If you think the pollsters are no sure quide to election results these days, you should see the bookies.
Australian sports betting agencies like Ubet had Donald Trump at odds of $6 or longer to be U.S. president when he first ran for the Republican nomination. When Trump secured what most thought was an unlikely nomination, he was still very much the outsider, at around $4.50 to win the presidency.
Coming into Tuesday's election, the 70-year-old businessman whose businesses have been declared bankrupt no fewer than six times was into about $4. In a two-horse race, that still made him the outsider, and meant, in raw statistical terms, that he was a one in four chance to win.
As results pour in, and with key swing states like North Carolina and Michigan and Florida all appearing to have headed Trump's way, the winning odds of the first presidential candidate in history not to release his tax returns have dropped dramatically.
At 2.30pm (AEDT) Trump was into $1.25 with many betting agencies. This meant, in raw statistical terms, that he was a four in five chance to win the election. Hillary Clinton's were then around $4.
By 3.45pm, Trump's odds of winning were down to $1.07 with some agencies, while others had suspended betting, which is what they do when they consider a live event to have effectively concluded.
"This election is mirroring what happened earlier this year with Brexit, as Trump comes from the clouds to potentially steal this election from Clinton's grasp," sportsbet.com.au's Ben Bulmer said.
Sportsbet was still taking bets at 3:50 pm, with Trump at $1.03 to win. That means you'd make a lousy three dollars if you invested $100, which is still better than what investors in many Trump developments over the years would have reaped.
"His odds have been up and down like a roller coaster," said Ubet's Gerard Daffy. "But he was the one we kept getting bets for because people knew him from The Apprentice."
Daffy, who pioneered election betting in Australia and indeed the world, said Trump firmed into $2.75 two weeks ago when "the email issue looked like it would be a big issue".
"There was some pretty serious money for him at that quote," he said. "But subsequent to Hillary being exonerated, he got out to $5."
Virtually all pollsters had tipped a Hillary Clinton win before results came in Tuesday night U.S. time. Sports bookmakers worldwide likewise had all installed Clinton as favourite. But they were wrong.
"Another roughie," eh? Daffy said, referring to the two big football codes in Australia, with the Western Bulldogs and Cronulla Sharks winning the 2016 AFL and NRL premierships respectively as outsiders.
Daffy made the fascinating point about the way the electorate has changed its voting pattern in countries around the world.
"Fifteen to 20 years ago, you nearly had to be an axe murderer to be ousted. Not anymore. How often do we see one term governments now? That's become the way it is globally as well."
For those praying for a last gasp Clinton revival, it's worth noting that bookies have been wrong with elections before. Famously in Australia, Jeff Kennett was $1.05 favourite when he lost the 1999 Victorian state election.
Campbell Newman was $1.16 when he lost the Queensland state election, and Malcolm Turnbull barely squeaked home in the last Australian federal election despite his short odds of $1.16.
But those were the odds of the candidates before election day. Trump is now shorter odds than any of them, with a huge proportion of the vote counted.Suggest a correction