UK bookmaker Betway has seen enough of this year’s English Premier League Season, and we’re only roughly a third of the way through. On Saturday, after Liverpool maintained its 100 percent record by beating Crystal Palace 2-1, the bookmaker announced it would pay out bettors who backed the Reds to win the title at 9/4 before the season started.
Liverpool is currently eight points clear at the top of the table, with 12 wins and one draw. The most generous odds you can now get on the European champions winning the domestic title for the first time in 18 years is 2/5.
“We know there is risk involved, but this Liverpool team is doing all the right things and winning games in the style of champions,” said Betway’s Alan Alger in a statement. “We believe they have one hand on the trophy already, so our punters [bettors] who backed Klopp’s side can collect.”
When Publicity Stunts Go Wrong
The practice of bookmakers paying out early on notable events is a neat little PR stunt because is almost certain to attract media coverage for the price of a press release. Notice we took the bait.
Meanwhile, pre-season “outright” bets are no longer a huge market, especially in the UK, where in-play betting is king and bettors prefer to react to games and the season as they develop in real time.
Liverpool is highly likely to win the EPL this year, and if they don’t, Betway chalks off the loss as marketing spend.
But the practice has been known to go badly wrong.
Paddy Power lost around $6.5 million from the unexpected election of Donald Trump in 2016. Underdog victories usually favor the bookmaker, but in the case of Trump, bookies simply refused to believe he would win right up until election, and they failed to hedge for the eventuality.
But the loss was exacerbated by a Paddy Power publicity stunt a month before the election to pay out over a million dollars to those who had backed Hillary Clinton.
Liverpool ‘Invincible’ Odds
If the bookies are right about Liverpool, then the battle for second place becomes the most interesting long-view betting proposition by default.
Manchester City is the absolute odds-on favorite to receive that accolade. But let’s not forget Pep Guardiola’s team is still 9/4 to catch Liverpool, and that it turned around a similar deficit to the same team to win the EPL last season.
Meanwhile, City has a resurgent Chelsea and Leicester City breathing downs its neck. Leicester is not averse to inflicting the occasional upset on its wealthier competitors, which reminds us of another enormous mistake by the UK betting industry in 2016.
But if the top spot really is a foregone conclusion, then the question must be: can Liverpool go unbeaten for a whole season?
The only team to have done this in the modern era is the Arsenal “Invincibles” of the 2003-04 season.
There may be a lot of the season to go, but Bet365 gives the Reds a decent shot. From 100/1 at the start, Liverpool are now 13/2 to become the new Invincibles, representing an implied probability of 13.3 percent.
As the bookies will be the first to tell you, many, many stranger things have happened.