WITH the latest UK election polls showing Labour and the Conservatives still neck and neck, and with talk of coalitions, minority governments and deals in darkened rooms doing the rounds, no one is sure what will happen after the polls close at 10pm Thursday local time.
That doesn't just make it difficult for the leaders of the political parties: it makes it fiendishly tricky to make any bets on the election.
Daniel Gould, a professional gambler and co-founder of sofabet.com, told The Independent that this year's election is "an expanding kaleidoscope of variables and possibilities."
Thus, while Gould makes his living betting six-figure sums on Eurovision, he is being cautious on the election and only playing with pocket money. "I suggest others should do the same," he adds.
However, Gould still offered some top tips to rookie gamblers hoping to make a quick buck on election night:
1. If betting on who will be the next Prime Minister, check the terms with your bookmaker
"Check with your bookmaker what exactly they mean in markets such as 'next Prime Minister,' given the uncertainty about what happens after the election itself. Some of them say 'Prime Minister on June 1.' Some of them say 'Prime Minister on July 1'. So, perhaps if you're looking to have a bet on that, you need to check the terms because we could have all sorts of shenanigans going on; motions of no confidence or Queen's Speeches voted down. Check with your bookmaker about the terms of things you're not sure about."
2. Play the probabilities
"Betting is about playing probabilities. As a quick example, if you're offered 6/4 about a coin toss being tails, which is an even money chance, you should take 6/4 price. An even if the coin ends up landing on heads instead, you have taken a price which offered a 50 per cent better return than the probability indicated. So, that's an apt analogy for such a tricky election."
3. Who will win the most seats? Labour at 4/1
"Those building models out of all the data suggest that the Conservatives will win the most seats. Whilst I think that is the most likely scenario, I think Labour have more of a chance to win most seats than their current price of 4/1 suggests. Why is that? The polls from England and Wales, which suggest a range of 3.6 to 5.1 per cent of a swing to Labour, would actually be enough, if universal, to see Labour win most seats. Clearly, we have to factor in a myriad of local issues - marginal constituencies, the widening scope of smaller parties in different regions - but still, I think the race for most seats is tighter than the bookmakers do. Therefore, that 4/1 for Labour to win the most seats is a bet I would take because it is playing the probabilities."
4. If you bet on Ukip getting three seats or fewer, things are looking good
"The shrewd gamblers have ridden the Ukip rise in the polls over the past couple of years and treated them as the classic British protest party, which wins a few by-elections, has its chances in a general election talked up, only for the breakthrough to never materialise. It's the old story of the SDP in the 1980s. The shrewd money a year ago went on Ukip winning no more than three seats, when it was a really good price, because the party was really being talked up (after the European and local elections). Sure enough, what we're going to see tomorrow night is the likelihood that they won't win more than three seats. It's now only even money that they will get under three seats, so you've missed the value on that."
5. Nick Clegg and Alex Salmond to win their seats, Nigel Farage to lose in South Thanet at 3/1
"The decline in the hopes of Ukip also includes Nigel Farage's chances in South Thanet. He has always been the favourite to win that seat, but the chances of him winning have been lengthening as the election closes. There is a fun bet you can have if you want to play individual results in the headline battles. The bet is that out of Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage and Alex Salmond, only Clegg and Salmond win their seats and Farage does not. That is a 3/1 chance. Salmond is a definite in Gordon. People have been thinking that Clegg will lose his Sheffield Hallam seat. Yet perennially the Lib Dems have a set of popular incumbent MPs who are more popular locally than the party is nationally."
6. Watch the betting markets and be counter-intuitive as results come in
"At the last election, I sat there watching with my laptop as the high street prices and Betfair odds changed with every result. As each early result came in, the favourites to win, Conservative or Labour, flip-flopped depending on whether that early result went in their favour. It was like a game of tennis in terms of the betting market. This is a really useful tip: what happens, especially early on when it's still all to play for, is the market overreacts. People in betting overreact to an initial result that is not as important as they think it is. You will get swings in the betting on the night as what markets do is overreact to single events. A good way of potentially making money is to try and be counter-intuitive and watch out for those overreactions early on, especially in a contest like this one.
7. If you are betting on Thursday night, wait till after the exit poll
"If you bet before 10pm, the exit poll will come out and it will have a big impact. I would not recommend betting not long before 10pm, because the market will change suddenly on a piece of information. So, wait for the exit poll, wait for the overreaction and take it from there."
8. Even if you're not betting, watch the markets on election night
"Even if you are not intending to bet, it's really fun to watch the markets and to see where the money is going and what that tells us about the confidence behind either party. I would recommend it even to people fascinated with politics and not looking to bet, it adds a little extra frisson to the event if you watch the betting markets. That certainly happened in 2010. It will be fascinating to see where the market is going on based on the early calls."