Calling all X Factor fans. At Let’s Compare Bets we have renamed Simon’s Cowell’s epic talent show the betting factor. It’s difficult not to like the show, trials, tribulations, talented signers (Matt Cardle), performers (Katie Waissel) and chancers (Wagner). With such interest, hype and headlines produced by the X Factor’s marketing machine the show is popular with punters. This post will look at some X Factor contestants and relate them to a betting technique using Betfair. But first, what’s this got to do with ironing clothes?

The terms drifters and steamers have be made popular in the horse racing community. A drifter is a horse who odds go from being short (in that it is are likely to win) to long (not as likely to win). Steamers, apologies for the reference to Ironing, are horses who’s odds go from long to short suggesting that their chances of winning a bigger.

X Factor contestants also steam and drift. A post on the forum at Online Betting written by Liverpool1985 got us thinking about this. The X Factor contestansts that will be used to illustrate this point are Matt Cardle, One Direction, and Cher Lloyd. The forum thread was at OLBG Betting Forum Index -> TV & Specials Betting. To see what X Factor betting fans are chatting about visit the OLBG forum. To post you’ll need to sign up first.

X Factor contestant steamers

Matt Cardle’s odds went from around 14/1 to 3/1.

Matt Cardle is arguably the most talented signer in the show and the odds reflect that. He has gone from strength to strength since he sang Amy Winhouse’s “I’m No Good” at his audition in London.

One Direction‘s Odds have gone from roughly 11/2 to 3/1.

Apart from doing well with the girls (which as generate lots of headlines), One Direction have really produced some performances that a teenage audience will love.

Cher Lloyd has gone from 11/1 to 8/1.

At 17 years old this is quite impressive. Cher has a mixture of signing talent and produces pop star like performances. Since her initial and aggressively performed audition Cher has shown some diversity. The Audience has been invited to see the ‘real Cher’ after producers took away some of her trademark attitude towards performing, laying bear her vocal talent.

Wagner’s odds have gone from 50/1 to around 25/1.

Wagner is really a novelty act, but the public like him. Many have jumped on the vote for Wagner band wagon as a protest against Simon Cowell’s dominance over the Music charts. Wagner (and Katie Waissel) has been the center of recent controversy surrounded the elimination of other vastly more talented contestants. However, this has seen the show’s ratings going through the roof.

How to profit from a steaming X Factor contestant.

The idea is simple in theory and in practice. A back bet is placed on the contestant early on in the competition when their odds are long. A corresponding lay bet (using Betfair) is placed towards the end of the show after the odds have shortened. That’s it, back high and lay low to get a profit no matter who wins. The larger the difference between back odds and lay odds the bigger the profit.

Why is the X Factor good for betting?

Two reasons

The auditions

The auditions form an integral part to the talent search and go on for months. After ‘bootcamp’ just 32 acts remain from the tens of thousands who applied originally. From the initial auditions, to bootcamp and the live TV show, it is a great chance to assess who is likely to be left standing towards the end. In the final, three acts will fight it out to win the contest.

It is a TV show.

The X Factor creators are hungry for ratings. Without an exciting and close run competition towards the end of the show the ratings would decline. They don’t want one contestant becoming a dead cert and the others falling by the way side. All the recent controversy surrounding voting out talented young wannabee pop starts for people who have been kept in for a laugh, proves that it’s not all down to talent.

All the judges help to promote and get the best publicity for their contestants though out the live TV show. This has the effect of bringing the out lying favourite contestant’s odds more into line. In this case they are all chasing Matt Cardle as he is currently the favourite. As Matt Cardle’s odds shortened so did the other contestants odds.

What’s the betting factor?

It’s made up. However, the X Factor does lend it’s self very well betting using traditional bookmakers and the Betfair betting exchange.

Step one

Watch the auditions and short list which pop star idols are likely to do well. Follow their progress and add more if necessary. Delete contestants from the list as required.

Decide who the favourite is likely to be. Choose another 3 to 4 who are likely to challenge the favourite. Check the internet for the earliest priced odds for the selections. Compare the odds of all selections to the odds for the favourite to see if they offer value. Place back odds on all the selection at the earliest opportunity. If the contestant gets the boot all bets are off, so it pays to make sure the selections are solid.

  1. look out for signing talent
  2. composure, do they look like a dear caught in head lights all the time.
  3. how comfortable are they. Do they act like a pop star already.
  4. how long has it been since that type of act won before.
  5. choose a favourite in each group. The judges will have a favourite in each of their groups who they will really help.

Follow the TV Show and watch the odds reduce with each performance. All there is left to do is decide when to take a profit. A lay bet on the same contestant for the correct amount must be placed to lock in a profit. The liability (a Betfair term) for the lay bet should equal the potential loss on the back bet.

Also watch out for the pimping of contestants. Some contestants get more airtime, or a more favorable edit, better lighting, better song choices, better clothes, etc. Controversially some contestants could be “plants”. If they seem really experienced they might actually have had previous record deals and released albums.

The timing of when to place a lay bet should be based on how well the contestants perform during the live TV show. After a particularly good performance the odds may shorten allowing a lay bet to be placed at shorted odds.


Bookmakers’ normally price odds on sports, not talent contests. Odds can be wild. The profits from making a simple back and lay bets can be very satisfying. These techniques can be repeated for other TV programs and sports. Get links for further reading below.

To get more info about Betfair this is a good post, Betfair explained.

These types of betting methods have been covered in more detail in the Let’s Compare Bet’s mini series on how to be your own bookmaker.

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