General election one bookmaker had Neil Kinnock-led Labour, with John Major’s Conservatives. With two days to go a Kinnock victory looked even more certain, and the same ﬁrm went Labour, Conservatives. Damon Runyon story “A Nice Price”, in which the gambler Sam the Gonoph learns that one bookmaker is quoting Yale to win the annual rowing race against Harvard: “I do not know anything about boat races,” Sam says, “and the Yales may ﬁgure as you say, but nothing between human beings is one to three.
Politics can prove a wonderful betting medium – not because rank outsiders often win a political contest, but because by their very nature political fortunes ﬂip-ﬂop, and you can regularly manoeuvre yourself into the joyous position of having backed each of two at odds against. The trick is being able to detect a change in the political weather and strike at the optimum time.
In fact,” Sam the Gonoph says, “I long ago come to the conclusion that all life is six to ﬁve against.” Sam’s observation that all life is 6-5 against is one of the most famous of betting quotes (right up there with the psychiatrist friend of Jeffrey Bernard who described betting as “collecting injustices”), but for a punter the insight that nothing between human beings is 1-3 can prove proﬁtable when scanning the sports betting pages. Liverpool v. Barnsley and Barnsley v. Chelsea in the 2008 F.A. Cup come readily to mind as examples.