Good afternoon everyone. I hope you had a successful and profitable semi-final on Tuesday; I just hope you didn't do what I did and pile more money on Denmark as their odds went out throughout the evening. Oops.
As always, oddschecker is your friend - I'm not listing which bookmakers are carrying the best odds today, as several of them are very even, and they'll continue to change throughout the day.
Unlike the first semi-final, the betting market has very much coalesced around ten qualifiers. It's unusual that all the fancied acts do qualify, so it's definitely worth taking a look at the qualification market to see if there's any money to be made. The one country that immediately stands out to me is Malta. They haven't failed to qualify since 2011, and in a semi-final that has Azerbaijan, Montenegro, San Marino and the Czech Republic voting, I'd be very reticent to write off their chances. Odds of 2.2 seems a decent bet for Amber to qualify, and this is one I've personally backed quite heavily. It's also one time I really won't be sad if I lose my money!
On the other hand, if you think the bookies have mainly got it right on the qualifiers, you could go in on some more safe bets, and try and make your returns with some larger bets at lower odds. 1.29 is available for Cyprus, which seems safe based on rehearsal reports, as does 1.36 on Israel, though both of these have come in considerably during rehearsals. Alternatively, you could just place all your money on Måns to qualify, and take the 1% interest rate that a 1.01 bet offers you.
With ten such solid qualifiers, the not to qualify market is an interesting one today. Of the ten considered most safe, Poland and Iceland are (perhaps rightly) seen to be closest to the cusp, and if you think they'll miss out on a ticket to the final the bookies will offer you 2.62 and 2.75 respectively. I personally still have my wonderings about Slovenia. For a song considered by many to be very contemporary, it's been met with bemusement and indifference from several of the non-fans I've encountered. If you're brave enough to think that Marjetka and Raay could be on the first flight back to Slovenia on Friday morning, odds of 7 will see you making a very tidy profit indeed.
As clear favourite for the contest itself, it's no surprise that Sweden's odds to win the semi-final tonight are very low, with 1.4 the best you'll be offered. Disappointingly, none of the regular bookmakers seem to be offering 'anyone other than Sweden' odds tonight, but if you're willing to get into laying on betfair (see sofabet's excellent guide for more details), lay odds of 1.38 on Sweden effectively translate to odds of 3.63 for Sweden not to win the semi-final.
Perhaps more interesting again is the top three market. With Sweden potentially sucking up a lot of votes, and the potential for fan favourites like Norway or Latvia to do less well than expected, this market is wide open. With an excellent draw and a compelling performance, Cyprus at 3.25 could be a very good bet here, or you can more than double your money with odds of 2.25 on Slovenia.
As I mentioned on Tuesday, if you have faith in a song and its winning chances, now is the time to place a bet for the final. Russia's odds came in dramatically following Polina's performance in the semi-final, and the same is likely to happen tonight. You can still get odds of 3 for Sweden to win the whole thing - if the performance is very strong tonight, and particularly if Heroes gets a good reaction on social media and iTunes following the show, those odds will tumble. On the other hand, if you really have faith in something that's still seen as a bit of an outsider, like Slovenia, consider taking the odds of 51 available now - if Europe really does love it tonight, they won't be there long.
Additionally, if you're keen on betting on the final and want to get in there first, you'll need to stay up late tonight. Once the halves have been drawn in the press conference, the producers will be getting to work on the running order. Last year they were pretty quick - and that moment in the early hours will be the first impression we'll get of how the final will really shape up. Expect the money to go flying thick and fast.