Odds job woman

Jayne Dawson reports on a Yorkshire woman who can never resist a bet - on absolutely anything 'What are the odds on that happening, then?" We've all asked ourselves from time to time but it is a question Helen Jacob asks more than most – many times a day in fact.

But in her case it's not just idle musing, it's all part of the job because Helen, 28, is an odds compiler and, as far as she knows, the only woman in the UK to be doing the job.

She specialises in non-sporting events so her day is spent working out the odds on the bizarre, the ridiculous, the expected and the unexpected actually happening.

If you want to know – and why shouldn't you – the odds on Brad and Angelina making Jennifer Aniston the godparent of their baby, then Helen is the woman to tell you. (She's giving it out at a generous 50/1 on the day we speak).

Likewise Helen, who lives in Wortley in Leeds, will give odds on all manner of major and minor events, from whether Britney Spears and Kevin will divorce to when prime minister Tony Blair will quit

Currently she's putting a lot of thought into the chances of Tourette's sufferer and current favourite Pete winning Big Brother – the odds are improving on this one because Helen reckons the show's producers will start editing footage to show Pete's bad side so his victory is not such a sure thing.


But it is not all frothy television-based stuff: Helen is equally happy to give odds on prime minister Tony Blair resigning in any year up to 2010, so it's a job that means she has to be keyed in to both current affairs and popular culture at all times.

A typical Saturday night for Helen, who is single (so single she's prepared to give 500/1 that she will be married by the end of the year) involves watching every popular show going.

Usually she watches some programmes and records others for later, but has been known to have two tellies going at once with different channels on them.

"I watch television all the time and in a completely different way now, I'm always wondering if something is worth a bet.

"My last boyfriend hated reality television but I have to watch all of it, so it's just as well we split up really," says Helen.

And it doesn't stop with television. Helen, who is officially known as entertainments manager at Sky Bet, also has to immerse herself in every newspaper going, set aside time to read all the celebrity magazines and constantly browse the internet looking for events the betting public might want to splurge a bit of cash on.

It then comes down to having a head for numbers and using a lot of spreadsheets as Helen works out the best odds.

Big payout

The bets placed on Helen's odds can be as low as five pence but some people are willing to shell out considerably more.

Last week a member of the public placed a 2,000 bet on Sam being evicted from the Big Brother house – luckily for them, they were right.

Before taking her job in 2005, betting was not exactly in Helen's blood.

She had never even so much as placed a bet and had no idea it was possible to bet on anything other than sporting events.

She said: "I remember as a child going into a betting shop with my grandparents on the day of the Grand National but other than that I had never even been in one. I saw this job advertised though and just decided to go for it, and now I love it. I think the attitude to betting is changing, and has been ever since the National Lottery was introduced, it is seen as more of a fun thing to do, especially on the reality tv competitions."

It's an attitude Sky Bet wants to foster, using "it really does matter more when there is money on it" as one of its slogans.

There are still many more men than women betting, only about 10 per cent of punters are women, though Helen says the percentage is growing all the time.

"If women do bet they tend to prefer to do it via the internet, rather than through the television or by phone."

Big non-sporting betting events range from the Eurovision Song Contest to a general election, though interest in betting on other live events like the Oscars or the Baftas is increasing.

"Anything people discuss round an office water cooler they will have a bet on," says Helen.

When setting up bets Helen has added problems because not all the events she places odds on are live.

"We have to be vigilant, there have been times when we have been taken to the cleaners because we are vulnerable to results leaking out.

"We lost money when the housemates showered naked together in Big Brother, we had to pay out quite a lot on that."

Helen, who gained a first in French and Spanish from Leeds University and went on to also gain an MA in translating, first worked as a trainee accountant for a firm in Leeds, before realising that was not the career for her.

"I'm much happier doing this, I get paid to keep up with all the gossip."

Helen, who gained a first in French and Spanish from Leeds


So, just what are the odds according to expert Helen?


Leeds to be promoted to Premier League 11/4

Leeds United to be top of Championship on Christmas day 2006 10/1


England to win the World Cup 13/2

When will it be curtains?

2nd Round 9/4

Quarter Finals 3/1

Semi-Final 4/1

Group Stage 9/2

Runners-up 7/1

Rooney suspended for the final 8/1

Referee to be replaced from any England World Cup game because he is seen wearing a Scotland shirt 100/1

Bye Bye Captain Fantastic (England win World Cup and David Beckham announces his international retirement by August 18) 16/1

England goalie to score anytime 33/1

England to receive first red card of tournament 10/1


Not if but when

When will Tony Blair stand down?

2006 5/2

2007 10/11

2008 11/4

2009 9/1

2010 or later 28/1

Odds are subject to change

Big Brother watching

Pete to win 8/13

Pete to represent UK in Eurovision Song Contest 2007 33/1

Pete to have Christmas Number One in 2006 14/1

Shahbaz to star in panto by end of 2006 6/4

At what point does the noise of airplanes overhead become a nuisance?

Live near a flightpath? Find out if it might hit your home’s property value