Eurovision Betting Analysis: Can Dana International return in triumph for Israel?

This series of articles has tended to look at the leaders in the betting market. But there are just as many opportunities further down the list.

Take for example the return of Israel’s 1998 winner Dana International, who became the most famous transsexual in the world following her victory with ‘Diva’. She represents Israel once again this year, with an uptempo number called ‘Ding Dong’.

She is a general 66-1 with High Street bookmakers to win the contest, although you can get far more generous odds on Betfair. More interestingly, she is a best-priced 1-6 with those bookmakers to qualify from the second semi-final. That puts her sixth best in qualification betting, suggesting she should easily reach the top ten finish required.

I don’t share that confidence. ‘Ding Dong’ has a very traditional Eurovision sound that died out in the late 1990s (with ‘Diva’ as a swansong, ironically) – and the official version, released only recently, has production values to match. It falls into a category I have labelled ‘Songs You Would Only Hear Today In A Bad Provincial Gay Bar’.

That may sound gratuitously harsh, but in terms of my Eurovision betting it is actually a very significant title. Whenever I have put a song in this category in the past, I have ended up winning a lot of money backing against it.

The most recent Song You Would Only Hear Today In A Bad Provincial Gay Bar was Iceland’s ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ in 2010. It was my standout bet to lay in the Top 10 market in last year’s final. It ended up 19th, with 41 points.

In my opinion ‘Ding Dong’ is not even as good as ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’, which at least had the advantage of a stronger lead vocalist. Dana International has a distinctly average voice, and managed victory in 1998 despite rather than because of her abilities in this department.

‘Ding Dong’ is more on a level with another classic of the genre, from 2007 – Denmark’s ‘Drama Queen’, which also offered the novelty of man as woman, albeit in a very different way. ‘Drama Queen’ was sung by a drag queen called DQ. It came 19th in the semi-final with 45 points, and I had heavily invested in its failure to qualify.

There are still a few people who think songs like this have a place in Eurovision. Many of them are clearly in the UK, judging by the seven points my home nation awarded DQ in 2007, and its choice to send Scooch’s ‘Flying the Flag’ that same year.

Malta is a nation with similarly questionable taste, judging by the six points it gave to both Hera Bjork in 2010 and DQ in 2007 (when it also awarded its 12 points to Scooch). Fortunately, these nations are far from typical of most of Europe.

Equally fortunately, a love of gambling is just as ingrained in British culture as a love of camp, which meant I got much better odds than I was expecting on the failure of these songs. The short odds British bookmakers are offering on Israel to qualify suggests some habits die hard, and I will be investing in ‘Ding Dong’ to fail to qualify for the final.

There is a nagging doubt, though. The second semi-final in Dusseldorf, whilst it involves three of the more prominent contenders and a few others of note, also contains a huge amount of rubbish. And the big hitters who would qualify on friendly voting alone if they were in this weak field are all in the first semi-final instead.

In 2010, Iceland was also in a weak semi – the weakest the contest has ever witnessed. And it had the advantage of being drawn last. As a result, it not only managed to qualify, but even took third place.

‘Ding Dong’ doesn’t have the advantage of such a winning draw. Dana International sings 12th, and has the drawback of being followed immediately by Slovenia’s much stronger female vocalist.

What’s more, the two campest sets of televoters – the UK and Malta – won’t be able to help. Both are slated to vote in the first semi-final. So is Albania, arguably the country which is next most inclined to show similarly dated taste in its allocation of points.

That means Dana International will be relying on Israel’s main voting ally, France, and on fans supporting her out of nostalgia. As I commented to Justin just yesterday, though, I don’t think the fan constituency holds much power. Nor do I think the juries will come to her rescue.

All of this means I have filed ‘Ding Dong’ away as one of the ten songs in this semi-final that are “far too bad to qualify”. Unfortunately, with 19 contenders, only nine songs are destined to fail. At least one of my “far too bad to qualify” songs is going to qualify.

That undeserving qualifier could, theoretically, be ‘Ding Dong’. If it is, I will just have to double down by backing against a Top 10 finish in the final. Either way, the bell tolls for ‘Ding Dong’.

21 comments to Eurovision Betting Analysis: Can Dana International return in triumph for Israel?

  • Shai

    I think Dana is what you call a boarder line qualifier.She may qualify or just may not.
    Which brings me back to the question of a lay bet.
    Can you can explain How that works?What does the liability mean in such a bet?and what happen if my lay bet is unmatched?and what do I profit if the bet is matched?

    Thank in advance.

  • Daniel

    Hi Shai, let me answer your questions in turn:
    1. A lay bet is the opposite bet to your traditional win bet. If someone wants to put a traditional win bet of £100 on Israel to qualify at 1.5 on Betfair, they would make a £50 profit if that happened. The person who agreed to accept this bet was betting against Israel qualifying which was a lay bet. It essentially means betting against something happening, not for it.
    2. The liability is the amount you lose if the bet is not successful. In the above case, the liability of the lay bet is £50. That’s how much the person making the lay bet has to hand over to the winner of the bet.
    3. If the bet is unmatched, it means no-one has accepted the opposite side of your offer yet, and no bet has been made.
    4. When someone decides to accept the other side of the bet at the odds you have offered, then the bet is matched.
    5. How much you win or lose depends on the odds and size of the bet. The liability figure is the amount you stand to lose if not proved right in the bet.
    I hope that helps!

  • James

    Great article as always. I had Israel down as a “probable qualifier”, and I would tend to stick by that opinion. Not because it’s especially good, but simply because I don’t think there are 10 songs that are likely to finish above it in this semi. Out of interest, what are the other 9 songs you consider “far too bad to qualify”?

  • Panos

    I think it will be (in running order):

    1) Bosnia
    2) Austria
    3) Ukraine
    4) Sweden
    5) Slovenia
    6) Romania
    7) Estonia
    8) Denmark
    9) Latvia (some people might have this replaced with Ireland)

  • Daniel

    Hi James & Panos, the list that Panos has written, presumably of the likely qualifiers, is pretty close to my own. Though if Israel is one of those ‘Songs You Would Only Hear Today in a Bad Provincial Gay Bar’, Latvia feels like amateur night at the local straight pub, especially with the terrible rapping, and I much prefer Ireland’s ‘Lipstick’, song-wise.

    I have my issues with Ukraine as well, as I think it’s one of the dullest songs in the contest. Its friends will see it to around 30 points, but it will need some more, and I consider it bad enough to be in danger of not making it.

    • David

      Ukraine’s draw doesn’t help either. Performing 6th (after the break), they have fewer friends than they might be used to as well. Belarus and Moldova come to mind, as well as Israel and Latvia to a limited extent. But as you say, qualification certainly isn’t guaranteed on friends alone.

  • Rob

    Hi Daniel. Another cracking post. I know I’m in the minority on this one but I expect Israel to qualify quite comfortably. Compared to a lot of the dross in the 2nd semi, I find ‘Ding Dong’ both instant and tuneful – and I’ve never frequented a bad, provincial gay bar before in my life – honest!! 🙂
    It’s interesting you make a comparison with Iceland last year because I thought ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ was a decent, crowd-pleasing house tune I actually backed e/w at big odds in its semi, and also backed to finish top 10 in the final. Your confidence that it wouldn’t finish top 10 is quite scary given the fact I put faith in my ESC analysis and opinion, and you were proved resoundingly correct. I appreciate that semi was the weaker one last year, but my reasoning on why Iceland failed so spectacularly in the final is that Hera was pictured with a smoking volcano, making a visual gag about something that had caused the rest of Europe massive upheaval. I think this resulted in Iceland’s televote taking a massive hit. I appreciate it did very poorly with juries in the final, having been 6th with juries in its semi; 2nd on the televote.
    Returning to Israel and the 2nd semi, yes, the lyrics to ‘Ding Dong’ are p*ss poor, but the same can be said for Saade’s ‘Popular’ for Sweden, and Ireland’s ‘Lipstick’, and while Dana’s vocal isn’t great, I’ll wager she’ll sound better than Jedward, and can Saade sing live?
    I really don’t see it as a case of old-fashioned ESC music taste. A catchy chorus is a catchy chorus. This is why I would agree with you about Latvia, and I think Romania is terrible as well, and is no 1-6 shot regardless of its 100 per cent qualifying record.
    While I am here, can I put in a shameless plug for a similarly informative tv betting blog, and invite your readers to visit which is also providing in-depth ESC coverage!!

  • Preben

    Interesting. I follow you a long way on ‘Songs You Would Only Hear Today In A Bad Provincial Gay Bar’. But isn´t there always room for at least a song or two in that category? To be honest, I would put the last 2 edition´s 3rd places (Azerbaijan 2009, Romania 2010, even Denmark 2010) in that category… And my theory is that the gay votes outnumber any other group´s but the juries in the semi finals Sweden, Albania 2009, Iceland, Albania 2010 comes to mind. Favoured in the semis, abandoned in the final when the rest of the audience tune in to watch and vote. I´d be interested in hearing your view on this…

    • Daniel

      You make a great point, Preben. What we are talking about are various shades of pop, I suppose. The examples you use – Demark 2010, Romania 2010 and Azerbaijan 2009 are very poppy, but not so camp as the category I have used in this article, I would argue. Straight friends could watch these examples and enjoy the easy, catchy melodies. I think that the likes of Israel 2011 cross a fine but significant line into camp-enough-to-be-slightly-cringeworthy. This means less universal appeal.

      On your second point about a gayer semi-final vote, I’m not sure. I just think that some cheap songs with a bit of a melody perform well with a lower standard of competition, and faced with stronger entries in the final, are shown up for what they are. Iceland 2010 is the perfect example.

  • Kev

    Hi Daniel

    As a relative newbie to Eurovision punting I am loving your articles so I’m certainly not trying to discourage you but I wondered why you are showing your hand so early when the liquidity is awful on the side markets.

    I appreciate that you will have lots of angles in mind for the next 6 weeks and Israel to qualify would be just one of these but aren’t you afraid your new internet following could take the price away from it being a value bet for you?

  • Daniel

    Hey Kev, and welcome to Sofabet. Someone else made exactly the same point to me today and this is how I answered. Whilst I am slightly worried about giving away some of my ideas, I find writing the articles crystallises my thoughts and strategy. For example, I was a bit stumped by the second semi-final last year, but writing my preview article really encouraged me to follow the courage of my convictions concerning Georgia qualifying.

    As for Israel in particular this year, I have already bet on it not to qualify and will most likely have more on. But in the semis, and especially in a weak heat like this one, I much prefer to be backing countries to qualify, so I envisage having much more on other songs than I will on ‘Ding Dong’. Only rehearsals make my mind up in many cases, and you’ll notice that most of my articles stress this. I just happened to feel strongly that this song deserved slating.

  • Justin

    Daniel, the obvious follow up question which springs to mind is how to you establish whether a particular bet is ‘value’ at the current price. For example Azerbaijan look highly likely to qualify from Semi 1 but I am sure that you are not tempted by the 1/20 on offer but you probably would be at, say, 1/3.

    Have you written anything on value in Eurovision betting on the site?

    • Daniel

      Hi Justin, this seems like a very valid idea for an article, and I will certainly consider it. Of course, in Eurovision some short odds betting can offer value. In 2007, Scooch at 4-7 to be in the bottom third of the table, and last year Turkey at 1-5 to finish in the Top Ten, were both great value in the sense that I felt the true price of those outcomes was something closer to 1-50: in Eurovision terms, I just knew both were completely safe. Having said which, long odds-on bets fail, such as Sweden failing to qualify when 1-10 to do so last year whilst its semi was being aired. A losing bet is always painful. A losing 1-10 bet must be very painful indeed.

  • David

    While we’re at the request-making 🙂

    I’d find it very interesting with an article on “traps”. I understand you spotted both Slovakia and Croatia last year, for example – how? What are the signs to watch out for, that tell you that a favorite could possibly fail?

    Just a suggestion; I for one would love such a read 🙂

  • justin

    On the subject of ‘Songs You Would Only Hear Today In A Bad Provincial Gay Bar’ surely Croatia’s entry this year hits the mark as a prime example. Shocking.

    • Daniel

      Absolutely. Dated song, singer lacking charisma, few friends, tough semi. Most of the trades on Betfair involve me on the lay side.

    • David

      There were actually some amazing opportunities on that one early on with bookies. You could get 1.50 and even 1.62 on Croatia not qualifying – which has to be considered something of a gift.

  • James

    Hi Daniel,

    Having just discovered this site, I’d firstly I’d like to say what a fantastic resource it is. I’ve spent the past two days reading through most the Eurovision articles and found them to make very interesting reading. Funnily enough, I remember reading your article featured in the Times last year, the first year I’d seriously looked into Eurovision betting.

    I also think it’s very creditable that you respond to the numerous comments each article generates, which leads me onto my question here…

    In relation to this article, I’d be interested to know your thoughts on Armenia’s entry ‘Boom Boom’. As mentioned, there’s a fine line between ‘Songs You Would Only Hear Today In A Bad Provincial Gay Bar’ and ‘very poppy’ but catchy enough to appeal to a wider audience. I’d like to know if you think Armenia’s entry qualifies as camp-enough-to-be-slightly-cringeworthy, or gets away with it.

    Personally I think it’s a catchy little number but am concerned that might stray into the territory of those songs that have gone out of Eurovision-fashion in recent years.



  • Daniel

    Hi James, the staging will tell us all, so we will find out soon enough. Personally, I think it is on the right side of the line of catchy, and if others think so, it is qualifying and Top 10 material.

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