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With tonight’s first semi-final fast approaching, it’s time to take a look at some of the betting options available to you for tonight’s show.

Most of the betting sites are offering pretty similar odds for the various markets this year, meaning there’s little in the way of value to be had in the sense of “mispriced” bets with any particular bookmaker. With that in mind, you should refer to Oddschecker for a full overview.

Instead, for the two semis and the grand final, I’m going to give you five bets from across the various markets that I think are worth considering. Some of them are as close to “free money” as you’re going to get; others are less likely, but I’ll always tell you why I think they represent a calculated risk that could be worth taking.

So here we go with my tips for the first semi-final!

  • Russia to win the semi-final. The best available odds at time of writing are 1.8 with Coral (see the ever-excellent Sofabet for an overview of how to understand betting odds). This isn’t an exceptionally good-value bet in the grander scheme of things, but it makes a lot of sense, really – the only realistic competitor is Estonia, currently available at 4 with Boylesports, and Russia has the friendly likes of Georgia, Armenia, Belarus, Moldova and Estonia itself to rely on for automatic big points before we even get to the fact that Polina’s vocals and staging make her the obvious standout in this semi in the first place.
  • Hungary to qualify. I backed this in the 2.4-2.6 range, and it’s come in as far as 1.8 (various sites) now, but I still think it represents good value. The song is being underrated by fans on account of its saccharine peace message, but regular televoters will appreciate its effective staging (and you can’t send a negative televote, after all), while juries should be big fans of Boggie and the Boggettes’ vocal assuredness. One of the beautiful things about qualification bets is that you don’t have to express any kind of opinion on how the song will do in the grand final, you’re simply asking whether it can beat six songs tonight – and Hungary can.
  • Belgium to finish in the top 3 of the semi-final. This is a bit of a punt, but it’s one that I like. Russia and Estonia surely have two of the podium places sewn up, and there’s strong competition from Georgia and Romania to be the third (and also from Greece, according to punters, which I can’t say I fully understand). Belgium is next in line, at a price of 4 with sites including Betfred, and I think there are strong arguments as to why it can finish ahead of the aforementioned trio. In particular, I think its contemporary charms could be massively jury-friendly, in which case it would take only a decent televote to put “Rhythm Inside” in with a great chance of going top 3 tonight.
  • The Netherlands to finish last in the semi-final at 2.62. There’s not a great deal of value here, granted, and it’s a difficult semi to read because I expect there to be a fairly even spread in the votes, meaning the last-placer could get quite a high number of points (maybe even in the 20s). But with that in mind, why not the Netherlands? Trijntje is one of the best vocalists in the competition, but she’s styled atrociously, “Walk Along” offers little as a song other than out-and-out repetitiveness, and the visual staging is bizarre. The reception the whole package has received, both at home and among the fan-press, seems to have led to a sense of panic among the Dutch team, and that’s never something you want to radiate to the viewers. Someone like Macedonia or Moldova could slip below them yet, but they have more friends in the semi to help them out.
  • And finally, for those of you who love a good short-odds certainty, I have to point you in the direction of the 1.15 you can still get at bwin for the “Yes” side of the “Will Estonia and Greece both qualify for the final?” bet. Yes, yes they absolutely will, and you should put as much of your money on that as bwin allows. (In my case, that was about Β£1.47. Grrrr.)

And there we go! Obviously nothing is certain in what Harald Treutiger once called “the greatest game show in the world”, but equally, don’t let yourself be the person sitting there tomorrow morning bemoaning the one thing you should have done. Happy betting, and have a great semi-final night!

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