And yet, just a few months later, punters were again blindsided when they bet that the orange menace, Donald Trump, would get his toupé handed to him in 2016’s US election.
The good news is that the punters may have upped their game. If you’d followed the odds at the betting shops in January, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s humiliating loss over her Brexit exodus plan would have presented exactly zero surprise.
Before the vote, Sporting Index, the largest sports betting website on the globe, said: “We think that a total of 434 MPs will say no to May’s deal, which would be a heavy blow to the government.”
In the end, they were a lick of varnish away from the eventual toll — and considerably more accurate than a legion of Oxford-educated analysts. In all, 432 MPs voted against May’s plan, with just 202 in favour.
So, if we accept that the betting shops may have got their soothsaying mojo back, what can they tell us about what is likely to happen in 2019?
Well, to continue in the Brexit vein, both Betfair and Ladrokes are telling us it’s now unlikely that the UK will leave the European Union by its 29 March deadline.
Also, odds are 2/5, at the time of going to print, that May will get the heave-ho this year as prime minister, and be replaced by Michael Gove as the head of the Conservative Party. Labour is tipped to win the next election though, which puts the sleazy Jeremy Corbyn in line for 10 Downing Street.
Betfair also has the odds of a new Brexit referendum at 42%. If that happens, it would be something of an unexpected reckoning for rabid, kneejerk populism which, until now, has had a fabulous few years.
No surprise that one of the proponents of Brexit was Trump, who proclaimed the original vote in 2016 “fantastic”.
As the New York Times put it: “Trump and the Brexiteers have ridden a nationalist tide in their countries as well, using a potent anti-immigration message to appeal to mostly white voters who yearn for a more homogeneous society that no longer exists.”