Welcome to the mobile press centre in Gran Canaria, where several regular ESC Nation bloggers - Yair, Roger, Sild, Sam and myself, plus the fabulant Keithykat - have set up home for the week. Unfortunately the Telefonica people have been less than useful and our internet access has been highly limited so far (this would never have happened in Baku), but here we are with the now-traditional overview of some of your betting options for tonight's first semi-final!
Note: These odds were correct at time of writing according to the Oddschecker overview here, but they're sure to change over the course of the day!
As a gambler, the main problem with this year's semi-finals is that they're so small, which means there's only limited value in the "qualify"/"not qualify" markets. That is even more the case for the first semi, which contains several no-hopers as far as the betting markets are concerned. However, this does mean you can make decent money if you happen to firmly believe in their chances.
Suzy from Portugal is the biggest outsider to qualify according to most bookmakers. A Portuguese qualification is currently available at a price of 4.00, so if you place a bet of €10 and "Quero ser tua" does make it to the final, you would get €40.00 back. Similarly well-priced countries include Latvia at 3.75, Iceland at 3.75, Albania at 3.50 and incessant failure Valentina Monetta at 3.75.
At the other end of the scale, there are tiny but essentially guaranteed profits to be made from backing the near-permanent qualifiers, such as Azerbaijan, Ukraine or Armenia. Take the Azeris, for example, whose best current odds to qualify are 1.05. That means if you place €10 and your bet is successful, you will receive back the grand total of €10.50. Not exactly a fortune, but it's better than you'd get from a high-interest access account...
If you're willing to go for short-ish odds like that, I'm a little surprised at how generous the odds are for a Russian qualification, at 1.22. I know there's the political situation to think about and the twins aren't the most persuasive of performers, but I see absolutely no reason they shouldn't make it through a 16-song qualification round with ease.
But then there's always a shock or two, right? Plenty of people got stung by the failure of Moje 3 or Moran Mazor last year, after all. So what about the non-qualification markets for the first semi-final?
To my mind, one quite notable feature is the markets' confidence in the chances of Estonia and Montenegro. Neither seem like guaranteed qualifiers to me for various reasons, not least certain aspects of the visual performances we'll be seeing tonight. If you agree, you can get a price of 3.00 for Tanja to fail to make it through to the final, and 2.62 for Sergej to be on the first flight back to Podgorica tomorrow morning. Or maybe the Netherlands have been overrated during rehearsals and their song is still too American to succeed no matter how nicely they're performing it? 5.00 says they won't be making a repeat appearance on Saturday night.
Qualification isn't the only game in town, of course. You can also bet on the winner of the semi-final. Armenia is the predictable favourite, currently trading at 3.00 at best, but late-drawn Hungary must be worth a look at 6.50. The smoky ballad from Azerbaijan could cut through all the competition and win the semi - the price you'll get for that is 8.00 - or maybe Belgium's Axel will defy the odds of 26.00 and charm the Tuesday night audience of overbearing mothers and their enablers to walk away with the semi 1 title.
And then there's Suzy from Portugal at 275. Well, you never know...
Top 3 in the semi-final is another interesting market, bearing in mind that the semi results often deviate significantly from the final and factors such as draw order can play a very important role. With that in mind, I'm tempted to recommend a look at the Netherlands, who are currently trading at 4.75 to grab a podium finish tonight - the late position and the jury-friendliness of the entry could be enough to propel it to a surprisingly high ranking, despite what I said earlier about its American-ness!
We'll take a closer look at the special markets - e.g. "top Nordic country" - when the final approaches, but bookmaker site Bwin also offers some interesting head-to-heads for the first semi-final. For example, if you think Hungary's late draw and strong rehearsals put it in a good position but you don't want to bet on them to win the semi-final outright, you can get odds for them to beat early-drawn Armenia in the semi (regardless of what then happens in the final) or to come out ahead of Ukraine. Unfortunately, Spain's recently introduced laws on gambling mean I can't access the site to get you the latest odds, but you can click through and see for yourself! The main lesson, anyway, is that there's always a niche market to bet on even if you don't feel like you have a clue what's going to happen generally. :-)
And that's just a brief overview of what's available out there in terms of betting options for tonight's big show. You can find a comprehensive breakdown of all the latest Eurovision betting markets at Oddschecker. Whatever you do and whoever gets your money, have a great night, and may the odds be ever in your favour!