Saturday, 18 May 2013

ESC final: Where's the value?

If you've been following our betting guides to the Eurovision semi-finals this week, you'll know that it's been more than possible to make some easy money by predicting what's really going to happen, rather than what fans think will happen (hello San Marino!). However, there are always some surprises on the way, too - Israel's non-qualification will have stung the pockets of a lot of punters, for example. So where's the value in the betting market for tonight's grand final?

Firstly, because most normal people equate "ESC" to the Saturday night show, it's worth pointing out that there's far more money in the markets today - and far more interesting sub-markets for us to look at. Let's start with the winner market, though, since that's where most regular punters tend to focus. To say  that Denmark is the hot favourite to win would be a huge understatement. The best available price for Emmelie de Forest's song is 1.79 - that's less than evens in fractional terms. The problem is that most of us who don't think she's a guaranteed winner are none the wiser as to who will win. Norway are currently the second-favourite at 7, while Ukraine have drifted to between 9 and 17.5, depending on who you look at. Useful outsiders, particularly for an each-way bet, could include Germany or Italy (both available for 41) - or, if you think the world is going to go very strange tonight and fall for the elusive charms of Cezar, you can grab Romania for a tasty 101.

The next port of call is the top 4 and top 10 markets. Denmark is basically a write-off in the top 4 market (a best price of 1.12 offers no value at all), so you might want to look at the likes of the late-drawn Greece (4.5), Georgia (5.56) or Italy (5.5) for a better bet. The top 10 market is more potentially rewarding - if all the votes really are concentrated around the likes of Denmark, that opens up the possibility for some surprise countries sneaking into the upper echelons of the scoreboard. A price of 3.1 says that semi-final favourite Ireland will be among them, for example, while the male power vocals (in very different ways!) of Romania and Iceland are both priced at 4.5. Alternatively, if you think a soft and pleasant song like Estonia - effectively alone in its field - could capture enough jury attention to be catapulted into the top 10, that one's available for a very tasty 11.

As Eurovision fans, of course, we're almost as interested in what happens at the other end of the scoreboard. In the last place market, poor old Spain are the clear favourites - a mere 3 is available for them to finish last, and the odds are shortening all the time. Other candidates include Belarus and Lithuania at 11; both countries would seem to have enough allies to score 20-odd points, but that was almost enough for last place in 2011, so if the votes are widely spread then they could still get tangled up at the bottom of the table. Thinking of the light and airy sounds of Switzerland 2011, actually, I'm wondering if Malta at 21 mightn't be a bad outsider for last place - but then I also suspected Gianluca wouldn't qualify, so what do I know?

In the final, there are also regional markets to look at - although some are bigger than others, e.g. following the Balkan collapse in the semi-finals that's left us with just Romania and Greece to choose from! If you suspect Norway will come out as the top Nordic country but you don't want to pin yourself down to a bet on their absolute placing, for example, a price of 4.75 is available at sites such as Ladbrokes and Bwin. (The real outsider in this group is Iceland, coming in at a whopping 41.) Meanwhile, in what's being called the "Western Europe" category - consisting of the Netherlands, Ireland, France, the United Kingdom and Belgium - you can still get a quite decent 2.44 if you think Hologrammatic Anouk will beat off the aforementioned competition. Seems quite feasible - the only one I can realistically see challenging her is Ireland (3.5), although if the Bonnie Tyler fanbase turns out in force, 7 might end up seeming like a quite acceptable price.

While we're on the subject of Bonnie, there's the top big 5 market. Italy leads the way here at a best price of 1.91, and with a late draw and all those Balkan votes floating around, it's hard to disagree with that. However, Germany's Cascada is a big name, and 3.75 for Natalie's dance beats to come out on top is quite an attractive proposition too.

As on Tuesday and Thursday, we finish with the many head-to-heads that are on offer. 2.62 for Greece to beat Azerbaijan seems like an interesting one - and I'm certainly tempted by the 2.1 that's available for Iceland to beat Finland, especially now we've seen their respective positions in the running order. Meanwhile, if you think Ireland's position in the running order is hugely advantageous to them, you can get 2.4 for Ryan Dolan to finish ahead of Anouk from the Netherlands.

You can use the wonderful Oddschecker to investigate all of these markets and more for yourself. And whatever you bet on, I hope you have a great time tonight and end up happier, richer, or ideally both!

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