.
  2. Laying off is psychologically comforting but not mathematically sound.
  3. A jockey who rides the first race winner is more likely to win again.
  4. Remember that punting is not taxable.
  5. Healthy mind in a healthy body.
  6. Back outsiders.
  7. The more confident I am the more I bet.

As to detailing every nuance of his operation and his thinking, I fancy I’d need interaction considerably greater than a few hours on one day. Suffice to say he’s an extraordinary fellow.

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