Saturday, April 17, 2010

Back to Intrade

I've won about $400 on Intrade since the start of this year, most of it through small bets on American Idol eliminations. The greatest thing of all about this field is that it lacks any experts. The stock market, for example, is full of guys who are really, really knowledgeable about stocks. Same with any kind of sports betting. Even though I've followed the NFL on and off for years now, I'd be scared to bet on it because there are lots of guys out there who've been obsessed with football all their lives.

Men, let alone geeky ones, rarely watch American Idol, so no one who's betting on it on Intrade could be fairly called an expert. Having only watched a few shows, I already feel completely up to speed.

This morning, while looking through the news, I saw an article that linked to a TMZ story about Crystal Bowersox, the Idol frontrunner. Apparently she's had a major hissy fit, threatened to quit the show, and had to be talked into staying by Ryan Seacrest himself.

"In front of several people, Crystal told Ryan she couldn't handle the competition.... she said she hated the attention and said to Seacrest, "What's the point?"

Couldn't handle the what!? She's never been in the bottom 3 and Cowell embarrasses himself weekly by gushing to everyone about how great she is.

And while there are millions of naturally shy people in this world, I've seen Crystal on TV way more than enough to be sure that she's not one of them. I believe that in her case "hating attention" is a swipple pose, related to the brooding, "misunderstood" pose familiar to spoiled middle class children everywhere. Oh, what she wouldn't give to be finally misunderstood some day.
Just two of the problems with this:

1) Swipples don't watch American Idol.
2) What exactly is there to misunderstand about Crystal? As I've written before, she sings pop songs like a fat, drunken middle-aged man. It's really not complicated.

When I shared that last point with a co-worker of mine who watches American Idol, she started defending Crystal by comparing her to Janis Joplin. I don't know if it was through drugs or because of some inborn chemical imbalance, but Janis Joplin really was crazy. Luckily for Crystal, she's just posing.

While it's icky and immoral to find unhinged people fascinating, sadly, on occasion, everybody does anyway. In that sense Janis Joplin was far more fascinating than this Crystal girl will ever be.

Back to business: I've yet to regret shorting Crystal's win-it-all Intrade contract. This TMZ story should further strengthen her poseur image in the minds of the downscale, swipple-hating Idol audience.


One weird thing I've noticed about Intrade is that events whose chances of occuring cannot be more than 1% sometimes trade as if their likelihood was 10% or 20% instead. I've seen this phenomenon again and again and I've made most of my Intrade winnings by capitalizing on it.

For example, just last week I shorted a contract predicting the passage of an immigration bill before the end of this year. The market was saying that it had a 20% chance of being signed into law, which was clearly insane. If a similar bill failed in 2007, when the unemployment rate was still low, the chances of this one passing now must be very close to zero. I expect to win about $120 on this bet alone.

Another such case is the contract predicting a bombing campaign against Iran before July 1st of next year. An event like that would be sure to lead to an oil embargo, which in the current economic climate is clearly unacceptable to the kinds of people who usually make these kinds of decisions. There is a fear out there that, largely due to the debt situation, this economic crisis could turn into something that's never been seen before, something worse than the Great Depression. An oil embargo could easily be the final push that plunges the world into an economic abyss. This is why a war with Iran is extremely unlikely in the near future.

But for some reason there are people on Intrade who're giving this war a 20% chance of occurring before next July. Needless to say, I've shorted that contract too.

1 comment:

  1. You're right.

    Iran will never be bombed by the US.