Gambling: How to make a mint in 2007

Have festive financial excesses left you a little short? Well fear not, there's plenty of potential to boost your coffers with a well-placed flutter this year. Stan Hey presents the pick of the punts
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The Independent Online

By now, you may have received your first post-Christmas credit card statement revealing the depravity of your spending over the past fortnight. You may already be logged on to eBay, trading off those unwanted sweaters, garishly coloured socks, the never-to-be-read novels or the left-over Katherine Jenkins CD. Then a winter fuel bill arrives showing that, despite your green intentions, you have consumed tanks of oil to try to keep warm.

So last night's resolutions would have been fiscal as well as carnal, and "cutting down" would have been a very common theme. But there will also be optimism in the evaluation mix about making more money. And if you are like 60 per cent of Brits, you'll consider betting as a sideline to a regular income.

Some fantasists will dream of beating the 14 million-to-1 odds of landing a lottery jackpot, or will play safe by investing in National Savings in the hope that Ernie will bring you a payout. Others will play online games or the FOTBs (fixed-odds betting terminals, once more popularly, and accurately, known as one-armed bandits).

But the majority will go for old-fashioned betting on horses, dogs and sporting humans in the hope of seeing a wad of "readies" in their hands. And Britain's growing army of bookmakers will be only too pleased to accommodate you.

What follows is a snapshot of the betting opportunities for the year ahead, although only the foolish will chase every one.

If you think you might be one of these, contact GamCare on 0845 6000 133 (or www.gamcare.org.uk). If not, good luck, and try to bet only with money that you can afford to lose.

CRICKET & RUGBY

The betting industry will be focusing on two events in 2007, the ICC Cricket World Cup from mid-March to the end of April and the Rugby World Cup, running from early September to late October.

England, to say the least, are not expected to do well in either competition - our teams are 10-1 to win the cricket trophy, and 25-1 to retain the rugby World Cup they won four years ago. Serious punters will put their money on Australia at 7-4 to take their third consecutive world one-day cricket title and New Zealand's All Blacks, at 8-15, to bring their dominance of southern hemisphere rugby to the north. Small each-way bets on Ireland (8-1) in the rugby, and hosts West Indies (6-1) in the cricket, should complete the portfolio.

FLAT RACING

The Flat season is in essence about converting two-year-old babies into mature, three-year-old adults - a difficult task when horses are not really fully grown until five or six. So at this stage, the Flat is, to borrow from Donald Rumsfeld, about "a few known knowns, and some as yet unknown knowns". Even so, it would be a big disappointment if Jim Bolger's aces - Teofilo and Finsceal Beo - did not make an impact in the classics. The former is 9-4 ante-post favourite for the 2,000 Guineas in May, and 7-2 for the Derby in June. The 7-1 offer for a Guineas/Derby double looks sporting. Finsceal Beo is 4-1 joint favourite for the 1,000 Guineas and 10-1 for the Oaks.

AMERICAN FOOTBALL

Super Bowl XLI (that's 41 to non-Romans) on Sunday 4 February is a big betting occasion in the US because there are so many markets and "spreads". The weekend features the last games of the regular season, leaving six teams from each Conference ("AFC" = American, "NFC" = National) in the play-offs.

San Diego are favourites (9-4), with Chicago next best at 4-1. San Diego boasts the NFL's "MVP" (that's the NFL's Most Valuable Player) in LaDainian Tomlinson, who set a touchdown-scoring record this season. Chicago has a tough "defense". But two teams with late momentum are the Denver Broncos (33-1) and Philadelphia (14-1).

The romantic victory would be for the New Orleans Saints (8-1) who have revived their Hurricane Katrina-hit city with their exploits, especially those of the one Bush whom New Orleans folk like, "rookie" running-back Reggie. The anti-romantics will go with Baltimore (5-1), a hulking, muscular team whose "defense" earns almost as many points as its "offense". Baltimore it is then.

GOLF

The Majors season begins in April with the US Masters, and the bait is being dangled for bets on Tiger Woods, right, to win a grand slam at 6-1. He is 13-8 to win at Augusta, and 2-1 to win the Open, so the price seems right. Woods ended last season in dominant form. He will probably win the Masters and the US Open but the third leg, at Carnoustie, will bring back memories of 1999 when gales blew him away, allowing Paul Lawrie of Scotland to win on home soil - the last Brit to do so. Sorry, Tiger, but after a successful end to last season, Paul Casey (66-1) may be the one for an overdue home win.

FOOTBALL

There is no World Cup or European Championships this year, so betting turnover should be down, especially if punters tire of the "flash-car and cash bung" entity that football seems to have become. Chelsea (evens) or Manchester United (8-11) will win the Premiership, while the romance of the FA Cup is long dead - Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United have dominated since the turn of the century. As Arsenal play at Liverpool on Saturday, it might make sense to back United (4-1) or Chelsea (2-1). However, as both will be caught up in the latter stages of the Champions' League, Liverpool (7-1), who are drawn against Barcelona, might have more reason to focus on this domestic bauble and win. As far as "The Sack Race" is concerned, William Hill is nobly offering 5-1 that no more managerial dismissals will occur this season. The more sceptical punter will hunt for the next victim, from Manchester City's Stuart Pearce (3-1) to Arsenal's Arsène Wenger (100-1).

MOTOR RACING

Will it be Hamlet without the prince now that Michael Schumacher has retired? Has the reigning champion Fernando Alonso blundered by moving from all-conquering Renault to underperforming McLaren? These will be the dominant themes of the March-October travelling circus but British fans will be watching for Jenson Button (a 12-1 chance for the championship) and new boy Lewis Hamilton, right, at McLaren (25-1). The sensible bet is for Kimi Raikkonen, who is now at Ferrari (11-8).

JUMP RACING

Cheltenham is still one of the biggest events in the betting shops of the nation, and huge amounts are traded - most often by the Irish who have saved up all year for the craic and for a crack at the bookies. They won three of the four big races last year: the Champion Hurdle (Brave Inca); the Champion Chase (Newmill); and the Gold Cup (War of Attrition). But English-trained horses are the ante-post favourites for these three races - Detroit City (9-4), Voy Por Ustedes (5-2) and Kauto Star (6-4). The Irish will not go down without a fight, and the likes of Iktitaf (6-1), Nickname (16-1) and In Compliance (6-1) are new challengers for these titles. Black Jack Ketchum (8-11), trained by an Irishman in England, looks unbeatable in the Stayers' Hurdle. One pronounced trend was noticeable last year - the large number (eight) of French-bred winners, or "baguettes", running for England and Ireland. As for the Grand National in April, the Irish are starting to own it - Bobbyjo, Papillon, Monty's Pass, Hedgehunter and Numbersixvalverde have won for the Emerald Isle in the past eight years. Look for a staying chaser sent back to hurdling to protect the handicap rating over fences. Dun Doire (16-1) could be a "sleeper".

TENNIS

The curly haired Scot Andy Murray, right, will certainly win a big tennis tournament within the next three years - the US Open is probably his best chance - but this season will be about Roger Federer again and the elusive Grand Slam. William Hill offers 7-1 on him winning it, and it could be on. The biggest test for the Swiss star will be on clay for the French Open where Rafael Nadal has reigned for two years. But Federer pushed him to five sets last year and will be determined to fill the one gap in his CV. As for the rest, he is already just 1-2 to win Wimbledon for the fifth time in a row.

POLITICS

The one certainty of 2007 is that Tony Blair will leave office sometime before his party's conference in October. The Prime Minister may even leave in handcuffs if the "Loans for Lordships" inquiry escalates - he is 50-1 to be arrested this year. Assuming Mr Blair's innocence, May is 4-7 favourite for the date of his Downing Street departure, rising to 25-1 for July. There is also a market for where he will spend his next holiday - with U2's Bono or Sir Cliff Richard 2-1; Sir Mick Jagger 6-1; or 10-1 with the Beckhams. As far as his successor goes, Gordon Brown, right, is still favourite at 1-9, with John Reid the next best at 5-1. There has been recent support for Hilary Benn, far right, (7-2) as the next Deputy Leader, after John Prescott takes up the chair at Countdown (no odds!) The next General Election is expected to be in 2009 - at 8-11.

ROYALTY & SHOWBUSINESS

The bookies cover all the celebrity or non-entity markets these days - a new Celebrity Big Brother is imminent - so it follows that they should also take an interestin developments in the Royal Family. Primary interest is in the love life of Prince William, who they think will get engaged to Kate Middleton in 2007 - odds have recently been slashed from 5-1 to 2-1 and cynics might say that a wedding would be a happy counterpoint to the 10th anniversary mourning of Diana in August. Prince Harry is a more realistic 25-1 to get engaged but the 100-1 odds given for Uncle Andrew marrying a glamour model seem quite plausible.

Bookies once offered odds on "Who shot J.R.?" in 1980s soap operaDallas. Now you can get odds about J.K. - Rowling that is, who has hinted that Harry Potter will be killed in the final book. The favourite for the deed is Lord Voldemort at 4-5, with Draco Malfoy at 6-1 and, my prime suspect, Hagrid at 25-1.

All odds supplied by William Hill, courtesy of Graham Sharpe.

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