Sunday, May 8, 2016

Making book on the 2016 presidential race

If you were going to make a wager on who will be our next president, you might place a bet on-line or at a window in Las Vegas. But before you do, you need to understand the "odds."

Paddy Power Sports Betting (h/t Lynn Reder, Carnegie Mellon U)has the odds for the US race for President as 2/7 for Clinton and 2/1 for Trump. If you are like me, and you think Las Vegas is for food, not gambling, then you need some help as I did to understand those odds, so here's a primer on betting odds at the track.

How do betting odds work?

Betting odds are usually expressed as fractions, 2/1, 7/2 and 6/4 as examples. With the aid of a simple calculator or spreadsheet we can calculate how much we can win from a bet and also the percentage chance of our chosen selection. Let's start with the first odds mentioned, the 2 to 1 chance, written as 2/1. We can find the percentage chance of the 2/1 shot winning by adding the right hand side (1) to the left hand side (2) giving us 3, the right hand side (1) is then divided by 3 giving the answer 0.333 or 33.3%. Now we can calculate any odds that are expressed as fractions. Let's try the 7/2 chance, add the 2 to the 7 giving 9 and divide 2 by 9 which gives us 0.222 or 22.2%. The 6/4 shot has a 0.40 (40%) chance of winning, 4 added to the 6 (10) 4 divided by 10 = 0.4, it's that simple. Awkward odds like 13/8 can easily be calculated, 13 + 8 = 21, 8 divided by 21 = 0.38 (38%).

Now we can do that simple math on the odds for president. For Clinton, 2+7 = 9, 7/9 = 77.7%. For Trump, 2+1 = 3, 1/3 = 33.3%. So the betting odds are that Clinton is over twice as likely as Trump to take the Presidency. Other sites, like OddsChecker, have similar odds: 4/11 for Clinton and 2/1 for Trump are representative of the 16 sites reported. What about Sanders? Representative odds are 33/1.

None of that is terribly surprising. It just quantifies what is already in the media. How about something a little more challenging and not widely reported, like the Vice Presidential picks? Below I list some I find interesting.

For Democrats: Julian Castro (5/2), Tim Kaine (5/1), Elizabeth Warren (7/1), Sherrod Brown (10/1), Bernie Sanders (16/1), Clinton (25/1).

For Republicans: Kasich (3/1), Christie (4/1), Gingrich (4/1), Cruz (14/1), Fiorina (25/1), Ryan (33/1).

There are more VP possibilities listed for each party; you can check out them at the links above if you wish. While you are at it, you might want to look up the odds for "How Big is Donald Trump's Manhood?" Or not.

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