Packer lost a million chasing his losses with a 16-year-old SP bookie

IN HIS rollicking autobiography, Big Bill Waterhouse tells the story of the day that Kerry Packer blew more than $1 million on the horses, then refused to pay his debt.

David Waterhouse says his bookmaker father omits some important details: firstly, that David, only 16 at the time, was the one taking the media mogul's bets.

In What Are the Odds, published last year, Bill says it was 1976 when Packer - having had a bad day betting with him at the track - asked for a phone number on which he could place some SP bets the next Saturday. It would be his chance to ''get square''.

Bill writes that he agreed ''against my better judgment''. He adds: ''I had no clerk to leave on a phone for him, so I asked my trustworthy secretary Mary-Jane and another to stay behind to accept his bets.''

David Waterhouse now tells the Herald: ''I was the other." He says it was not 1976 but 1974.

''I was on the ski fields at Perisher, staying at the Man from Snowy River, which was owned by Kerry Packer.''

David says he got a call from Bill. ''He said there's a taxi picking you up at 4 o'clock in the morning and you're on a flight at 5.30 from Cooma, and I'll pick you up at the airport [in Sydney] at 7 o'clock. And I said, 'What's it about?' He said, 'Don't ask any questions. I'll see you there.'

''I arrived and he said, 'OK, you're going to take some bets today from a man called Kerry Packer … If he's winning more than $200,000, just take the phone off the hook. Don't take any more bets after $200,000.''

David says his father failed to mention the other side of the deal with Packer. He was also meant to stop taking bets once Packer had lost $200,000. That was the cap, win or lose.

Packer was $710,000 down when, David says, the media boss wanted a chance to save the day with two $150,000 bets, one in Brisbane and the other in either Melbourne or Adelaide.

''The way he said 150, it was like a $1.50,'' David recalls. ''I said to Mr Packer, 'I want it on the condition that if one of these horses wins, the second bet's not on [cancelled].' He said: 'Yes, I understand that.' So I said, 'If one horse wins, it's null-and-void the second bet. He said: 'Fine.' ''

In any event, both horses lost. Packer had lost $1,007,250 in one day - all in illegal bets pledged over the phone.

David says he expected a ''hero's reception'' from his father for his big win, but Bill was livid. ''He said, 'You c---! You f---in' idiot! You f---in' fool!' He went in this tirade.''

Nevertheless, Bill writes he was ''furious'' with Packer for taking advantage of the two ''inexperienced people'' he had left in charge. He asked Packer to pay up, but Bill says he never did. (David says Packer offered to pay $200,000 and later settled up with Bill's then partners, his brother Jack and nephew John.)

One night in 1980, at the Harold Park trots, Robbie Waterhouse told Packer he was welcome to bet with him. And Packer had just one bet: $100,000 to $10,000 each way on Koala King. It won.

Bill says he suggested the $125,000 winnings could go towards settling Packer's old debt, but Packer had demanded payment forthwith. Bill writes that Packer fumed: ''You've been talking to people about our debt. You can go and get f---ed and whistle for it."