Betting on politics: how my tips have fared over the last three years

Elaine Duke © Getty
Elaine Duke: my most profitable individual tip at 18/1

It is just over three years since I launched this column by predicting (correctly, as it turned out) that Remain would get between 45% and 55% of the vote in the EU referendum. Since then I’ve expressed my views on everything from the post-referendum challenge to Jeremy Corbyn to the recent Australian general election. I’ve also had a look at the available research on various betting strategies, from backing “steamers” to the issue of whether favourites or long shots offer better value.

As you might expect, I’ve had both successes and failures. Like most people, I was taken by surprise by Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election and the hung parliament that resulted from the 2017 UK general election. But at the same time I correctly predicted Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the 2017 French presidential election and I predicted that the Democrats would retake the House of Representatives in the 2018 US midterm elections. I’ve also had a strong record in Australia, with all but one of my ten bets on the region paying off.

Overall, I’ve recommended 138 bets (or 214 if you count each individual tip separately in a combined bet). Two of those, on the cancelled 2017 Manchester Gorton by-election and the postponed December vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, were voided, while others are still pending. Of those that have been resolved, 76 out of the 113 combined bets paid off for an average profit of 19.8%; 83 out of the 160 individual tips paid off, for a profit of 10.9%. This is above our target of 10% for the individual tips and 15%-20% for the combined bets.

So, what lessons have I learned from the three years? The biggest one is that the true value frequently lies in relatively obscure markets, or the submarkets on bigger contests. While a lot of these markets are novelty bets that are a waste of time, the discerning punter can root out some hidden opportunities. For example, my most profitable individual tip was the 18/1 on Elaine Duke (pictured) being the first to leave Trump’s cabinet. This came about as a result of noticing that her replacement had already been announced and was awaiting confirmation, something the bookies had overlooked.

Another useful lesson is to bet only when you feel that you have an edge. Bookies usually protect themselves by arranging things so that the collective odds of all possible events add up to more than 100% (usually 110%-120%). This means that if you just bet blindly, you’re going to lose a good chunk of your money. While I have tried to strike a balance between frequent tips and good returns, it’s noticeable that my best returns have been when there have been plenty of bets on offer.