Welcome to the Gran Canaria mobile press centre and ESC Nation's betting overview for the second semi-final of ESC 2014! As ever, the odds in this article are based on the Oddschecker summary and can (and probably will) change radically as the day progresses.
So what did we learn on Tuesday night from a gambler's point of view? Probably not too much, really. We were reminded that favoured songs can fall at the first hurdle - the local "reality TV-lite" story behind the Belgian entry didn't transfer to the international stage, and the usually reliable voting performance of Moldova failed to repeat itself even in a small field. Meanwhile, two of the bookies' outsiders - Iceland and, even more sensationally, San Marino - will be making a repeat appearance on Saturday night, and have made a handful of people a little richer in the process!
The second heat is, of course, even smaller; only five of the competing entries will be heading home again tonight. Despite this, the to qualify market is confident that there are two big outsiders: you can get odds of 4.00 for Tijana from Macedonia to reach the final, while a price of 6.00 is available for "Three Minutes To Earth" from Georgia. In concrete terms, this means that if you place a bet of €10.00 on Georgia to qualify and your bet is successful, you will receive €60.00 in return.
But let's be honest, only an idiot would consider that to be a likely outcome.
The borderline cases are where the real interest is here. With two supposed no-hopers in the line-up, you might not actually need many points to qualify. As such, there could be value in backing regular qualifiers Lithuania (2.1) with their basis of reliable friendly points, or even Belarus, which can be grabbed for a surprisingly generous best price of 2.00.
Of course, you could play ultra-safe and pile the pounds on Greece (1.05), Romania (1.06) or Norway (1.05), who seem to be all but guaranteed qualifiers according to the markets. Bear in mind, though, that you would need to place a successful bet of €100.00 on Greece just to return a profit of €5.00 - barely enough for an ouzo or two.
Being such a small semi-final means the rewards for bets on non-qualification are even greater. For example, Carl Espen from Norway has impressed few people during rehearsals, and best odds of 13.00 are available if you think this early-season favourite will stumble. Other tempting prices can be found for the potentially divisive Conchita Wurst from Austria (8.00), the dangerously middle-of-the-road Ireland (2.75) and the boobtastic but unmelodic entry from Poland (also 2.75). And surely Slovenia, even with a favourable late position in the running order, must be worth a sniff at 1.91 to fail to qualify.
The winner and top 3 markets for this semi are particularly interesting because some of the more favoured songs, e.g. Israel and Norway, have potentially unfavourable early positions in the running order. Don't forget that a semi-final podium finish doesn't necessarily mean a thing when it comes to the final: the example I tend to use is 2011, when Paradise Oskar from Finland and Maja Keuc from Slovenia landed in the top 3 of their respective semi-finals, only to do relatively little on the Saturday night scoreboard.
With that in mind, you can get inviting odds of 2.5 for Israel's Mei Finegold to finish in the top 3 tonight, or 2.65 for the crowd-pleasing Maltese entry. Alternatively, you can bet on the semi winner: even with juries in play, a best available price of 5.00 for Greece seems quite tempting, as does 5.5 for Romania. Or perhaps the fanboys will have it right after all and Israel will take the semi 2 trophy even from an early spot in the draw: 13.00 says that this will be the case.
At the other end of the scale, poor Tijana from Macedonia props up the field: an unlikely victory for the ex-Yugoslav nation in tonight's semi-final comes at odds of 151! She isn't the favourite to finish last in the semi, though: only Betfair offers odds on that particular market, with Georgia considered the most likely candidate at 2.29.
I wanted to finish this blog post with a look at some head-to-heads, but Bwin doesn't have any for tonight's semi. How rude! They have plenty for the final, though, and we'll be taking a closer look at those in Saturday's final betting post. But let's take one step at a time...
So for now, that completes our brief analysis of some of the bets available to you for tonight's show - you can see more at the aforementioned Oddschecker link. Wherever you place your money, may the odds be ever in your favour - and have a great time!