Magazine article The Spectator

The Thrill of the Bore Draw

Magazine article The Spectator

The Thrill of the Bore Draw

Article excerpt

A successful gambler once told me:

'Never bet on football, never bet on multipliers, and never ever bet on football multipliers.' Multipliers, in case you don't know, are those enticing combination wagers on bookmakers' shopfronts:

'Liverpool win 2-0 + Sturridge to score = 33/1.' Mugs like me fall for them every time. My subconscious tends to add together the two probabilities - that of Sturridge scoring and that of Liverpool winning 2-0 - when really I should be multiplying them. Duh.

The bookies don't always triumph when it comes to football, however. This year's Champions League has so far seen few upsets: as a result, the major sports bookmakers have taken 'one hell of a beating in the last two months', according to one of my sources in the vice sector. Moreover, if you bet on seasons, rather than individual matches, you can find value. On 1 October Burnley were top of the Championship, yet still 31-1 to win the league. At that price, I couldn't resist. Four wins later they're still top. The odds are now 6-1.

The trick with these 'outright winner' markets is to bet before or early in the season, when prices fluctuate dramatically according to form. That's not a terribly useful tip in November, but there are always more competitions. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil, for instance.

France have been in two of the past four finals, but are a staggering 47-1 on Betfair to win next year in Rio. The reason is that les Bleus didn't qualify automatically from their group - they were a close second to Spain, the world champions - and now face a playoff against Ukraine. They should get through, and then only an idiot would say they have less chance than England, who are now about 20-1.

I should point out that World Cups are not my forte. In 2010, I read in some dummy's guide to gambling that it's possible to make money betting against goals being scored, because sports fans generally assume that matches will be more exciting than they are. …

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