IN CASE you hadn’t noticed, it is the season of goodwill to all men. And the nation’s bookmakers see no reason why they should be left out – of the receiving, that is, rather than the giving.
To give you the best possible chance of helping them fund their Christmas party, this is a time of year when the bookies tend to cast their nets wider than the traditional sports markets.
Regular sports-only punters will be astonished to see the number of options out there that have nothing whatsoever to do with the relative positions of men, balls, horses or some combination of the above.
You can bet on a white Christmas in Liverpool (no, 2/7), the number one book (Jamie Oliver, 1/5), the number one video game (Call Of Duty, 1/10) and, of course, the Christmas number one single.
While the others may leave you as cold as a sprout on Boxing Day, it’s worth noting that the favourite (1/4) to top the charts is The Justice Collective’s Hillsbrough charity effort. He Ain’t Heavy has already mustered more than 100,000 in pre-sales, edging it close to the 130-180,000 traditionally needed for a festive number one.
Last year’s effort from the Military Wives Choir topped 500,000 – but to be number one, you only have to beat number two; the runners-up, X Factor winners Little Mix, sold about 130,000.
Speaking of X Factor, the finalists in the world’s most glamorous karaoke competition are limbering up for Saturday’s showdown.
According to the bookies, there is very little to choose between the croaky throated wails of above-average busker James Arthur (6/4) and the vocal gymnastics of boy-next-door-who-ought -to-invest-in-soundproof- walls Jahmene Douglas (6/5). Sadly for Scouse loyalists (and let’s face it, somebody’s been voting for him), cruise ship fodder Christopher Maloney is miles away, at 7/2.
If you’re tired of wannabe celebrities singing on ITV, you can turn over to watch real celebrities dancing on the BBC. Michael Vaughan’s departure means Louis Smith – GB gymnastics team-mate of Crosby’s Daniel Purvis – is sport’s only representative in the last six of Strictly Come Dancing. You can’t get better than evens on Smith to follow in the twinkly footsteps of Darren Gough and Mark Ramprakash.
OK, TV talent shows are not sport. But they are at least pseudo-sport – competitors compete, judges judge and a winner wins.
The same cannot be said of the other big ‘special’ on the bookies’ books right now – the royal baby.
You can stake your hard-earned cash on the sex of the soon-to-be third in line to the throne (evens either way, obviously), the colour of their hair (brown is a generous 13/8, given that both parents have brown hair), the length of the Duchess of Cambridge’s labour (as it’s her first, 15-18 hours looks good at 10/3) and the time of the birth (each individual hour block is 23/1 – but more babies are born during the day, so there could be profit to be made there).
Then there’s the name, about which the bookies do not have a clue. Diana ranges from 9/1 to 22/1, Mary from 8/1 to 25/1 and Spencer from 10/1 to 25/1.
It’s probably a good thing the royals are already incredibly wealthy – otherwise they could make a killing by naming their firstborn Brooklyn or Waynetta (1,000/1 each).
William Hill is offering 1,000/1 on Wills and Kate’s offspring playing Premier League football (perhaps for dad’s beloved Aston Villa, if they’re still in the Premier League), which seems a bit short – though not as short as Stan James’ 100/1 on the baby being ‘albino’. Albinism affects about 1 in 17,000 of the world’s population and is much more common in sub-Saharan Africa.
There’s also a rather tasteless market on His/Her Royal Babyness weighing less than 4lb 15oz. Both the parents are pretty tall, so a baby this small would either be several weeks premature, or have some other complication that could lead to serious health problems. And you can fill in a betting slip and have your fingers crossed that it happens.
Maybe they should stick to sport...