Novelty bets are, in some ways, the purest form of betting. There is no major emotional attachment to novelty bets in the same way that there might be if you’re betting on your favourite football team, for example. It’s the sort of bet that many of us have made in our lives without officially going in to a betting shop and paying to do so, instead just saying to our partner or friend, “I bet they name the baby John”.
The more popular that TV shows get, say, the more likely it is that there’ll be a novelty market available on them soon enough. For proof, look at how quickly punters were able to place a wager on who would end up on the Iron Throne as Game of Thrones neared its climax. If you’ve ever watched a reality TV show and thought, “I reckon they will win”, then you’ve essentially engaged with the world of novelty bets already.
The Best Bookies for Novelty Bets
Every bookmaker worth their salt will cover sports and they’ll do it well. Some like to specialise in certain markets, such as football, rugby and golf, whilst others like to specialise in more outlandish markets. Generally speaking, though, most bookies cover most sports, but not all will let you bet on novelty markets. Here are the best ones that do.
There’s no question that Paddy Power are the absolute rulers when it comes to novelty betting. It’s such an important part of their strategy that they’ve actually got in trouble for it in the past. Previous markets allowing you to bet on things such as whether Barack Obama would be assassinated, Father Dougal would become the next Pope or which animal would become extinct first as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have all become social media talking points. For Paddy Power, it’s often win-win. People talking about them, even for negative reasons, gets their name in the news and that will attract punters, which will earn them money.
A quick trip to the Paddy Power website will see a link to Novelty Bets, just below Netball and above a topic I’ve talked about elsewhere on this site, Politics. Clicking on that link won’t just give you one or two silly bets that you can place there and then, though. You’ll find it’s broken down again, offering a whole range of separate markets for you to consider. Music, Hollywood, TV Specials and even Pageants all get their own page, filled with any number of further bets that will doubtless interest certain sections of society. As an example, Jodie Whittaker’s first episode as the new Dr. Who hasn’t even aired yet, but Paddy Power are offering odds on who will be in the Tardis the next time the Doctor regenerates.
I always try hard to remain relatively impartial when I’m talking about the bookmakers that cover certain topics, but I have to say that you’d be mad to start anywhere else when it comes to betting on novelty events. Other bookmakers cover the same sort of ground, but most of them are simply following in Paddy’s footsteps. That said, they can be a little bit naughty at times. Father Dougal is a made up character, for example, so the chances of him becoming Pope are slim. Similarly, I’m not sure how anyone would collect their winnings should they strike it lucky with a bet on ‘When Will The World End?’ Steer clear of those sorts of ridiculous markets though, and you’ll be fine.
There’s something I really like about Ladbrokes’s coverage of novelty markets, something that really makes me laugh. It’s almost as if they think they’re too good to offer them, yet they can’t help themselves, especially as Ladbrokes has long been one of the most sensible bookies in the industry. Don’t forget, the company was original a booking agent for horses trained at Ladbrokes Hall and most of their original customers were members of the aristocracy.
Perhaps their 2016 merger with Coral, will help them to loosen up a little bit over the next few months and years. On the other hand, they might continue to imagine themselves to be ‘proper’ and ‘right’. Regardless, as things currently stand they cover all of the novelty markets that you’re likely to want to bet on, they just try to make out that they’re serious areas of betting that deserve equal weighting to the likes of cricket, darts and motor sports. That’s why you won’t find one ‘Novelty’ section in their A-Z of topics covered, instead you’ll need to have a think about what you’d like to bet on and search it out.
I can tell you some of those topics now, of course. If you want to have a bet on whether it will be a white Christmas, for example, you’ll want to head to their ‘Christmas Specials’. If the name of William and Kate’s child is something you feel confident that you can guess then you’d do well to head to their ‘Royal Specials’. There are also ‘TV Specials’ or if you think you’ll be able to predict who will win the Oscar for Best Actress then you’ll want to click on ‘Movies’. Ladbrokes are the cool and sophisticated bookmaker that isn’t above taking a wager on something a bit silly if it gets them customers.
BetVictor is an interesting cross between the two bookies I’ve already mentioned on this list. If you remember the ridiculous, childish and irritating adverts starring Paul Kaye that they ran for a while from 2012 onwards then you’ll know that they were happy to appeal the Mrs. Brown’s Boys crowd in days gone by. That approach to both advertising and betting has changed in recent times, however, and they’ve now restyled themselves as a bookmaker for more distinguished folk. Paul Kaye’s character is gone and he’s been replaced in the adverts with two chilled out looking blokes, sitting on a beach and talking about how other bookies ‘go big’ for your attention.
Why am I telling you about their adverts? Because it goes someway to explaining why they’ve taken more of a serious approach to their novelty betting than a jovial one. When you look at the list of topics they offer, you’ll see the more off-beat subjects lumped under the somewhat vague heading of ‘Entertainment’. Like a newsagents hiding their dirty magazines behind a blank piece of paper, you get the feeling that BetVictor are slightly ashamed of the novelty side of their betting market. Even so, they still cover all of the big subjects but just do it in a slightly more dignified way than they might have done back when Kaye was in their adverts.
Whether you want to bet on the winner of a TV show like I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, have a punt at the artist that will land the Christmas number one or opt for something slightly classier like the winner of BBC Sports Personality of the Year, this is where you’ll find the available bets. They might act slightly more highfalutin than some of the other names on this list, but they’re still happy enough to offer odds on such things as Big Brother and its celebrity equivalent. ‘Entertainment’ is not only a catch-all title for what they’re covering, but also what you’ll enjoy once you’ve placed your bets.
Betfair have absolutely rocketed to popularity over the last few years, being one of the youngest bookmakers on this list. The company was only founded in 2000 and back then it only offered Exchange betting. They didn’t launch their fixed-odds sportsbook until 2012, so it’s entirely fair to point out that they’ve been in the industry since about the time that novelty betting became popular. As such, they’ve perhaps got slightly deeper markets than the more classical bookies, knowing that their customers are as up-to-date as they are and don’t see these topics as ‘jokes’.
Betfair only offer odds on 33 different markets at the time of writing, so it tells you something that these sorts of novelty bets are one of them. They put them under the title of ‘Special Bets’, with separate areas again but politics and current affairs. Politics, as I’ve said, will be talked about in more depth elsewhere, but ‘Current Affairs’ is exactly what you’d think. They’re one of only a few bookies that I’ve seen offering odds on the Turner Prize winner, for example, as well as who will be the next head of the Bank of England. As I say, they know their customers want a bit more depth on these sorts of bets that they can get elsewhere.
That doesn’t mean that they don’t also offer exactly the same markets that you’ll find with other bookies. Whether it be Christmas number ones, X-Factor betting or a wager on the Royals that you’re hoping to place, Betfair have got you covered. It’s just that you’ll also find odds on topics that are slightly more ‘off the beaten track’, such as the winner of the WWE Royal Rumble or existence of aliens. You might think that something like Donald Trump would come under politics, but in actual fact they’ve decided he’s such an oddball that whether he’ll be impeached or not is a ‘Special’ bet.
Coral has always had a slightly rough and ready reputation, ever since For Coral launched his bookmaking pitch at racecourses around the country and he worked with Tom Bradbury-Pratt to cover speedway meetings at Harringay. They also opened a credit office in the West End, the location of which perhaps tells you everything you need to know about where they saw themselves and the crowd they wanted to attract. The entertainment industry is something they’ve always been au fait with, is the point I’m trying to make, and the fact that the company has been through many iterations over the years hasn’t changed that.
They may be partnered with Ladbrokes nowadays, but they’re very much the naughty cousin of the more straight-laced grown-up in this relationship. It’s interesting that they’ve put ‘Politics’ into its own section on the site, as though they accept that the other things they offer odds on are a little bit more silly with less grandiose outcomes. They put their main novelty bets under the title of ‘TV & Specials’, separating them into more categories when you click on that link. Movies, Royal Specials and TV Specials all get their own subject pages, as does the wonderfully vague topic of ‘Various Other Specials’.
They’ll give you odds on the likes of the winner of the British Journalism Awards, TIME’s Person of the Year and the next permanent James Bond. Again, the things covered by all of the bookies are all broadly similar, but the way that the go about covering them and the depths they go to with their coverage are the things that differentiate themselves from each other. Coral are definitely one of my favourites to bet with, largely because their odds are quite good and I like the couple of extra things I can bet on with them compared to some of the others around.
Betting on Novelty Markets
When most people think of placing a bet their mind naturally turns to the latest sporting event. That’s hardly surprising, considering the amount of money spent on the likes of football or tennis dwarves virtually any other market. Sport is immediate, it’s visceral. There’s no better thing when it comes to betting In-Play than a sporting event, given the sheer number of variations that present you with countless opportunities every single second of a match or tournament. Yet if you get lost down the rabbit hole of sports betting then you’re missing the opportunity to have a lot more fun with your wagers.
Novelty betting is a market that has grown in popularity with every passing year and that’s hardly surprising. If you’ve ever been to a wedding and had a bet on how long the speeches will last for, or sat in a bar and made a bet with a mate over who can down their pint the fastest, you’ve already experienced the fun of gambling on something that is, in the end, entirely inconsequential. There are plenty of bettors who are able to take the emotion out of what they’re betting on. They have no relationship with any of the competitors involved in the event and care about nothing other than money. For the rest of us, though, the temptation to bet on our team or their rivals is too much to resist.
If you’re watching a tedious match versus West Brom and Stoke then you might stick a tenner on just so you can make it a little bit more exciting. Equally, you might try to liven up a golf tournament by placing an ante-post bet on the winner. More often than not, though, our sports bets have an emotional side to them and we care about the outcome for more reasons than simply our financial benefit. With the best will in the world, the same can’t be said for a bet on the name of the Royal baby or the winner of the Great British Bake Off. This is an opportunity to have a flutter on something that we’d like to win but won’t lock ourselves in a darkened room if it doesn’t. Novelty bets are, as the name suggests, a bit of fun with some money riding on them.
How to Bet on Novelty Markets
How the various bookies cover the different markets might change from place to place, but the topics you’re likely to bet on when it comes to ‘Novelty Bets’ are much of a muchness. Here are the main things you’re likely to want to bet on, with a bit of information on the sort of things you’ll want to consider when you do.
There’s nothing bookmakers love more than when something on the television grips the imagination of the nation. The amount of money the betting industry took when people were trying to figure out who shot JR in Dallas was probably enough to rival the amount wagered on the FA Cup Final that year. Because of the proliferation of services, such as Netflix and Amazon Video, those sort of big TV moments don’t occur anywhere near as much anymore as they did in the past. That’s why you’ll find some of the most popular topics to bet on in this area are the likes of the X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing.
If you’re going to bet on those sort of talent shows, it’s worth considering who has won them in the past. Strictly is watched by more women than men, for example, so have they tended to lean towards good-looking men in years gone by? I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here is an entertainment show, so the person who makes the audience at home laugh the most is the winner more often than not.
If you’re thinking about what to bet on in these sorts of markets then social media is definitely your friend. Try to keep an eye on which people or bands are trending regularly whilst the shows are on, seeing if you can spot the direction the general public is going in. Also, don’t forget the media! Plenty of the general public are still happy enough to be influenced by tabloids like the Mirror and the Daily Mail, so see if their coverage is more favourable to some contestants over others. You’re unlikely to find the same sort of in-depth research as with football or tennis, but there’ll still be plenty of pointers out there if you’re willing to keep an eye out for them.
Movie betting tends to be more ante-post in form than TV betting. You’ll want to play the long game with topics such as ‘Who Will Be The Next James Bond?’, for example. That’s the sort of thing that’s obviously really difficult to predict, but you can again get some sort of hint from things in the newspapers and on social media. There’s been a huge push in recent times for their to be a black Bond, so Idris Elba’s name shouldn’t be quickly dismissed. That’s quite a specific example, but you can see what I’m hinting at.
As for the likes of the Oscars, the Academy often make extremely questionable decisions. Was The Revenant Leonardo DiCaprio’s best work in his entire career? Probably not, but he’d been nominated so many times without winning that the Academy possibly just decided it was his turn. If there’s been a high-profile set of films out such as Lord of the Rings, the Academy are more likely to award the last film than either or the other two just because. They’re the sort of things you’ll need to think about when it comes to placing your bets.
I am consistently blown away by just how popular the Royal Family is when it comes to the betting market. From massive topics such as whether or not Prince Charles will abdicate the throne and allow William to be King down to ludicrous ephemera like what colour the Queen’s hat will be at a public event, there’s virtually no part of their lives that you can’t have a wager on. I wouldn’t be quick to call myself a royalist, but that’s quietly irrelevant when it comes to trying to make yourself some money from the crazy lives they lead!
Despite his declaration that there are ‘too many people in the world’, Prince William and Kate Middleton don’t seem to be in a rush to stop having children any time soon. Would you like to have a bet on what they’re going to call their next one? How about what weight it will be? They’re sort of things that you can have intelligent guesses about, looking at their previous kids to get some idea of the precedent that’s been set. The day that it’s born is also something you might be able to work out, looking at whether or not the previous children have been born on their expected dates or whether they’ve been late. As always, make sure you do your research with the information that’s in the public domain.
If people love to have a flutter on the Royals then that’s as nothing compared to when it comes to things happening at Christmas. John Lewis have made a name for themselves over recent years when you look at the topic of their Christmas adverts, so that’s the sort of thing that bookies have offered odds on in the past. There are more obvious topics like whether or not it will be a white Christmas, though even that’s been broadened by some bookmakers to offer you odds on specific cities. Make sure you look at the historical data on that front, with plenty of data available to help you shift the odds in your favour.
Unquestionably, one of the biggest markets around the Christmas period is what will be number one on Christmas Day. Just because these are novelty bets doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take them just as seriously as your usual ones. Again, looking at trends on social media and press coverage will help you to narrow down the likelihood of one thing hitting the top of the charts over another. The winner of the X-Factor used to be able to virtually guarantee themselves a Christmas number one, but that has changed in recent years and now it’s often about campaigns as much as anything else. Make sure you have a look out for a push to get one song to the top over another!
I’ve written an entire article elsewhere on the site about weird bets, so I won’t labour the point here. This is the sort of thing I’ve already mentioned, such as whether alien life exists or when the world will end. I’d caution against taking obviously ludicrous bets that you’ll never be able to cash in on even if you do win, but otherwise there’s nothing wrong with taking the bookmakers on at their own game and seeing if you can win yourself some decent money as a result.
Rules to Be Aware Of
When it comes to the likes of football, cricket and horse racing, the terms and conditions attached to a bet are often long and involved. That isn’t often the case with novelty bets, though there’s still something worth keeping an eye out for when you’re placing your bet.
Limits on Stakes
One of the chief things bookies will do with novelty bets is limit the amount of money you’re allowed to stake or the amount you’re able to win. This is, as I’ll explain in a moment, mainly to cover their own backs. If you’ve got a free bet token then it’s always worth finding out if there are any markets that they’re not valid on, too. That’s not usually the case, but again you might find that the amount you can win is limited.
Risk to the Bookies
Bookies face something of a risk by allowing members of the public to bet on something there the outcome will be known to a set number of people. The Queen and her staff, for example, will know what colour hat she’s going to be wearing well ahead of time. Admittedly, the Royal Family are unlikely to need to win a load of money from the bookmakers of the country they rule over, but it’s not out of the question for one of their footmen or chamber maids to tell a friend of a friend that Elizabeth will be sporting a nice lime green number at the Easter Service.
William and Kate both went to University and so still have friends from those days. Again, most of them are unlikely to be on the breadline, but bookies have to acknowledge that them telling a pal what they’re thinking of naming their child is a risk they’ll have to take. Similarly, TV shows, such as the Great British Bake Off are pre-recorded, with the final being held as a big celebration in the grounds of a country house with friends and family in attendance. It’s not beyond the realms of the possible that one of them might fancy sticking a bet on the winner. In fact, a friend of mine was actually in the crowd for the crowning of the 2017 winner, so I’m furious she stuck to the confidentiality agreement she signed and didn’t help me out by revealing who to bet on!
There’s one particularly high-profile example that I’ll draw your attention to here, back from 2011 when the X-Factor was still one of the most watched TV shows in the country. It emerged that three people working at Virgin Media had placed £16,000 worth of bets on who would progress to the next round by using their access to voting patterns to see who would progress to the next round. In that instance, they were betting via the Exchange on Betfair, so it was other bettors that were screwed over rather than bookies. Even so, it’s an example of the risk that bookmakers take with these sorts of markets.
They limit those risks by limiting the amount of money you can bet, as mentioned before. They’ll also suspend the accounts of customers that seem to exhibiting strange betting patterns, or who seem to be able to predict the correct results time and again on a betting subject that they could feasibly have prior knowledge of the result of. None of this matters to you if you’re an honest bettor, of course, but it’s an interesting thing that’s worth bearing in mind when you’re looking at the odds on something shortening unexpectedly!