How have athletes performed against the odds at the 2012 Olympics Games so far?
Amid all the back-and-forth social media commentary regarding the bizarre but beautiful opening ceremony and the personal stories of Olympic heroes, let’s take a step back and examine how the world’s finest amateur and pro athletes have fared against the odds so far during the London Summer Games 2012.
First of all, let’s establish what we mean by the generic term “odds.” I’ll use several sources for money lines and odds from before the games to compare those numbers to the actual results, and point out some opportunities for big wins along the way.
Since the Olympics are still going on as of this writing, this material could help you place lucrative bets for what sports’ medal ceremonies have yet to take place. Plus, future Olympics bettors can use this information to make smarter wagers on the 2014 Winter Games in Russia and the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil. Olympics betting is legal in most parts of the world, and because bookmakers don’t know much about most Olympics competitions (canoe slalom, dressage, water polo, etc.) the Games can provide some great opportunities for research-based smart sports wagering.
How Major Sport Athletes Have Fared vs. the Oddsmakers
Summer Games only pop up once every four years, and most of the contests aren’t the kind of events that sports book operators research except when the Olympics roll around. But major sports (like basketball, tennis, and cycling) are often the easiest for handicappers to write lines for. Let’s look at some examples of each and how the bookies performed compared to the real results.
The US men’s basketball team was heavily favored by sportsbooks, and for good reason. The team is stacked with professional talent. And true to the book’s predictions, the US team seems poised to win gold, standing at 5-0 headed into the semifinals.
No surprise that the Tunisian team and the Lituanian squad have had a tough go of it—sportsbooks offered really long odds for these squads to win any sort of medal, and so far, a bet on either of these teams looks downright silly.
On the men’s side, no sportsbook we saw had Andy Murray as the odds-on favorite to win the top prize. That honor went to Roger Federer, and the smart money was on the Swiss superstar. But Murray’s emotional victory over Federer marked not only a major point of pride for all of Great Britain, it meant big money for punters who laid bets on Murray to win it all. Sometimes, wagering against the favorite can win you big bucks, as some books offered punters 5 to 1 odds against Murray winning the gold.
As for the women’s game, top-seeded Serena Williams made quick work of all of her competition, barely losing more than a dozen points on her march to the gold. No surprise there. Another example of how books can usually handicap familiar sports fairly well.
Outside of the USA, bets on cycling are a big deal. Even though American cyclists are beginning to dominate the world cycling stage, US gamblers just haven’t gotten much into the habit of laying down a fiver on their favorite rider to win.
The individual men’s road cycling event produced at least one major shock—two medals for Britain, a gold for Bradley Wiggins (not the favorite at most sportsbooks to win the top prize) and a silver for Christopher Froome, another longshot. Had a sports bettor spent a little time researching this particular event, he could have cleaned up against the books, who seemed to accept the world’s general opinion of the outcome of this common event, rather than research the up-and-coming riders.
Now for a look at the major upsets—events that produced winners that paid off big for bettors who were willing to take a chance on a longshot. Learning where the books are most vulnerable can teach you how to be the next go-round, and how to lay smart money as well as longshot cash to get optimal results.
2012 Olympic Odds Upsets
A slightly wet track, and a bit of controversy, preceded Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi and his mega-surprise upset in the men’s 1,500 meter final race. Not one book had him anywhere near the top of the heap, and one popular sports betting kiosk was offering bettors odds as low as 50 to 1 against him even taking a medal. Dropping a ten spot on Makhloufi would have been an easy way to earn a big payday with very little investment required. Regardless of whether the damp state of the track or the Algerian’s sheer will to win were the reason for the upset, some smart bettors made a big payday out of his upset.
In the women’s long-jump event, much to-do was made of results that seemed straight out of the Twilight Zone. Britain’s Shara Proctor, a longshot on whom you could have earned 40 to 1 odds was leader of the qualifiers for that event with a surprising first-round result of 6.83 meters. In stark contrast, favorite (and Beijing gold medalist Maurren Higa Maggi of Brazil) couldn’t even make it to the final round, finishing 15th overall with a best result of 6.37 meters, far short of her average. Women’s track events are perfect sports for bettors willing to do a little legwork and research, as there is plenty of parity, and a sense that any woman can win on any given day.
The 2012 Olympics in London have had their fair share of surprises, though nothing too out of the ordinary. Bookmakers seem to have done a fair job of predicting top finishers, though there have been some major lapses in judgment leading to big paydays for bettors smart (or lucky) enough to predict a winner that no one saw coming. With still more events to come, now is the best time to get in your oddball bets for the 2012 Summer Games.