Making Punts on Presidential Politics Pay

Here on, we were sorely tempted to post up a straightforward run down of the US Presidential election and the best bets that are available. However many of you are probably unused to political betting and the unusual dynamics that are at play when trading these sort of events. Simply applying a line of thought that would work in sporting events is not necessarily the best approach, as it is much more fruitful to take a more nuanced approach, rather than simply asking – who will win?

Obama and Romney

On the face of it, that may seem like an odd way to look at a betting proposition. After all, surely the name of the game is to back winners? However while the ideal scenario is picking winners, that’s not necessarily the best way to make money in political betting. It’s far more advantageous to look at the way the market is likely to move, before trading on that basis. At the moment polls are coming thick and fast and anticipating those polls could allow bettors to cover both sides and to lock down a profit in the process, well before anyone casts a vote on the 6th of November.

No election illustrated this better than the Irish Presidential election which took place roughly a year ago. Although there were several candidates, it became clear from an early stage that there were only two potential winners – Michael D Higgins of the Labour Party, or Seán Gallagher, an independent candidate. Both these men traded at longs odds on at various stages, with huge swings taking place on the back of various polls. Plenty of punters got to back both sides at well odds against, thus ensuring that they were guaranteed to make money regardless of how the vote went.

Since polls take place all the time in the run up to a massive event like the US Presidential election, there is no way that a huge swing will come about with no basis whatsoever. Thus the kind of large profits that were on offer in Ireland simply won’t be attainable here. However American voters have form when it comes to backing their leader in a crisis and from a strictly political point of view, Hurricane Sandy (or Tropical Storm Sandy!) has created a huge opportunity for the incumbent candidate. Neither candidate can be seen to spend too much time focusing on their respective campaigns at a time when lives are threatened on the eastern seaboard of the country, while it also gives Obama an opportunity to show leadership and galvanise his people.

A quick look at the polls will illustrate how critical a small swing could be. Mitt Romney is currently holding between a 1% and 2% lead in Florida, based on an aggregate of all polls taken in the last week or so. He is generally trading at 2/5 to win that state and take the 29 electoral college votes that are on offer there. Barack Obama is generally polling at around 2.5% ahead of his Republican rival in Ohio, that famous “bell-weather” state, to use the American term. Consequently, he is generally trading at around 4/11 to win that state.

Thus it’s clear to see that even a 1% swing in the polls could be huge in either of these states, as 1% up or down can be the difference between a candidate trading at 1/2 and a candidate trading at 5/6.

The state that makes particular appeal to us for the moment is Virginia, where Obama is still on offer at 10/11 in places. Romney held a lead in this mid-Atlantic state earlier this month but slowly and gradually, the polls are starting to show that Obama has regained a slight edge. Virginia is far enough north to be affected by Hurricane Sandy, while there is also the issue of some rural voters being affected by the weather and thus being unable to turnout on November 6th. This gives us two cushions. Firstly, there is a real chance of the polls turning in our favour and affording us the chance to trade out for a guaranteed profit. However if the prices hold and we have to let our bet run, the it’s nice to know that there are some other factors that could help get us over the line. As a back to lay, Virginia looks like one of the best betting propositions on offer at the moment.

About Kevin Egan 130 Articles
Kevin Egan is one of Ireland's leading GAA tipsters. He has previously served as GAA odds compiler for a number of major bookmakers.

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