How accurately did gambling odds predict the Hottest 100? [op-ed]
Australians love to gamble.
I don’t want to generalise, but if there’s any change left over from your tinnie of Tooheys New while you’re waiting for the Rabbitohs game to start on the big screen at the pub, then you will most likely sling a dollar coin into the pokie machine, place a Keno bet, and put the rest on Silver Sovereign in the third.
So, it’s no real surprise that you can bet on the Hottest 100.
The people at triple j dissuade the media from reporting on the odds ahead of time and for good reasons: partly because it may spoil the fun of the countdown for people, and partly because gambling isn’t really a thing the national youth broadcaster seeks to promote, despite the government being the major recipient of most gambling done in this country. But I digress.
I personally think gambling odds are an interesting way of seeing how people are voting, and how they are betting. It’s also quite a good predictor of the outcomes, because Sportsbet and similar institutions are set up to make a profit and, despite their cheery TV ads, they don’t actually like it too much when you win.
But how did they fare this year? I pulled the odds as they stood at midday on Friday.
If you were attempting to pick the clear winner, Tones and I was the obvious favourite, at 1.90 for ‘Dance Monkey’ (meaning it will pay out $1.90 for a $1 bet – giving you a profit of 90c, not even doubling your money.)
Denzal Curry’s RATM cover was next, paying 3.00. If you managed to pick ‘bad guy’, you had odds of 3.50, meaning if you went large and put $100 on, you’ll have walked away with a profit of $250, which isn’t bad at all. It was actually the best bet you could have placed. Hindsight still being 20/20 in 2020 and all.
Overall, the Sportsbet odds did quite a bad job of predicting the winner.
Flume and Vera Blue’s ‘Rushing Back’ came second on the day, but was paying out 26.00 (or $26 for every dollar bet). That seems rather reckless. In third place, ‘Charlie’ by Mallrat would have paid out $21 for every dollar.
Surprisingly, Lil Nas X ‘Old Town Road’ was among the longest shot bets, paying $251 on every dollar. This was deemed to be less likely than Jess Mauboy’s ‘Little Things’ (at 221.00) and just as likely as Vampire Weekend’s ‘Sunflower’.
If I was a betting man, this would have been a good outsider bet to take.
Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ made it to #9 on the 2014 Hottest 100 despite never having been played on the station up until that point. So there is something close to a precedent. ‘Old Town Road’ was a much bigger hit than ‘Chandelier’, too, and more likely to pop into people’s heads when voting. Many people vote in the Hottest 100 from around the world, as well as many who don’t actually listen to the station anymore, but still enjoy voting each year as a custom.
Sportsbet must have known something, though, because they were right; Lil Nas X didn’t even make the 100.
If you’d been plugging your ears since the middle of last year, you could have placed a bet at 51.00 that no Tones and I songs would make the countdown at all. Conversely, you could bet that at least three of her songs would make the countdown – which paid out a measly 1.10.
You could also back Billie and bet that ‘bad guy’ would place higher than ‘Dance Monkey’ at 2.75 – a bet you would have won.
In the end, the best bet you could have made was probably with that old guy sitting next to you at the pub you’re in, who insists loudly that Aussie Crawl will top the chart this year.
You need to find a better local.