Who Will Win 'Game of Thrones'? Odds, Polls and Bran Theories

By the end of Game of Thrones Season 8, premiering April 14 on HBO, we'll have an answer to the series' central question: who will win the game of thrones and sit on the Iron Throne? For seven seasons, the various claimants have jockeyed for power through murder and subterfuge. Many kings and aspirants have fallen into history or obscurity: Robb Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, Tommen Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, Renly Baratheon and Balon Greyjoy. But now, as the end draws close, we will soon find out who holds power at the end of it at all. Various polls, betting odds and fan theories have tried to predict who will win the Game of Thrones, giving us multiple ways to read into the future of Westeros.

But first, the candidates.

Who Will Win the Game of Thrones?

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Aegon the Conqueror had the Iron Throne created from swords surrendered to him by the defeated lords of Westeros and fused together by Balerion the Black Dread. HBO

There are any number of unlikely victors in the game of thrones. Gendry (Joe Dempsie), the Baratheon bastard who seems to know nothing but hammering, could survive to claim his father's throne. Or perhaps Cleganebowl can wait until after the war with the Night King has ended, with the two brothers, Sandor "The Hound" (Rory McCann) and Gregor "The Mountain" ( Hafþór Björnsson) fighting in the decimated Red Keep, the victor collapsing to catch their breath on an Iron Throne once and for all stripped of its majesty. Or maybe Tormund Giantsbane will claim the throne for the wildlings. Any number of scenarios placing Sansa Stark, Varys, Jaime and Tyrion Lannister or Hot Pie on the Iron Throne could play out when Game of Thrones returns for Season 8. But all of these are unlikely. Here, instead, are those we wouldn't be flabbergasted to see claim King's Landing's throne of swords.

Cersei Lannister

While Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) currently sits on the Iron throne, she's a presumptive loser in the game of thrones. She spurns all alliances, rules with resentment and paranoia, and has even managed to alienate her brother Jaime—the only person she loves, and is loved by, in all of Westeros. And while a crucial line was left out of the Game of Thrones TV series, Maggy the Frog's prophecy still looms over the Queen. "When your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you," Maggy says, in George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows. Valonqar, High Valyrian for "little brother," could point to her death at the hands of either Tyrion or Jaime, who was born just after, clutching to Cersei's heel.

But while there's enough evidence to safely bet on Cersei's downfall, her triumph has some interesting thematic implications. Our reasons for believing Cersei will lose—prophecy and her refusal to join an alliance against the Night King's destruction—could also be seen as points in her favor.

While Game of Thrones overflows with prophecy, it seldom turns out to be accurate. Melisandre alone, in her misguided devotion to Stannis Baratheon, has proven that. Prophecies in Game of Thrones aren't ironclad, or are uninterpretable to those involved in them. Like magic, prophecy is just another part of the series' discourse, jockeying for authority against politics, armies and personalities.

Martin has famously described the intended end of the A Song of Ice and Fire series as "bittersweet," launching thousands of speculative reddit threads that hinge upon interpretations of just that single world. So what could be a more bittersweet end for Westeros than to successfully avert the apocalypse at the cost of all your heroes, leaving a conniving tyrant behind to rule over what's left?

Queen Cersei in Game of Thrones
Cersei Lannister now rules the Iron Throne on "Game of Thrones," but how long will her reign last? HBO

Daenerys Targaryen

The only reason to believe Daenerys Targaryen won't sit on the Iron Throne is because nearly every episode of Game of Thrones suggests she will. Since the beginning, Daenerys has been the exiled queen, learning to rule. Beyond the most legitimate claim to the Iron Throne (only recently, and theoretically, superseded by Jon Snow, revealed to be Aegon Targaryen and first in the line of succession), Daenerys' dragons make her a figure of destiny, her invasion the re-fulfillment of her ancestor Aegon's original conquest of Westeros. But perhaps all her power has been accrued for another purpose: the defeat of the White Walkers.

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Daenerys currently sits on a throne at Dragonstone. HBO

Jon Snow

As much as Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is Game of Thrones "Chosen One," it's hard to imagine him ruling from a sharp perch in King's Landing. (His last time in a leadership position, when he was Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, didn't turn out so well.) If Daenerys has been destined for the throne, then Jon has been destined to turn back the threat from beyond the Wall.

But like Daenerys, Jon Snow clearly has a date with destiny. Either one of them could be the Prince (or Princess) That Was Promised—the return of the ancient hero Azor Ahai (Melisandre's money is on Daenerys, but The Red Woman's track record might have you looking elsewhere). Azor Ahai defeated his greatest enemy by first plunging his sword into his wife's heart. It may be the case that, to defeat the Night King, either Jon or Daenerys must somehow sacrifice the other. However Game of Thrones ends, their fates are intertwined, by more than bonds of blood.

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Aegon Targaryen has the most legitimate claim to the Iron Throne. HBO

The Night King

He's got the biggest army (and one that can be infinitely replenished) and an ice dragon, but gauging the Night King's chance of sitting on the Iron Throne isn't about traditional metrics of leadership—his victory is the triumph of death. While unlikely to win outright (bittersweet, remember), it's just as unlikely that Westeros beats back the armies of the dead without great cost. It's also possible that, rather than sitting on the Iron Throne, the Night King could accomplish a goal professed by Daenerys: to "break the wheel" of power. While Daenerys means an end to Westeros' constant wars of succession, uniting the seven kingdom's under her own authority, the Night King might just break the power structure entirely. Rather than sitting on the Iron Throne, the Night King is more likely to destroy it.

There's another theory, involving the Night King, for who will sit on the Iron Throne when the credits roll on Game of Thrones, and it's a popular pick on betting markets.

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Is the Night King anything more than a memento mori? HBO

Odds on Who will Win the Game of Thrones

According to betting news site Odds Shark, relaying odds from the online offshore gambling site Bovada, it will be Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) in charge when Game of Thrones ends. Considering the soft-spoken greenseer seems to prefer the company of trees and fireplaces, this is a little hard to imagine. But it seems people are latching on to a number of clues pointing to a very bold conclusion, beginning with the Game of Thrones Season 8 teaser trailer "Crypts of Winterfell."

In the teaser, Jon Snow, Sansa and Arya walk through the Crypts of Winterfell, torchlight flickering the faces of monuments to Starks past. At the end, they find statues of themselves, presaging their own eventual deaths (many have pointed out that Jon Snow's statue looks quite a bit older, though it's not clear whether this was intentional). Then the room begins to freeze: Winter is Coming. But look who's missing: why, Bran Stark, of course. Could those tendrils of frost somehow represent Bran, his true connection to the Night King revealed at last?

Reading clues into Game of Thrones promos doesn't amount to much in the way of actual evidence, but there's a lot to suggest that something very strange will happen in the final episodes of Game of Thrones between the Night King and the new Three-Eyed Raven.

There have already been two indications that Bran's abilities stretch beyond simply observing past and present events. In the Season 6 episode "The Door," Bran not only learns that the Children of the Forest created the Night King in the distant past, but also reaches out to observe the Night King's army in the present. The Night King manages to touch Bran him through the vision, then sends wights in pursuit. In the ensuing escape, we learn Hodor's mind was destroyed as a child by Bran's cry for help from the future, bending his entire life toward a final end: holding the door.

A simple and oft-referenced fan theory accounts for this connection between the two: Bran Stark is the Night King. The theory goes that Bran will use his greenseer power to return to the Night King's creation, perhaps in a misguided effort to undo the past and save the future. Instead, Bran will warg into the human sacrificed by the Children of the Forest and become the Night King himself. With his ability to resurrect and control the dead, the Night King is the apotheosis of Bran's warg abilities, armed with the foreknowledge of everything that is to come.

The theory—or something similarly outlandish—is bolstered by a 2016 interview with Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who told Entertainment Weekly that Martin had shared with them "three holy sh*t moments." Two we've seen: Stannis Baratheon burning his daughter Shireen alive and Hodor's origin story. The third is, according to Benioff, "from the very end."

After Bran Stark, here are the next top candidates for Iron Throne warming, according to gambling odds:

  • Jon Snow
  • Sansa Stark
  • Daenerys Targaryen
  • Gendry
  • Petyr Baelish (Yes, still. A lot of people must be predicting a comeback.)
  • The Night King
  • Tyrion Lannister
  • Jon and Daenerys' child
  • Arya Stark
  • Samwell Tarly
  • Cersei Lannister
  • Jaime Lannister
  • Varys
  • Davos
  • Bronn
  • Euron Greyjoy
  • Brienne of Tarth
  • Jaqen H'ghar
  • Jorah Mormont
  • Melisandre
  • Daario Naharis
  • Beric Dondarrion
  • Sandor "The Hound" Clegane
  • Gilly
  • Theon Greyjoy
  • Yara Greyjoy
  • Tormund Giantsbane
  • Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane

Winning the Game of Thrones Poll

While Game of Thrones hasn't quite received Iowa caucuses levels of polling attention, informal polls (online, small sample, statistically useless) from all over share some distinct frontrunners. Nearly 300 voters at Straw Poll give the edge to Jon Snow, at 23 percent, with Sansa Stark a distant second at 15 percent. A GameSpot forum poll also has Jon Snow as the most likely winner of the game of thrones, by a large margin (34 percent), with the Night King, Tyrion Lannister and "None (a meteor will strike the planet)" tied for runner up (at 13 percent each). A Variety poll with more than 1,500 respondents disagrees, placing Daenerys Targaryen on the Iron Throne, with 41 percent of the vote. Jon Snow is second at 25 percent.

Almost as remarkable as what betting odds and polling reveals about who will sit on the Iron Throne is the stark difference between vox pop predictions and odds placed by people with money at stake. Whereas casual poll respondents make safe bets, the gambling market is doubling down on a speculative theory.

Game of Thrones returns for Season 8 on April 14, but to learn who will rule over Westeros and sit on the Iron Throne will likely have to wait for the final episode of Game of Thrones, set to air on May 19.

Who Will Win 'Game of Thrones'? Odds, Polls and Bran Theories | Culture
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