Top-5 Most unlikely winning bets in 2016

Thomas
Giles

2016 was the year that will be remembered as the year of unexpected events – both in the world of sport and politics. Bookmakers and punters alike will remember this year for a long time. Virtually every important event ended with or was accompanied by a surprise, particularly the US Presidential Elections, Euro 2016 and the English Premier League. 

top-5-unlikely-winning-bets-2016

Leicester winning the Premier League

The first of the big sensations this year and arguably the biggest (well, there’s probably not much arguing!) was Leicester’s victory in the Premier League. Before the 2015/16 season, nobody would’ve given Leicester any chance whatsoever of lifting the title and the fact the bookmakers priced The Foxes up as 5000/1 shot speaks for itself. Amazingly, there were enthusiasts who saw the odds and decided to get involved!

Four-figure odds on Claudio Ranieri’s side to win the title was still being advertised until November 2015 when bookmakers realised that The Foxes had a good chance of at least making the top-three. By February rates collapsed and winnings were starting to be paid out on Leicester’s title win.

Leicester’s victory changed the lives of a number of people who were not afraid to bet on the original odds. Chloe Cope won £35,000 after putting just £7 on The Foxes to win the league at SkyBet. One Ladbrokes customer placed £50 and then cashed out in March to the tune of £72,300. 

When it became apparent that Leicester were the favourites for the title, British bookmakers started to talk about the losses they were set to suffer. Ladbrokes spokesman Alex Donohue said that Leicester’s title victory was the biggest disappointment in the history of betting as his company had to pay out a record amount of winnings. However, he also called The Foxes’ triumph “a brilliant Hollywood-type story.”

British bookmakers eventually paid out somewhere in the region of £36.5m as a result of Leicester’s title win.

Donald Trump – US President

The main political event of the year was of course the victory of Republican candidate Donald Trump in the US Presidential Elections. Nobody, neither bookmakers or public, took it seriously when the president of the Trump Organisation announced his intention to run in the race. However, he won the fight for the Republican nomination ahead of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and others before finally beating Democrat candidate Hilary Clinton, who was favourite even as far back as 2012.

Many punters were confident that Clinton would come out on top and therefore lost huge sums of money. For example, one client at William Hill lost £449,000. However, some managed to win big thanks to Trump’s victory. One of those was the owner of the famous Camelot Castle Hotel John Mappin who, over the course of eighteen months, made a total of thirty bets on the Republican at William Hill and won £99,500.

Another William Hill client placed £36,000 on Trump at odds of 7/4 and won more than £100,000, while one Betfair customer won more than £2 million thanks to the media magnate’s election.

US elections have become the most important political event for bookmakers. British bookmakers took over 50,000 bets during the presidential race with overall bets totaling at about £250m. William Hill representative Graham Sharpe said “This campaign absolutely decimated all previous political betting records and shows what a popular betting subject politics is.”

Paddy Power representative Féilim Mac An Iomaire admitted that Trump had dealt a heavy blow to the company, forcing it to pay out a huge amount on political events – around £3.6m. Paddy Power had paid out around £900,000 out in advance on a Clinton victory, such was its apparent certainty.

It is also worth noting that the US Presidential Election broke all records in terms of betting on political events at Betfair. The volume of this market amounted to £199,951,918 with bets on the night totaling £60 million.

Brexit

The first political event of the year which the bookmakers got wrong was the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, held on 23rd June. Subsequently, bookmakers compared both the process and the result of Brexit with the presidential race in the United States, drawing parallels between Trump’s victory and the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union.

Right from the start bookmakers believed that there was a significantly higher chance that Britons would vote to remain in the EU. Moreover, when the polls closed before the votes were counted, Ladbrokes gave odds of 4/1 on the UK leaving the EU. 

However, this result fell into the hands of the bookies and the head of the Department for Bets on Political Events at Ladbrokes Matthew Sheddik said “The truth is that bookmakers offer bets on political events not to help people to predict their results. We do this to get profit (or at least not to suffer heavy losses) and with respect this referendum for us has taken place very well.”

Customers of British bookmakers placed considerable sums on the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union. For example, one William Hill customer place £100,000 at 2/5. However, another company’s client placed £10,000 on ‘Leave’ at odds of 11/4 and won more than £38,000.

It is worth noting that the volume of bets on the referendum at Betfair was a record £113m, setting a then all-time record for the largest amount bet on the same market which was then subsequently broken again during the US Presidential Elections.

Rostov’s victory over Bayern Munich

This Champions League match was perhaps the most prominent and successful event in Russian football in 2016. It all started with Rostov almost winning the Russian Premier League under magician Kurban Berdyev but falling at the final hurdle to finish second yet still winning the right to participate in the Champions League. Nobody gave them a chance initially but they knocked both Anderlecht and Ajax out in qualifying to reach the Group Stage where they would play Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and PSV Eindhoven.

The Olimp-2 stadium in Rostov-on-Don hosted the most memorable match in the history of FC Rostov on November 23. The club from the banks of the Don river managed to beat Bayern Munich by a 3-2 scoreline in fine style.

At the start of the match, the bookmakers made Rostov the undisputed underdog and 86% of the total bets were placed on Bayern with only 8% on a Rostov win and 6% on the draw.

Some Liga Stavok customers seemed to be able to predict the future and one player put 500 rubles on Rostov to beat Bayern 3-2 at odds of 582/5 and won over 58,000 rubles as a result. In the 42nd minute, another player put 20,000 rubles on Rostov to score in the first half at odds of 24/1 and two minutes later, Sardar Azmoun fired passed Sven Ulreich, winning the player 500,000 rubles. However, there were also large losses as one client put 350,000 rubles on a Bayern victory.

Maxim Afanasiev said that the number of in-match bets exceeded the number of pre-match bets by 70% which he says lost the company several million rubles.

Iceland’s Victory Over England

There were several surprises at Euro 2016, including Portugal’s tournament victory and Wales reaching the semi-final, beating favourites Belgium in the quarters. However, we will focus on Iceland who the whole world fell in love with during the summer. Not only did the Vikings qualify from the group by beating Austria after drawing against Portugal and group winners Hungary, they also beat England in the first knockout round! With the now-famous Icelandic Viking chant echoing around the stadium, the Icelanders recovered from going 1-0 down to equalise and then come out on top by two goals to one.

Roy Hodgson’s England were the obvious favourites before the match and they were generally rated as a 2/5 chance to win the match, while Iceland were priced around the 8/1 mark. Additionally, 60% of all bets places were on an England victory with only 25% of punters backing Iceland.

After this win, it seemed the Vikings were set to become a serious force in the competition. However, at the same time, a tournament victory for Iceland would work in the bookmakers’ favour. Marathon stated that an Iceland victory would be a good financial result for the company.

However, the Icelanders lost to hosts France in the next round by a 5-2 scoreline. Nevertheless, the Vikings returned home as heroes, creating of the most incredible sensations of the last year.

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