Miss doing the pools? Try these online alternatives

Leyton Orient 3, Plymouth Argyle 3. To many of us, that brings back memories of Saturday afternoon and Tim Gudgin reading out the football scores using the famous “BBC intonation” to indicate a home win, away win or draw. Were you among the millions who sat checking your pools coupon against the results and eagerly awaiting the “dividend forecast” at the end? 

Doing the pools was part of the fabric of our weekends, and at its peak, more than a third of households got involved. A whole infrastructure developed around the pools, with local agents in towns and villages collecting the forms and your 5p stake. The main Littlewoods building in Edge Hill, Liverpool employed more than 10,000 people in an area where poverty and unemployment were high. But when the National Lottery launched in 1994 all that changed forever. Three years later, the pools companies had cut staff by 75 percent and by the new millennium, the pools had all but disappeared into history.

Nothing stays the same, and Tim Gudgin passed away in 2017 at the age of 87. But it’s worth remembering that this brave new internet era of ours is an age of choice. If you feel a little nostalgic and miss doing the pools, you can be certain of two things. The first is that you are not alone and the second is that several enterprising souls are certain to have come up with a range of potential solutions. So what are the modern online alternatives to doing the pools?

  1. New variations on the pools

The Littlewoods company was sold in the early 2000s, and the name gradually disappeared. However, the football pools is a concept that has survived to this day. Of course, the distinctive paper forms are long gone, and the “football man” won’t call around on Wednesday evening. 

Today, it’s simply known as The Football Pools and you participate online. As you might expect, there are far more variations now than there were back in the 1970s and 80s, but Classic Pools is conceptually very similar. You simply select 10 football fixtures and pay your £1 wager. Points are on offer for a score draw, no score draw, away win or home win, and the total prize money on offer largely depends on the number of score draws that week.

In Classic Pools much is made of the £3 million jackpot, but this is only available under very specific circumstances. To win it, you must correctly predict the nine score draws in your selection of ten fixtures on a week when exactly nine of the 49 fixtures ended in a score draw.

If you do the maths, the odds against that happening are astronomical. Not only do you need nine, and exactly nine, of the 49 fixtures to end in a draw – you then need to have selected those nine fixtures in your pick of 10. The modern day pools is a nice gimmick if you are feeling nostalgic, but there are better ways to spend your pound.

  1. A football accumulator

In the late 20th century, doing the pools was seen as a “light” version of gambling. The more serious alternative was to bet directly on a game, and that meant stepping in through the door with the frosted glass and into the mysterious, smoke-filled environment of the betting shop. 

These days, the high street bookies look far less foreboding and mysterious, but the internet has also rendered them all but obsolete. Online bookmaker apps have opened up the world of sports betting to wider audiences. There are literally dozens of well-known names to choose from, so it’s worth checking out some impartial reviews to see who is offering what deal. For example, this bet365 bookmaker review goes into the special promotions, types of bets and extras like live streaming offered by that particular bookmaker. 

It is added functionality like this that has made sports betting so popular with everyday football supporters, and that has made providers like bet365 into household names. Unlike the traditional bookmaker, they don’t just put up a list of odds and take your wager. They also provide useful information that helps you decide where your pound would be best spent.   

Once you’ve chosen your app, there are a variety of different ways you can go. Some people simply like to put a pound or two on their favourite team each week. That way, if your team wins, so do you. It’s fun, and as long as your team of choice is not a disaster zone, you should get frequent small wins. But what if you yearn for that outside chance of a big money win? In this case, you’re far better off creating your own accumulator than turning back to the pools. There’s a higher degree of skill involved in predicting the outcome, but with a large number of games, the odds can soon go sky high, leading to potentially life changing returns on a relatively small wager. 

  1. Lotto on your own terms

The other alternative is to move with the times and go with the phenomenon that led to the dwindling popularity of the football pools in the first place. Playing lotto is every bit as popular today as doing the pools was 30 years ago. It even has its own Saturday TV ritual associated with it, albeit a few hours later. 

However, also remember that this is the age of choice. The original National Lottery was introduced in imitation of similar lotteries that had proved enormously popular elsewhere in the world. Thanks to online platforms, these are just as accessible to UK players as our domestic Lotto. We all know that the odds of winning are extremely remote, but if you are going to dream, why not dream big? 

EuroMillions is probably the best known “super lottery” and is one that attracts plenty of UK participants. The jackpot can go as high as €190 million (£163 million) and there have been several UK winners who have collected nine-figure sums. 
Yet even this can be beaten by the MegaMillions and Powerball jackpots on offer in the USA. Players participate online from all across the world, and the jackpot has been known to go as high as $1.6 billion (£1.25 billion). It’s a far cry from the days of the 5p pools coupon and listening out for those score draws.

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