Eurovision Top Tip No.5: Time on your side

[Part of Daniel Gould‘s ten-part series of tips on Eurovision betting].

Timing your Eurovision punts is a tricky business. The betting market has a long, slow build-up of over two months, a quickening of pace during the two-week rehearsal period, and then frenzy on the night in question. When is it best to bet?

There are three crucial periods. The first one is the early market in February. At this point in 2008, I backed eventual 6-4 favourite and winner Norway at 16-1 on the basis of Alexander Rybak’s first appearance. I also got 125-1 about eventual third Azerbaijan when only the chorus of the song had been revealed.

But equally, a 16-1 February bet could be 33-1 by mid-May, which has happened to me with Greece in 2010. Thus it can go either way, but a speculative bet at long odds doesn’t cost much and the rewards on the upside can be great.

The second crucial period is from the start of rehearsals, as bloggers report on how the contestants are faring on stage. These can generate significant moves in the betting market. So read the blogs, using this advice, respond quickly, and you could get on before the price changes.

If you manage to anticipate a major move in the betting market, there is always the option of hedging your bet, meaning you contradict your original wager at a better price, and do it in such a way that you win whatever the result.

Each year I end up hedging once or twice. One example was Portugal in the 2008 win market. I backed it at long odds as the blog hype generated momentum. Having watched it in the semi, and seen its draw for the final, I decided it couldn’t win, but by opposing it at a lower price, was in a position to profit either way.

Finally there is the night of the event itself, be it the semi or the final. For the semi-finals, the hour or two before the start of the programme sees the heaviest amounts traded on Betfair. Any serious punter should be focusing hard here, and you need to react quickly, as if trading in a stock market. I have won (and lost) tens of thousands in these minutes.

Most of these offers of prices on Betfair will be cancelled when the event begins, so if you want to take a price, get in before 8pm GMT. Most offers of bets are automatically removed because when you place an unmatched bet, the default setting ticks the box to cancel the bet when the event is ‘live’ – in other words, when the programme begins.

You can change this setting and keep your own offer of a price for the ‘in-running’ market. I tend not to because I prefer to make new bets based on watching the event. If you are still unsure how exactly this works, read our guide to using betting exchanges, and experiment yourself with small figures or without confirming any bets.

Large amounts are traded as the songs are performed, especially on the night of the final, when lots of casual punters are chancing their arm. It can be a useful time to bet if a performance surprises you either positively or negatively. Just be careful because at this point it is easiest to be swayed by a song you like.

And it isn’t even over when the fat lady sings. Betfair usually open up a further market during the drawn-out voting process. Like the switch from pre-event to the ‘live’ market, when the voting period finishes, all bets are cancelled unless you have stated otherwise, and a new market is formed as the scores from each country are announced.

In conclusion, there are many opportunities in your timing. But to gain an advantage, the serious punter has to be like a meerkat, looking ever more rapidly across YouTube, the blogs and the betting markets as the event approaches and takes place. Simples? If only.

Classic Examples

There are a few examples of winning songs that were outsiders when rehearsals started before being backed heavily throughout the next two weeks to the night of the final. In 2006, Finland went from 25-1 to 10-1 in this period, Ukraine in 2004 went from 33-1 to 8-1.

Perversely, the ‘in-running’ market movements have seen recent winners’ drift during the final show. In 2008, Ukraine’s Ani Lorak supplanted long-time favourite Dima Bilan at the top of the market, only to lose out to him in the voting. In 2009, a surge for eventual third Azerbaijan meant Alexander Rybak’s odds during the show were more generous than they had been for weeks.

General Eurovision Advice

DO try to anticipate market moves at crucial periods. If you ae successful at doing so, and get cold feet afterwards, you can always hedge

DON’T stop betting when the show begins, or even when the singing stops – further opportunities await.

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