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“I might be the lucky one”: A look at the ESC 2021 betting markets

by | Apr 20, 2021 | 2021 ESC General, Eurovision, Featured

“I might be the lucky one”: A look at the ESC 2021 betting markets

by | Apr 20, 2021 | 2021 ESC General, Eurovision, Featured

One month from now, we’ll be in the middle of the most exciting time of the year: Eurovision Song Contest week! Whatever exact form the contest in Rotterdam may take, the most important thing is it will go ahead – and as always, where there’s a competition, there’s people trying to make money from it in the shape of betting. So let’s take a look at how the main markets are shaping up with one month to go, and where you might find some interesting odds even before we get more clues from the first rehearsals.

This article will be focusing on the odds at Betfair, as that’s the most liquid and transparent market available for the purpose. Plenty of other providers exist – see Oddschecker for details – but as many of them use Betfair to cover their liabilities anyway, it’s a good indicator of how things stand at any given moment.

Also, I’m going to be assuming that you understand betting odds, and specifically decimal odds – if you don’t, this guide by our much-missed friend Daniel over at Sofabet remains a great place to start!

The qualifiers

Before we can get to the winner market (of which more below!), there’s the small matter of finding out which 20 songs will join the pre-qualified automatic finalists in the grand final. The “To Qualify” market asks a simple yes/no question: Will Country X be in one of the lucky (virtual) envelopes at the end of its semi-final?

Like with any yes/no question, odds of 2.00 in this market imply that a country is seen as equally likely and unlikely to qualify. What that tells us about the first semi-final is what we already know: It could be a bloodbath. 12 songs are seen as having a good chance of qualifying right now – which, of course, can’t happen given that there are only ten final slots to be had. The 11th and 12th most likely qualifiers at the moment are Belgium’s Hooverphonic and Israel’s Eden Alene, and if either of them makes it, something with odds of shorter than 1.5 would have to miss out – that would definitely constitute a “shock NQ” from a betting perspective. It’s a little reminiscent of the first semi in 2018, when the likes of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Greece all failed when the markets implied they were quite likely to make it through. So who is the Ryan O’Shaughnessy-shaped party spoiler in this particular equation…?

The second semi-final looks a little more conventional, with seven countries leading the way – Switzerland, Bulgaria, Iceland, Finland, Moldova, Greece and San Marino. Hurricane from Serbia and Anxhela Peristeri from Albania aren’t too far behind, after which it’s perhaps surprising to see Vincent Bueno from Austria not only completing the ten most likely qualifiers right now, but doing so in “more likely than not” territory. There are some clear discrepancies compared with general fan taste in this semi-final, maybe most notably when it comes to Denmark. Fyr & Flamme are winning a lot of admirers among ESC fans with a fondness for 80s sounds, and they have the pimp slot in the running order – yet Betfair’s gamblers see them way out at 2.9. Surely worth a nibble if you believe the world will find the song as infectious as you do…?

Top 4 and top 10

If you’re not willing to commit to a winner just yet, but you feel like you’ve got a hunch about which songs will be occupying the upper left-hand side of the scoreboard by the end of the grand final, these are the markets for you.

Again, if we take 2.00 (“evens”) as the “likely/not likely” cut-off point, we can see that the markets are only truly confident about Malta’s Destiny making it into the top four. That makes some sense, given the televoting-friendly song and the jury support Malta tends to enjoy no matter what. After that, it’s no shock to see a reliable scorer like Sweden hovering in the 3s, while Lithuania have drifted into quite attractive territory after having much shorter odds in this market earlier in the season. Meanwhile, the fairly short price for Italy’s angular entry perhaps reflects the reliable scoring power the country has demonstrated in recent contests – even with songs like “Soldi” that could otherwise have proved a bit difficult for the regular viewer to find a way into.

The top ten market has seen some of the biggest fluctuations during the season so far – for example, “El Diablo” from Cyprus was considerably shorter than 2.00 for a while but is now trading way out at 2.74, while Finnish rockers Blind Channel have experienced a similar pattern on a less dramatic scale. And just look at Daði Freyr from Iceland: Last year’s commercial/promotional darling, the “winner that never was” in many people’s eyes, is currently considered unlikely to reach the top ten with this year’s offering, “10 Years”. That surely won’t last as the season continues and the general public starts taking an interest, will it…?

Please note that the above graphic necessarily only shows an excerpt of the respective markets – if you’re interested in a real outsider, for example, you’d have to scroll a long way to find Spain at current odds of 55 just to reach the top ten. Tempted? No, me neither…

The winner

And finally: The biggest question of all, and the one that occupies most casual ESC-week gamblers, who are blissfully aware of the existence of the more niche markets described above!

One month out is always an interesting time for the winner market. Sometimes a clear favourite has emerged from the pack at this stage, only to end up flopping by comparison – think of Francesco Gabbani in 2017 or Aram Mp3 in 2014, both of which traded at shorter than 2.00 at various points, i.e. they were considered more likely than not to win the whole contest! In the latter case, neither Conchita nor The Common Linnets were even on most gamblers’ radars until rehearsals began.

At other times, however, the markets “get it right” from an early stage (bearing in mind that they’re not actually trying to predict anything, they’re simply reflecting what people are betting on). Loreen, Måns, Emmelie, even reigning champion Duncan Laurence – some of them were briefly challenged at the top of the tree, but for the most part, they were the bookies’ favourites all season long and ended up justifying that position by taking the ESC crown.

This year, there’s certainly no sign of an odds-on favourite. Three countries are currently leading the way, all trading at roughly the same level with occasional daily fluctuations: Destiny from Malta, Barbara Pravi from France and Gjon’s Tears from Switzerland. Further down the field, though, it doesn’t take long to reach some pretty high odds – get past the credible rockers from Italy and the well-backed Bulgarian PR machine, and we’re already in the 20s and beyond. That means the possibility of a tidy return if you think you’ve spotted something that no one else has. Think of Salvador Sobral, for instance – while he was clearly in people’s minds for a good result, you could still get odds in the double figures for a Portuguese victory even at this point of the 2017 season. That means turning every €1 into more than €10 if you were clever enough to spot his – what turned out to be record-breaking – potential.

So is there a 2021 equivalent lurking somewhere in the field? And where will you be placing your money this year? Let us know in the comments!

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