What’s the Chance of That?

We’re nine days into the UEFA Euro 2016 Championship, and it’s time for a short betting retrospective. According to my profile, I’m currently looking at a 68 NOK (~$8) profit. While it isn’t an impressive amount – it’ll buy me a beer at a half-posh restaurant in downtown Oslo – it’s still a profit. It’s also a 5.54% return of investment, which is a hell of a lot more than you get with the money in the bank.

This year’s betting adventure didn’t start out too well, with three quick losses in a row. The money I put on the first bet – Romania to beat France in the opening match – was refunded, though, courtesy Unibet, and their “one bet without risk”-campaign. Then I had a win on low-paying odds, and another loss because Portugal’s superstar Cristiano Ronaldo can’t hit a barn door from a distance of 11 meters. But he is pretty good at participating in taking selfies on the field.

Including the last loss, I’d placed bets based partly on the odds, partly on my female intuition, and partly on gut feeling. Then I realized that my female intuition and gut feeling didn’t matter. I know absolutely nothing about football. Placing bets on high-paying, thus low possibility and risky odds, was plain stupid as long as I didn’t have any knowledge about the teams, players, referees, the pitch, and the weather to know something that would make it more possible than the odds indicated that I’d win a particular bet. Besides, the people deciding the odds know everything there is to know about what can influence the chance of a win or a loss – that is, after all, how they make their living.

So the question wasn’t whether or not I thought I’d win a bet, the question was what kind of risk I was willing to take.

I read Wikipedia’s article on odds to get a better picture of what a bet on an event with odds of, say, 6 to 4, actually meant. Probably should’ve done that a few years ago, but better late than never. Odds are complicated stuff, and the article didn’t make me much wiser – there’s a reason I almost flunked my college statistics class. But here’s an important piece of information I took away from the article: While there is an element of possibility of an event happening in gambling odds, there is also a baked in profit margin in the odds. As with every kind of gambling, the house always wins in the long run.

In the end I settled for going with bets that had (decimal) odds of 2. Or 1/1, if you prefer fractional odds. Or +100 if moneyline odds, also known as American odds, are your thing. Oh, +100 might be quoted as -100 or just 100 by some bookmakers. Yes, this is a lot more complicated than it have to be.

No matter how it’s spelled out, this is known as an “even odds” bet, with a roughly 50% chance of happening – it’s a coin toss, basically. It will also double your money; your stake plus an amount equal to your stake will be yours if you win. Just the kind of risk I can live with.

After I started to bet exclusively on even odds bets, I’ve won four in a row. I can’t lose! My economical future looks amazingly bright!

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