ALL elections are about using your loaf, as my oul’ da used to say, but never was that more true than in Thursday’s poll.

Circumstances are much changed from last May, when a kind of semi-normal boredom had set in, hitting turn-out and seriously lowering the excitement factor. Now Arlene’s serial balls-ups and her Project Gerry tactics have people sitting up and paying attention, and if interest in the televised TV debates is anything to go by (nearly 50 per cent up in UTV’s case), the electorate is about to get much more involved.

That would tend to suggest that Sinn Féin might get a bump, because while they’ve comfortably remained ahead of the SDLP, their support has flatlined in recent years. In other words, they haven’t been getting people out. Watching a TV debate is not the same as voting on the day, but it’s a factor worth taking into consideration, particularly when it comes to the spread.

It was Sherlock Holmes who said: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” It was Naomi Long who said: “Them two are complete ballons.”

There are more than a few balloons in this race who can be eliminated as impossibilities, and that’s the method every punter should adopt when surveying the field – working your way up from the Monster Ravers at the bottom and putting lines through names as you go.

In the spread betting, Squinter likes the look of Sinn Féin to get 24 seats or more at 7/4 with Sean Graham. SF have sensibly cut back on the number of candidates to reflect the lower number of seats (down to 90 from 108), which tends to suggest that much of the dead wood is already gone, although there will of course still be casualties. And with this election having much more of a buzz about it, you expect SF to do put in a strong showing – and in this case that means 24 seats or better.

Arlene, on the other hand, is so scared of upsetting anyone that she’s declared a free-for-all, with the same number of candidates as last May. That’s bound to have added to the already considerable party chaos. Will the DUP get punished for their serial misdemeanours?

Personally, Squinter thinks they’d perform well if they held a black mass at the Ulster Hall and sacrificed a baby live on The View. Doing well in this case, with the twin ravages of a fall in seat numbers and the party having more scandals than members, would be over 30 – and 30 to 32 seats is even money. There’s Squinter’s first spread double.

Away from the big two, Squinter reckons the SDLP/UUP opposition has badly missed the penalty kick offered to them by the bickering of the coalition partners and the collapsing of the institutions. They’ve failed to press home what is massively attractive to large swathes of This Here Pravince – not being DUP/SF (in a similar way, the only reason Squinter’s got this gig is because #macacca and the PG couldn’t be trusted with it).

The horse-scaring DUP tactics of the past few days (“we’re neck-and-neck with SF”) will combine with a dire lack of impressive UUP spokespersons to make over 13 seats and over for that party (it held 16) at 2/1 an attractive bet.

Similarly, the SDLP has made hard work of convincing people that the opposition is worth a punt (especially since they, like the UUP, were in government for 90 per cent of the past 10 years). They’ve got 12 seats at present and they’re 2/1 to dip under that figure. So there’s an 8/1 opposition double for your kind consideration.

Squinter promises to step down if at least one of these doubles doesn’t touch (but only from the Punter’s Guide).

Learn even more crazy ways to lose your money in the Squinter column on pages in this week's Andersonstown News which goes on sale tonight (Wednesday).