Betting on the primaries takes the sting out of losing

PredictIt’s active and grammatically challenged comments section offers one explanation. Behind every wager is the need to obtain tangible validation from events that inspire passionate disagreement. Every dollar earned is an affirmation of your farsightedness, a much more rewarding outcome than another round of “I told you so” (although PredictIt’s comments feature plenty of those, too).

Endless arguments with anonymous fellow bettors—and the modest wagers that fuel those arguments—are a convenient outlet for a certain kind of person’s not-so-sublimated competitive instincts. Before embarking on a seemingly ill-advised trip to Las Vegas and the 2000 World Series of Poker, journalist James McManus summed up the appeal of cards (and any other form of gambling, for that matter) to a particular species of American male: “Middle age, shin splints, a torn meniscus, and a much more deliberate temperament have reduced me to a spectator – to ‘hiker biker guy’ . . . Yet Bad Jim still needs to keep score. To keep scoring. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat and all that. Who’s the man?”

While there is no reliable information about the type of person who scours Twitter for the latest polling data or bets on which Republican also-ran will come in second in New Hampshire, if I had to guess—or gamble—I’d say PredictIt’s users are overwhelmingly male.