Political Bets Akin to Timing the Market

by | Nov 9, 2020 | *Financial Awakenings, In The News, Investment, Money Psychology, Weekly Column

As an admitted political junkie, I am among the “fans” for whom a US Presidential election is similar to football’s Superbowl or soccer’s World Cup.

This year, I found a way to combine my interest in politics and my competitive, entrepreneurial risk-taking need to occasionally take a bet with financial consequences. I discovered a political betting site, Predictit.org, and opened an account last year.

Without a doubt, betting with real money added an extra layer of attention to all sorts of political probabilities that I might not have normally been attuned to. You may wonder how much money I risked. Thousands? Hundreds? The site’s minimum account is $10. Being the conservative risk-taker that I am, that’s all I was willing to bet.

Of course, a lot of the attention goes to the chances of the candidates for president. With Trump as an incumbent, the betting for the GOP primary winner was rather dull.

The Democratic primary was quite different, with over 20 candidates vying to be the nominee. I took early bets on Joe Biden when he announced his candidacy, figuring he was pretty much a shoo-in for the nomination. After he placed fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, I sold out my position and took my losses. My statistical reasoning was pretty sound, as no primary candidate has ever done that poorly in those first two primaries and gone on to win the nomination. In hindsight, that was obviously a big mistake.

In addition to betting on the obvious races, the site also allows enthusiasts to bet on things like, “Will Trump self-pardon in his first term?”($0.28 says yes) or “Will there be more than nine SCOTUS justices in 2021?” ($0.27 says yes).

I saw my $10 shrink to around $7.70 in early 2020 after my Biden miscalculation. Slowly I had built it back to $9.78 the day before the election. My biggest win came on my call of the vote for SCOTUS justice Amy Coney Barret. I placed my pennies on her receiving support from all but one GOP senator, when the prevailing thought was that two would vote against her. That bet cost me $0.34. I was pretty convinced Senator Murkowski of Alaska would flip, and she did. This netted me a cool $0.94.

My account swung widely in the days after the election. I had bet that the election would be called on Saturday or Sunday. I panicked Friday morning and covered my bet at $0.12. That was an unfortunate decision, as ultimately the race was called Saturday morning. My fear on Friday kept me from gaining an easy $0.80 more. Still, as of this writing on Saturday, my account stands at $9.82. My biggest angst is whether to cover my bet that the Senate would flip to the Democrats. I am down $0.06 so far, but I could lose another $0.24 if Georgia elects just one GOP senator in January. Prudence says I should get out while the getting is good.

The trepidation, anguish, and fear my family watched me experience over whether I should “hold ’em or fold ’em” on a number of my bets left them convinced I had much more than $10 on the line. Maybe two years from now I’ll put on my big boy pants and up my wager to $50.

The $10 I had at stake gave me far more entertainment over the last year than any $10 I’ve spent in a long time. With all the angst I experienced over my various bets, my political wagering has also been a great reminder of why I don’t time the stock market where there is real money on the line.

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