Odds on you reading this article

Everyone’s doing it

Whilst making myself a midday breakfast, my flatmate stumbles into the kitchen. “Jimmy”, I ask. “Where are your eyebrows?”

“Lost odds on didn’t I”, he replies innocently before retreating to his room to be a hungover slug. I smile to myself and go about my day. Jamie goes out with the footie team. They do a lot of things I don’t understand.


Odds On is a big deal. Everyone and their mother is blaming every stupid thing they do on the thing. They eat cacti. They lick ampits. They jump into ponds.

It’s become an essential part of any lads’ night out, usurping the old standbys of homoeroticism and pint-chugging, but from where? More importantly, for a strange game where the only winning move is not to play, why do people continue to do so?

Let’s start with the where and when. Urban Dictionary has ‘odds on‘ first being defined in August of last year. The YouTube video I ATE A CACTUS was released in March of last year and currently has over 1.5m views making it the highest-viewed YouTube video for the phrase “odds on” (excluding two unrelated betting ones).

Running a Google Ngram on the phrases showed a steady increase in popularity since the 1800s, but that’s probably from uses of the phrase largely unrelated to drunken banter.

Durham grad Lauren Raine said the game was alive and well back when she was young whilst Fylde fourth year Darren Mason has never heard of the game before, suggesting that it’s just taken its sweet time getting to Lancaster, but we always get there eventually.

From this, it seems the game has existed for a while but only received this huge boost in popularity in early 2015 as a result of the horrifying cultural sway we now give to fucking professional YouTubers, and this surge roughly coincides with when it got big in Lancaster.

A large part of its popularity is, like with all games played by drunks, its simplicity. Someone asks you for odds on you doing something. You give them a number (often capped at 100, with a social pressure on not inflating the number range for less extreme challenges) and the two of you say a number between one and that number, on count of three. If you say the same number, the challengee has to do the challenge.

The armpit bandit

But whilst older “always on” games—games you are theoretically playing from the moment you start until the day you die—are either harmless (e.g. The Game) or have only minor penalties attached (e.g. Buffalo), Odds On can get out of hand. On pain of having an eyebrow shaved for refusing an odds, your only recourse is to go for the highest odds your particular group allows each time. Even with 100, eventually your luck will run out and you’ll find yourself streaking through a church or something.

So what is it that draws people to this game? We asked some twats to find out.

Footie goon and second year law student George describes it as “all the thrill of gambling, but without really any win”.

A lot of the supporters of the game seem like they have every reason not to, such as Grizedale first year hockey player Ellen Piercy, who lost an odds on that left her having to lick all of her friends’ armpits. She said: “Everyone was pretty sweaty and it was gross“, in the world’s most redundant statement.

One first year had to douse himself in fake tan after a loss. It smelt like weird biscuits and felt gross.

So why play? Why prop up the institution through participation? Second year marketing student Thea Bibby calls the game simply “a great laugh”. Perhaps Odds On is just what we comfortable middle-class types turn to to add a bit of thrill into our humdrum lives, like we did with milking and planking and whatever else. Perhaps.

Odds on you sharing this article though.