OK, let's get this straight right off the bat: I'm pretty much clueless about betting. So if I make some dumb-ass mistake about odds and what-not in this post, that's because I'm a betting dumb-ass.
(I'd say there's at least a 50-50 chance of that happening.)
That said, I'm a believer in prediction markets. Which basically involves a bunch of people betting that something will, or won't, happen.
A Washington Post story, "Why Marco Rubio now has the best chance of winning the GOP nomination," caught my eye today.
Marco Rubio placed third in the Iowa caucuses Monday, but observers liked what they saw from the Florida senator's campaign. Now, the most likely outcome of the GOP presidential primary season is a victory for Rubio, according to bookmakers.
On Monday, bookies gave Rubio a 1-in-3 chance of winning the nomination. Since the results from Iowa came in, Rubio's chances are now better than even, according to data aggregated by Oddschecker.
To be sure, Rubio has a long way to go. Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) won more delegates than he did in Iowa. Rubio was trailing those two by a wide margin in the most recent national polls.
All the same, economists say that betting markets often better predict the outcomes of elections than polls. When there is cash on the table, people are less likely to be swayed by attention from the fickle media, which might momentarily inflate a candidate's polling. On the other hand, bettors who are prepared to put their money on a candidate might be more familiar with that candidate's strengths before the general public is aware of them.
Naturally I had to click on over to Oddschecker. Where I instantly was abjectly confused, given how little I know about how betting works.
Key terms used to express the odds:
Odds on - The probability of this event occurring is judged to be more than 50%, so the amount you win is less than the amount you stake.
Evens/Even money - The probability is judged to be 50%, so the amount you win is the same as the amount you stake.
Odds against - The probability is judged to be less than 50% so the amount you win is more than the amount you stake.
Ah... so if the number on the right side of the backslash thingie is bigger than the number on the left side, that's Odds On, more than a 50-50 chance of winning. And vice-versa. That cleared some things up.
Then I noticed some small type on the Oddschecker site that said "sort by fav/name," and "fav" was highlighted. So since the Republican candidate page had Rubio first, then Trump, then Cruz, that told me these guys were 1-2-3 in the betting game.
Rubio did indeed have numbers like 5/6 and 8/11 on various betting sites. Odds-on!
I'm not completely sure what single numbers like 100 and 200 in the Ben Carson row mean. Probably that's shorthand for 100/1 and 200/1 -- which seems about right in the case of Carson.
The most lucrative potential bet appeared to be Carly Fiorina at 500/1. However, I don't think I could bring myself to bet a buck on Fiorina, even if it meant I'd win $500 if she became the GOP presidential candidate.
(Well, on the plus side, now that I think about it, $500 would buy a lot of pot and booze, which is exactly what I'd need to get through four years of a Fiorina presidency.)
On the Oddschecker Democrat page, Hillary Clinton was rocking it. Typical were odds like 1/5 and 1/6, really odds-on. Sorry, Berniacs.
I can't resist noting that last October I made a bold prediction that Clinton and Rubio would be the presidential candidates. Guess I should have placed some bets at that time. My vice-presidential prediction on the GOP side wasn't so great, though: Fiorina.
Could still happen, of course -- a depressing thought.