As November 4 draws closer, I've started to become a poll geek. While my favorite time-wasters used to include Facebook, YouTube, and eBay, I now blow at least a few minutes a day checking out the latest surveys on Yahoo and CNN. I've found myself obsessing over who Indiana is going to vote for, what Missouri is going to do, and whether or not West Virginia is will buck its previous trends. It's become like a television show in which the characters have regional accents, sport bizarre shapes, and have a freakish cousin who lives in the attic and is named "Alaska."
Along the way, one of my favorite sites has become Intrade. Basically a prediction market, it offers users the option of betting real money on the likelihood that certain events will come to pass. As the events become more likely, the price of a bid goes up, while the price goes down if they are less likely.
Right now, for example, the price of a bet that North Dakota will vote for Obama is $35, which means that the market believes that there's a 35% chance that Obama will win the state. By contrast, a bid for Oklahoma is currently at $3, which means that an intrepid bidder who had some inside info about Obamaniacs in Oklahoma could really clean up. In most cases, however, he or she would lose three bucks.
The site also offers other prediction questions. For example, there is currently a $35 bid that The Dark Knight will win the Oscar for Best Picture, while the last bid on the Dow trading below 7882.51 by the end of 2008 was $45. Essentially, if there is something that can be wagered on, this site probably offers the chance to do so.
For those of us who are addicted to information but don't like losing money, Intrade is a treasure trove. With thousands of people interacting on the site, its predictions often present the real-time effects of the latest events. This, of course, means that it's bookmarked on my browser and will remain so until the election or until Oklahoma goes for Obama, whichever comes first.
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. His money is on the election coming first.
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