UPDATE: Betting on the next pope: Oddsmakers blow it with top 15 pope picks

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.
Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE | Mar. 13, 2013 | 3:30 p.m. Betcha got that wrong? The AP reports that Argentina's Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was a consensus 25-1 underdog to be selected at the conclave, according to gambling expert R.J. Bell of Pregame.com.

"Everyone was paying attention to the top dozen or so favorites," said Bell. In Europe and online outside the U.S. there were at least 15 contenders that were considered to be ahead of Bergoglio in 12 books accepting wagers on the papal election.

Paddy Power has moved on to new speculation as it pertains to Pope Francis' future. The Ireland-based bookmaker is offering 16-1 odds that Catholics will see a third pope in 2013, and 5-2 odds that Pope Francis will eventually resign.

Previously: What are the odds that the next pope will be non-European?

The question is more than rhetorical: It's been calculated by Ireland's largest bookmaker, Paddy Power, which has named what it says are the top most likely choices for a successor — or "papabile" —- to Pope Benedict XVI, who steps down at the end of the month.

Their top pick: Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who would be not only the first non-European pope in recent history, but also the first non-white pope. (If the cardinals elect the first black pope, Paddy Power will refund all losing bets in the "Next Pope" market.)

The bookmaker has also worked out favorable odds for at least one North American cardinal and one from Argentina. (See the list and the odds below.)

A non-European pope would be novel but maybe not a complete surprise, given the demographic shift in Catholicism.  More than 40 percent of the world's Catholics live in Latin America, and Catholicism is spreading throughout Africa.

The papal conclave may convene as soon as March 10.

Here's a look at the top papal hopefuls people have hedged their bets on. Though these conclaves are impossible to predict — except by Nate Silver, maybe — it seems these cardinals have the best odds:

Cardinal Peter Turkson

  • Country: Ghana
  • Age: 64
  • Position: President of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace
  • Known for: Being a great communicator and a symbol of the global Church.
  • Odds: 11/4

Cardinal Angelo Scola

  • Country: Italy
  • Age: 71
  • Position: Archbishop of Milan
  • Known for: His position on re-Christianizing Europe.
  • Odds: 3/1

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone

  • Country: Italy
  • Age: 78
  • Position: Secretary of State
  • Known for: His hand in appointing a large bloc of Italian elector-cardinals.
  • Odds: 4/1

Cardinal Marc Ouellet

  • Country: Canada
  • Age: 64
  • Position: Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
  • Known for: His charisma, missionary work in South Africa and being close with Pope Benedict XVI.
  • Odds: 6/1

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco

  • Country: Italy
  • Age: 70
  • Position: Archbishop of Genoa; President of the Episcopal Conference
  • Known for: Attacking former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi for being an unethical leader. He's "fairly savvy about both secular politics and the media," according to National Catholic Reporter Vatican specialist John Allen.
  • Odds: 12/1

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri

  • Country: Argentina
  • Age: 61
  • Position: President of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
  • Known for: His effective diplomacy with heads of state.
  • Odds: 12/1

These odds are sure to change as the papal conclave gets closer. You can follow the Paddy Power bets for yourself here.

This story is one in an occasional series of reports by students taking part in a class of the USC Annenberg Knight Program on Media and Religion, headed by Diane Winston. Thanks to a grant from the Luce Foundation, Annenberg students have covered global religion, culture and politics for the past four years. This year's journalism class is headed to Ireland and Northern Ireland for 10 days in March and, in preparation, its students are covering Los Angeles' Catholic communities. The nine students are a mix of undergraduates, second year grad students and mid-career professionals.

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