When boarding the floating casino that is the good ship HMS Late Capitalist Great Britain before the 2010 World Cup, you are sure of a good flutter and a little flirt or two.
Big, bald, bookmakers and their polished, Polish assistant turf clerks now command the shop, with occasional help from Doris and Julie. (In case you were wondering, Fiona and Emma don't go in for that kind of work. It's below them.) And if you don't want Mrs. Duffy from down the road to see you sinning on the High Street, the digitized British airwaves have even more generous odds.
But how can you win enough money to escape the Credit Crunch and Cameron and piss off to the tax-free Cayman Islands after the World Cup and live happily ever after as a Non Dom?
It's difficult, but not impossible.
The British bookies have embraced globalization from their tax-free Gibraltar caves, but they remain Anglo centric creatures at heart and have enough knowledge gaps in the global game to leave them vulnerable.
Pundits will remind you only certain countries have won the World Cup. Economists, statisticians and other experts will point out that in the "modern" era, only vast, wealthy countries with large populations can win. This means you are left wondering which of usual suspects will prevail. Form suggests Spain. History proclaims Brazil. And then it's a toss up between any of the other major European nations and Argentina.
But you will not become rich predicting the obvious. So how does one go about winning at the World Cup without necessarily being on the winner.
To borrow from the late, great Sir Clement Freud: If you want to win big, you have to be willing to lose big.
Here's Five Tips...(you can find all the odds over at oddschecker.)
1. THE JOLLY. It's advisable to pay some attention to the experts. In that respect, it's wise to devote a small percentage of your stake to favourites. A modest Each-Way bet on one of Brazil or Spain and perhaps one other on one of so called big nations is sensible insurance. Before England qualified, William Hills were offering them at 9/1. I took a little piece of that action. And I took Spain at 6/1. (Since qualification the prospect of England winning the World Cup has UK bookies living in fear. You will now be hard pressed to beat odds of 11/2 on England. Short odds, but still worth a few bob, I fancy.) The other mainstays such as Argentina, France, Germany and Italy all seem strangely out of sorts. I think they are best avoided. (I also avoided Brazil. I have a horrible feeling the Portuguese pipsqueak, Ronaldo, is going to pimp 'em in Durban on June 25th. Ronaldo perversions in the post match dance party then promise to be the stuff of legend.)
2. IT'S AFRICA'S TIME. One cannot but have a little flutter on each of the six African participants. The online bookies have had very generous odds on the Africans. I took advantage of some of the online sign up offers with Each Way bets on Algeria at 1,500/1 (before they beat knocked Egypt out), Cameroon at 150/1, Cote d'Ivoire at 40/1, Ghana at 80/1, Nigeria at 100/1, and South Africa at 100/1. If any African team gets as far as the final, I will have covered some of my spending summer money.
3. THE MOTHER FLUTTER. It could be one of the African qualifiers, but will a team running with an Eto'o or a Drogba fit the description? The Dark Horse has to be the team they will say "no one" expected to win. And that's Honduras! Before the final draw, I wandered into my local BetFred and found Honduras at 5000/1 to win the whole Shebang! Laugh all you want, but all it takes is an old fashioned cup run. The obliging big, bald, bookmaking bloke happily took my money. He'd never heard of Honduras before. He wanted to know if it was in Africa. A few months later Corals were offering 50/1 on Honduras to win their group. I took more than a little of that action and incorporated it into all number of those bizarre bets the British bookies are notorious for: Golaiths, Heinzs, Canadians, Yankees. BetFred have since taken their ignorance to higher levels offering odds on the best CONCACAF team, with Mexico and the USA as joint favourites at 11/10. Honduras are 12/1. 12/1 in a three horse race is unheard of. It clearly escaped the brains over at BetFred, but Honduras led the CONCACAF qualifiers at various stages and are at the very least equals of Mexico and the USA.
4. OTHER VALUE. Esteemed statistician Nate Silver ran his numbers and made Uruguay favourites to win Group A. Yet the UK bookies opened the book with Uruguay a distant 3rd favorite behind France and Mexico. You can still find Uruguay at 4/1 to win Group A. Serbia (who strolled past France and Romania in the qualifiers) have also been disrespected, largely because they are in the same group as Germany. No sane punter wants to go up against the Germans in the World Cup, but at 4/1, the Serbs are great value to win Group D. Continuing with the Danubian tradition, Slovakia have been doubly disrespected by UK bookies, despite emphatically topping their qualifying group over their Czech cousins and Poland. William Hill will offer you the ridiculously high price of 8/1 for Slovakia to win Group F. Even Gianluigi Buffon may be tempted to call his Liverpool bookie if such odds remain.
5. TOP SCORER. I can't see beyond Wayne Rooney, though they are strong cases to be made for Fabiano, Messi, Ronaldo, Torres and Villa. Most UK bookies are offering Wayne at 10/1. The lad is primed. He is approaching this World Cup in Pele like form.
Don't spare the Ponies!