Archive for the 'Betting' Category


How Bernie Sanders complicates the betting on November’s US Senate elections

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

He may have stood the for Democratic WH2020 nomination but he’s not part of the party in the US Senate

The other really big election taking place in the United States on November 2nd is for the US Senate where currently the Republicans have 53 of the 100 seats. If indeed Trump is ousted on that day the Democratic victory will only be really meaningful if the party takes the Senate as well. This is going to be far from easy.

Every two years about a third of the Senate seats come up for election and senators have a six-year term and this year four or five Senate races could cause the upper house to flip.

Inevitably there is going to be a big betting focus on these elections which is why it is do important to read the specific rules that each bookmaker uses. Betfair has it like this:

A majority of seats requires either party to control at least 51 of the 100 Seats in the US Senate. Independent or any other party Representatives caucusing with either the Democrats or Republicans will NOT count for the purposes of this market.

So Bernie and a Senator from Maine who also sits as an independent don’t under this definition count towards the Democratic party total even though effectively they caucus together and the media would declare the party the overall Senate winner if the Republicans lose four seats.

Ladbrokes and other bookies have their main markets on Republican seats in order to get round this issue.

On Betfair, currently “no majority” is the favourite and that looks a good bet under the above definition.

Mike Smithson


One of the reasons I’m not entirely confident on calling the Presidential election, because the people in this video have the vote

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

Like David Herdson I’m leaning towards thinking November’s Presidential election will be a comfortable Biden win, certainly that’s what the polling and Trump’s demeanour indicates, a lot of this has been driven by Covid-19 and the administration’s handling of it.

An American friend sent me this video of anti-maskers in Florida losing their poop over being forced to wear masks. My friend pointed out to me that to plenty of Americans Covid-19 isn’t really something to worry about. These are the people who vote, the question is can hold enough of his 2016 vote together to win again?

I think it might be dependent on how the Covid-19 numbers improve or get much worse over the next few weeks.



The next out of the cabinet betting

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

Ladbrokes have finally put up their next out of the cabinet market and to be honest there’s no value in backing Robert Jenrick. It truly is shameful how shameless Robert Jenrick and the Prime Minister are over this scandal. If Robert Jenrick was a humble councillor he’d had been forced out and facing much worse.

So if not Jenrick then who? I’m wondering whether to place my money on the Frank Spencer tribute act Gavin Williamson. Given how badly he has organised the return to school plans which doesn’t inspire confidence for everything to be fine by September. Whilst Jenrick’s shocking behaviour doesn’t directly impact the average voter the failure to properly reopen the school certainly impacts significant numbers of voters.

If Gavin Williamson messes up the return to school you can see that being a tipping point for Boris Johnson as it would ruin the narrative that the Prime Minister is trying to sell the country that the country is bouncing back from Covid-19.

You could argue that Liz Truss might resign if we get a sub optimal trade deal for farmers and consumers, given her pronouncements this week, but this is a market I’m not going to get heavily involved with. Firstly the dead heat rules could wipe out the value of the bet. Additionally the usual rules of political gravity seem not to apply to cabinet ministers and their advisers which is something that will eventually catch up with the government, I’m just not sure when though.



Harris retains her strong favourite position in the Democratic VP betting with Susan Rice now second favourite

Thursday, June 25th, 2020 -Betfair

I have a very long history of always losing money on the vice presidential choices in American election campaigns. This is not something that is decided by primaries or elections of some form but is the personal choice of the presumptive nominee in this case Joe Biden.

I’ve moved around so much in the betting on this that I have now cashed out on Betfair making a small profit whatever happens. I have another bet on Susan Rice at Ladbrokes because I think the she might just be the one that Biden decides on.

Oxford-educated Rice was a key player in the Obama White House serving as national Security advisor and then as the Ambassador to the United Nations. She holds no elected position but given that Biden has committed himself to choosing a woman and the pressure at the moment to have someone who is non-white then she seems to fit the bill.

We could have some time to wait because normally the presumptive nominee makes his/her choice shortly before the convention which because of the pandemic has been put back to mid-August.

My reading of Biden who would be 78 on inauguration day if he won will go for someone who he is familiar with and of course they worked alongside each other for 8 years during the Obama administration.

Mike Smithson


Trump drops even further in the WH2020 betting following his less than successful Tulsa rally

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

This last weekend was going to be the moment when Trump would seriously bounce back in his re-election effort with a mass rally in Tulsa Oklahoma. Unfortunately for him and his team the event proved to be something of a disaster with just over 6k in the 19k seat venue. A second location nearby to deal with the overflow was abandoned when it became clear the numbers weren’t there.

This was in spite of all the boasts and predictions Trump had made ahead of the event. It is clear that he needs big events like this to energise himself and the overall campaign something that the pandemic has made very difficult in recent months.

What seems to have happened is that there wa a huge movement on social media to book tickets for the rally and then not turn up. Hence the empty seats.

Inevitably this has impacted on the WH2020 betting as the chart above shows. Biden is the strong odds-on favourite to win on November 2nd.

I just wonder whether Trump might decide to pull out of the race rather than face a likely big defeat. For the experience of White House races in the past is that generally incumbent Presidents get re-elected and he should be doing better.

There’s little doubt that his re-election effort has been thrown off-course by his response to the police murder of George Floyd which has sparked off worldwide demonstrations. A Fox news poll found that voters response to the protests was Favourable 57% Unfavourable 35%.

I find this polling question quite revealing.

Which is better – to have people voting for you more because they dislike your opponent or specifically like you?

Mike Smithson


Trump: Pardon Me

Saturday, June 20th, 2020

4/1 is value that he’ll pardon himself this term

Decorum has never featured highly among Donald Trump’s characteristics. If you view life rather like a computer game where the High Scores are measured in dollars and ratings, and any casulaties along the way can be dismissed as casually as a pixellated image, norms of behaviour are of little consequence. And decorum is certainly not what to expect should Trump lose in November.

And he should lose. RCP give Joe Biden an 8.8% average lead in the polls: his highest this year. Similarly, Trump’s average approval rating sits at -12.1 which is within a point or so of his worst score since the beginning of 2019. He trails in all the swing states he won in 2016 and is perilously close to being behind in Texas and Iowa. If the election was held tomorrow, he could easily lose a third to a half of the Electoral College votes from last time.

But the election won’t be held tomorrow: Trump has around five and a half months to turn things round and he did turn round a similar-sized deficit against Hillary Clinton last time (and of course he doesn’t necessarily need to overturn all of it – he won in 2016 despite polling almost 3m fewer votes). Trump has proven highly adept at negative campaigning and dragging his opponents’ ratings down and Biden is a candidate with vulnerabilities to exploit and he’ll no doubt try to pin economic and Covid-19 failures on Democrat governors to shift the blame for the deaths and downturn.

That said, Trump’s criticisms of Biden are in danger of lowering public expectations of him to such an extent that if the Democrat turns up at the first debate and remembers who and where he is, it’ll be a win for him. In truth, Biden should do a lot better. He’s had plenty of practice at debates these last 12 months. He took part in eleven of them between June 2019 and March this year, and generally did all right – particularly in the later ones with fewer contenders.

By contrast, Trump hasn’t taken part in a debate since 2016 and while he has faced lengthy scrutiny from the press, he’s acted there as his own moderator. He may be in for an uncomfortable awakening when he finds he can’t control the agenda so readily, especially if Biden prepares properly.

Currently, Trump is 11/8 with the bookies to be re-elected. That’s far too short in my opinion. Biden might not be a strong candidate but he’s better than Hillary, while Trump has an unimpressive record in office; he’s not the unstart outsider any more, no matter how much he might try to play the role.

Let’s assume then that Trump loses. What does he do then? He could just retire to Mar-a-Lago and play golf. He is in his mid-70s and most people that age are more than happy to enjoy their retirement. Trump, however, is not most people; nor does he face the problems of most pensioners.

To say that the 45th president has sailed close to the legal wind during his term of office is to be kind. The revelations (or accusations, if you prefer) in John Bolton’s new book of, for example, explicitly seeking favours to aid his re-election campaign just add fuel to the fire of, at best, improper conduct. As mentioned a couple of weeks ago when we looked at the chances of Trump seeking a third term if he can win a second, his actions could leave him fighting off legal cases for the rest of his life.

Unless. After the election, Trump will be in power for another two and a half months whatever the result. That gives him plenty of time to play with his powers and one such power the US Constitution bestows upon the president is “to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States”. Note that this only applies to federal offences. With the exception of not being able to pardon impeachments, this power is not further qualified. As such, there is no reason why he could not grant one to himself.

One moment – doesn’t a pardon require an offence? Not necessarily. Gerald Ford famously pardoned Richard Nixon for “all offences against the United States which he has committed or may have committed or taken part in.” In other words, a pardon can be a pre-emptive strike to halt legal procedings. Some will argue that to accept a pardon is to accept guilt. Perhaps. But such niceties of logic will be of little concern and indeed of little matter if nothing can come of them. “I did it because I could”, would more likely be his reasoning.

So would he? Will he? I asked Shadsy at Ladbrokes what odds he’d offer on Trump pardoning himself before 21 January 2021 (i.e. during his current term) and was quoted 4/1. I think that’s actually quite reasonable. If we work on there being a 70-75% chance of him losing in November (which is what I’d put it at, though the markets have it lower), then that implies about a 26-28% shot on the pardon, assuming he won’t issue one during this term if he wins. Given his shamelessness, his brazen self-protection and his rage when things go against him, I wouldn’t put it so low. Is it worth a punt? Well, I think laying Trump for the election is more value but if you fancy a bit of fun then yes, it it.

David Herdson


Biden’s VP choice: Klobuchar, 2nd favourite in the betting less than a month go, has withdrawn from being considered

Friday, June 19th, 2020 – Betfair market

She says a person of colour should be chosen

The big political betting news is a piece in the New York Times reporting that Senator Amy Klobuchar has written to Joe Biden saying she doesn’t want to be considered for the Democratic VP nomination. As the chart of the Betfair exchange shows Klobuchar was 24% second favourite less than a month ago.

The paper reports:

Ms. Klobuchar, a moderate and veteran of the Senate like Mr. Biden, was known to have a strong rapport with the presumptive Democratic nominee, and was an early favorite of a significant number of his donors and supporters. But her case for being Mr. Biden’s running mate was badly damaged after the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police officers. The death, which has prompted weeks of demonstrations and protests against police violence across the country, led to renewed scrutiny of Ms. Klobuchar’s career as a local prosecutor in Minneapolis. “After what I’ve seen in my state and what I’ve seen across the country, this is a historic moment and America must seize on this moment,” she said. “I truly believe, as I told the vice president last night, that I believe that this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket.”

Biden has committed publicly to the VP nominee being a woman and all the main contenders are women. The question is whether he will follow the Klobuchar advice or will be choose a white person?

Given how far ahead the polls have him in key swing states then the pressure to have someone on the ticket who could being their state to the Democrats is much less.

My money is currently on Demmings and Warren – the latter because she and Biden go back a long way and my guess is that personal linkages might be important.

Mike Smithson


Trumpity Trump: Why Betting on Biden is the right strategy

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

The more I think about the US election, the more I think we’re underweighting the edge scenarios. And of the edge scenarios, I think the one we’re underweighting most is the one where the Democrats have a really good night.


Well, let’s start with the obvious. President Trump won by the narrowest of margins in 2016. To demonstrate this, let’s play “spin the wheel”. What we’re going to do is run a little simulation with every state in 2016. We’re going to end up with the same final vote shares – 48.2% vs 46.1% – but we’re going to shake things up very slightly in every state. We’re going to apply a random number between -2.5% and +2.5% to the Democrat, and then do the inverse to the Republicans. Our end vote total – for the country as a whole – will remain the same, but we’re just going to randomly change the votes (just a little) in each state. And we’ll run that, say, 10,000 times.

What happens?

Well, the chart shows the frequency of various outcomes in terms of Republican electoral votes (remember kids, 269 to win!).

What’s amazing is that Trump’s 2016 result (304 electoral votes) is on the far right hand side of this probability distribution. Do a little random shaking of the tin, and he loses EVs.

Now, you might think that President Trump’s victory was the result of electoral genius and Brad Parscale. Yeah, that played a role. But so did dumb luck. The votes could hardly have been any more optimally distributed.

The point I’m making is that in 2020, President Trump doesn’t have a lot to play with. Obama could go backwards a bit in 2012, and still be President. Trump doesn’t have that luxury.

His path was narrow before, and is probably narrower now.

So, here’s my three pointer on why I think President Trump might get hammered in 2020.

1. Trump is (significantly) less popular now than in 2016. And one group in particular has really deserted him – white women. According to Pew, Trump won this group by two points in 2016. The opinion polls now show him trailing here by ten points.

Now, some will say “hey, Trump’s unpopular, but so’s Biden”. Well, that’s partly true. But on forced choice between those people who say they dislike both candidates, 49% to 17% say they’ll chose Biden. Ouch.

2. Many Democrats didn’t come out to vote in 2016. There was a general sense of inevitability about Trump losing, and a lot of people didn’t particularly like Ms Clinton. That depressed Democratic turnout. And this feeds through into the 2020 polls: there is strict turnout weighting in the US, and this means lots of 2012 Obama backers, who didn’t vote in 2016, are not being counted.

3. President Trump is now suffering from a bit of an enthusiasm gap himself. Evangelicals used to give Mr Trump 81% favourability ratings, that’s now 61%, a 20 point drop. His drop among religious Catholics is even larger: a 27 point fall between March and May of this year. Now, I’m not suggesting that the deeply conservative and religious suddenly come out and vote Biden. I’m suggesting some of them (and it only takes a few) stay at home on election day.

Put these all together, and what do you have? I think you have the potential for Biden to win by eight to ten points this time around. Yes, yes, I know the last five or six Presidential contests have been really close. But I’m wondering if this time we could see a blow out result.

Nothing is certain, of course. Trump could pull this out the bag. But my gut says he had a winning coalition in 2016 because he managed to combine economic nationalism, a terrible opponent, and a bit of good fortune (the FBI discvovering a bunch of emails – which turned out to be nothing – a week before voting). The ultimate issue here is that Trump – to win – cannot allow his voter base to shrink. And he has done nothing to appeal to people beyond his base to win. The same people, all of them, need to come out in 2020 for him to win – and even that may not be enough, if the Democrats are more motivated.

Let me leave you with one statistic. Right track / wrong track questions tend to have pretty good predictive power. When people think the country is on the right track, they tend to re-elect incumbents. When they think it is on the wrong track, they are more likely to roll the dice.

Right track / wrong track is now at -38%. That is the lowest number of Trump’s Presidency. Now, it may be that he is able to feed off that. He’s the man who can put the country on the right track… But I think it more likely that the voters choose to say “Adieu Mr President”.

Robert Smithson