Bookies Pick Pope Frontrunners, Badly

So, nobody knows who the pope is going to be, or why he will be that person. We just don’t know enough about the Vatican’s internal politics, the will of God and/or sheer existential randomness. But what we do know is that bookies will always make odds. And you can always trust bookies, right?

A number of bookies worldwide have put up differing versions of who the front runners for pope are. We here at God is Sometimes Great have put together a little excel spreadsheet of said odds, lining up three different bookkeepers  (well, two bookkeepers and an “average” given by the New York Post) to see how they correlate:


There seems to be a pretty broad consensus in the front runners, but I wonder if a dark horse – somebody who is a cardinal but not part of this central leadership structure, is a likely candidate. I’m also pretty sure that Peter Turkson’s numbers are a little inflated – people really want to see a non-Anglo-European pope, but that doesn’t mean it’ll happen. Both of these facts, of course, are educated guesses.

If there’s a central lesson from this set of seemingly random cardinals, its that nobody really knows who the pope is going to be. Even more so, it’s the case that the front-runners are based on whose name has been in the media. This is certainly how Timothy Dolan got 10:1 odds, given that I would sooner bet on John Huntsman being President than on Timothy Dolan being pope.

With seven million dollars at stake, maybe the moral of the story is that you can’t always trust bookies. And you can’t predict how a highly secretive conclave will vote. To pretend that you can is like saying you know that Pope Benedict is gay just because he has an attractive assistant. Oh wait, Andrew Sullivan actually did that.


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