Predicting X Factor, Part 5: Betting in running

Experience even more intensely the ups and downs of X-Factor, as it happens: bet in-running. You won’t be the only one. Punters are watching the show with Betfair to hand, reacting to events and odds as they unfold. The bottom two and elimination markets in particular become highly competitive every show with the markets fluctuating in split-second reactions to what’s going on – the running order, performance, audience reaction, judges’ comments.

There is much to play for. Especially in the early shows, the public are fickle, and acts can go from hero to zero and vice versa in a very short space of time. For example, in 2009, Danyl Johnson went from 1st-7th-9th-1st over the first four weeks.

We’ve covered one way in which such ups and downs can sometimes be guessed before the show: the sympathy bounce from the previous week. It certainly can’t have been Danyl’s awful rendition of ‘Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’ that caused him to top the poll in week 4, whilst Rachel Adedeji – coming down from her own sympathy bounce of the previous week – gave an excellent interpretation of ‘One’ but still came last.

Many other factors, however, can be acted on only by in-running punters.

Why did Danyl finish first by such a large margin in week 1? His vote was significantly boosted by a sympathetic public reaction to Dannii Minogue’s awkward allusion to tabloid speculation about his sexuality.

The voting percentages published at the end of the last two series confirm that such fleeting moments of judge-act interaction can have an extraordinary effect on the voting.

In the first show of 2008, Simon Cowell apologised to Scott Bruton for having chosen the wrong song for him to sing. A distraught Bruton clearly thought he was headed for the bottom two. Not at all: the sympathy Cowell’s admission engendered saw him finish second. Next show he was ninth, and the following show he was out.

Consider also the surge in public support for Lloyd Daniels after consoling a tearful Cheryl Cole in Week 2 of 2009. He finished second that week, and was back down to eighth the following week.

A similar moment between Rachel Adedeji and Dannii Minogue in Week 3 saw her jump to first before dropping to last the following week.

Just as a judge’s enmity can inflate an act’s vote, so too can suggestions of genuine rapport. The voting figures prove that even brief moments of such rapport can be highly significant – but don’t expect them to last more than a week.

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