Political betting

7 March, 2008

I don’t bet very often and when I do it’s only on politics. In  the 2001 general election I placed various bets and end up with a profit of £35 which I promptly bet on Iain Duncan Smith not being the next Tory leader. My reckoning in using my winnings in this manner was that the Tory party wouldn’t be so stupid to elect a dictionary picture for non entity as leader and I would be quids in or the Tories would be stuffed.

Unfortunately for my bank balance the Tories really are that stupid and Britain got what must rank as the most unlikely leader of a major political party in modern times. Which in the end even the stupid party realised it had made a stupid mistake and deposed him. Still at least I didn’t lose any money overall.

The 2008 presidential election has been fertile ground for political betting and reawoken my own interest. Even if they take a puritan streak on such matters in the US themselves the primaries are great for political gamblers, plenty of individual events to bet on and lots of information available to make judgements on.

 The Parbury Rules of Political Betting

1) Never ever, ever bet more than you can afford to loose. Decide a limit to the amount you want to bet and stick to it. If you have an addictive personality gambling is absolutely not for you, take up running instead. You’ll get a nice ass and still have money in the bank.

2) Don’t put all you eggs in one basket. As you have set your limit to what you want to spend on gambling don’t go putting it all on one bet because the only dead cert is that there is no such thing as a dead cert. So diversify.

3) Don’t be partisan when betting. Personally I’m highly partisan I like nothing more than seeing Labour doing well and the useless opposition being slaughtered but there is a time and a place and its not while betting. You have to dispassionately analyse a situation, separating what you want to happen from what actually will happen. Betting on John McCain to win a primary in a state where he has a large poll lead, held over a long time and there are small numbers of evangelical Christians likely to back his opponent does not make you a Republican. Thankfully.

4) Evidence. That is what you need and as much of it as possible. Sometimes in life it is right to follow your “gut instincts” but what have you done to make sure it’s not just a twitch in your large intestine which is full of the proverbial. Evidence can be from a wide range of sources. For instance if your canvassing in an election that’s evidence. But it’s important to grade it. For instance was where you were canvassing representative  of the wider electorate. Where you doorstepping or phoning and did you know people are more likely to tell you the truth on the phone.

Opinion polls are the best evidence but check for the sample size. Anything below 500 should ring alarm bells. Also check the margin of error and when the polling was done. For instance in a poll where the margin of error is 4% either way and polling was done a month ago. It will tell you diddly squat about the outcome of an election in 2 weeks time when the leading candidates were only separated by 3%. So get good evidence and if you haven’t got it put the money back in your pocket.

5) Place bets immediately before an election. Remember what Harold Wilson had to say a week is a long time in politics. Now if you place a bet on an election 6 months before you will get a better price and potentially win more money but you are also a lot less likely to actually win because time is a very significant risk factor.

6) Hedge your bets. For instance if you were stupid enough to put money on Mitt Romney to win the Republican nomination and you could see that he was tuning out to be the fake turkey he ended up being and McCain was storming ahead to almost certain victory it would be OK to also back McCain to counterbalance any loses you think that you would get from Romney

7) Bet about what you know. I can just about tell one end of a horse from another but I know next to nothing about the form of various horses so I might as well go and donate money to the Tote than actually make a bet on horses or American Football or some minor tennis tournament.

8) Does it beat the Bank? You might bet for instance that the next Prime Minister of the UK wont be a Liberal Democrat. Indeed you’ll probably get a better price on the second coming of Christ than Nick Clegg in Number 10. But you have checked all the evidence and you still think that there won’t be a Lib Dem government after the next election. The reason you wouldn’t bet on it is that you could get a greater rate of return just leaving it in the bank. Why put your money at risk for less of a return than have it sat in a bank backed by HM Taxpayer?


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