Ten Top Tips on Eurovision Betting – Updated

Nearly four years ago, the first articles I wrote on Sofabet were my ten top tips for betting on Eurovision. Given that these still feature in the banner of the site, I thought it was time to revisit them to see which ones were most in need of an update.

The biggest update comes out of last year’s rule change requiring the full ranking of all songs by televoters and jurors to be taken into account, rather than just the top ten of each. This was initially covered here, and given further thought in my analysis of Anouk’s ‘Birds’.

The rule change significantly negates the premise of my seventh top tip about the public vote mattering most despite the 50/50 split. Let’s take the Spanish points to Romania over the last two years as an example.

Romanians are the largest foreign group in Spain; we can safely assume that Romania has recently been topping the Spanish televote. However, the Romanian songs of 2012 and 2013, ‘Zaleilah’ and ‘It’s My Life’ were largely a flop with national juries.

In 2012, before the rule change, Romania received 12 points from Spain in the semi-final and 10 points in the final. Topping the televote was enough to still see Romania receive high scores, even taking into consideration a jury top ten in which they may not have figured at all.

In 2013, with the jury ranking all the songs from first to last, Romania received just 1 point from Spain in the semi-final and 0 in the final. Topping the televote counted for virtually nothing because juries clearly placed Cezar near the bottom of their rankings.

Incidentally, the effect of this makes a bigger difference in a final of 26 songs than a semi-final of 15 songs which Romania finds itself in for 2014. (Spain is not voting in the second semi-final, but Italy is, where Romania dominates the televote for much the same reason.)

So, the public vote no longer matters most. In fact, the five-member jury arguably has more power, because they’re small enough to introduce an element of tactical voting. For example, if jurors are aware of a large diaspora televote in their country, they can knowingly counteract it should they so wish.

Elsewhere among these top tip articles, number four on song styles also feels out-of-date. In 2010, cheesy schlager (an upbeat, Abba-esque, traditional Eurovision sound, often with key change) had long given way to an era of ethnopop. But the latter has not fared so well with juries of late, as the likes of ‘Aphrodisiac’ in 2012 and ‘Solayoh’ in 2013 have shown.

Admittedly, neither of these examples was particularly well performed and they featured less than stellar vocals. I’ve tried to find a pattern in jury tastes each year, but it’s less than a science. For example, they largely seemed to favour English language songs in 2013, but gave plenty of love to non-English language ballads in 2012.

Still, if I was consulting national delegations on what jurors generally looked for, I would say: good vocals and a vaguely contemporary, middle-of-the-road, radio-friendly song showing musicianship, maybe with instruments on stage. Oh yes, and throw in a few contemporary-style dance moves too – it seemed to work well for Sweden 2012, Moldova 2013 and Sweden 2013. The juries don’t seem to like: poor vocals as well as fluffy, thin, novelty and more leftfield songs.

The other top tips articles have held up reasonably well, and I largely stand by what’s in them. Looking at footage of the songs being performed throughout the run-up to the event, before and during rehearsals and indeed in the semi-finals, remains crucial. Viewing objectively and trying to put personal bias aside likewise.

The article listing the utility and dangers of following blogs during rehearsals also stands. Since 2010 these have mushroomed, and there are now three sites at the venue covering rehearsals solely from a betting viewpoint: this one, Esctips and EntertainmentOdds – all boosted by an excellent array of commenters.

So there’s plenty of advice, which makes it even more important to come to your own conclusion. If you find yourself disagreeing with the herd, don’t despair. In fact, it can be taken as an opportunity. At various points over the last four years, commenters have had occasion to say, “I think you’re wrong on this point, and I know you’re backing it heavily, which means there’s value to be had in my opposing opinion.”

It’s an approach I wholeheartedly endorse and try to follow myself.

The growing interest in betting on the contest means that getting ahead of the curve with the timing of your bets is in some ways more of a challenge, but it also helps liquidity on betting exchanges. And those exchanges, notably Betfair, have become increasingly important to me in the last four years.

That’s because laying certain songs I feel are overhyped has been a source of much of my profits in this period – identifying the “fanwank” songs and betting against them in various markets. Don’t just look to do this in the win market, there are a plethora of more lucrative ways of doing it at shorter odds: laying to win or place or even qualify in the semi-final, in the final top 4 or top 10 markets, or taking it on where you can in match bets.

The other two top tip articles reference the importance of visual impact and the draw. I think the last few years have confirmed both. ‘Only Teardrops’ was staged like a winner, whilst ‘Euphoria’ had tremendous visual as well as aural appeal.

Meanwhile, since 2010 the winners have been drawn at 22, 19, 17 and 18. In every semi during this period, at least four out of the last six songs have qualified. It’s worth bearing in mind that since last year, producers decide the running order for themselves once a first-half or second-half berth has been drawn. Last year they timidly gave all the market leaders pretty favourable slots in the final.

Do let us know what you think of these points, how your strategies have evolved given the rule changes and what you have learnt in recent years.

19 comments to Ten Top Tips on Eurovision Betting – Updated

  • Justin

    Great to see we are well and truly back on season.

    This will be my 3rd year of serious betting on Eurovision and the most important thing I have learned is that its not just a song contest. The voting audience (and I think the juries too) want to be entertained.

    There appears to be a scoreboard ceiling for the static performer with a microphone on a stand. Yes such entries can comfortably make the top 10 but for a winner something a bit extra is required – an entertaining performance.

    On the rule change on the rankings I was quite surprised last year how little it actually changed the result in the final.

    Im curious as to your and others’ views on the new rule to publish the jury results this year. To what extent are we expecting Azerbaijan and Ukraine’s performance (and others like Malta) to be affected by this? I’m not sure I have a view on this yet…? Is it the answer to the problems?

    • Daniel

      Hi Justin, great to hear from you. That’s a pertinent question. For the uninitiated, the organisers of the event have decided to make the jury votes more transparent this year, presumably because there was a groundswell of people noticing certain juries rewarding the same countries year after year.

      The main changes are these: the five members of each national jury will be named beforehand, and their individual rankings will be published afterwards. No member of a jury in the 2012 or 2013 contests will be allowed on a 2014 panel.

      To be honest Justin, I’m not sure quite how much difference this will make. To take a purely hypothetical example, if the Maltese jury were minded to give Azerbaijan high marks under any circumstances, what’s to stop the new jury members all ranking the Azerbaijani song near the top of their list? They don’t have to all rank it first for Azerbaijan to finish top of the overall rankings.

  • Nick D.

    I’m sure that what happened to Georgia last year demonstrated *something*, but I’m not entirely sure what. The whole package seemed almost to be an exercise in box-ticking – country from Russian sphere of influence, IKEA flat-pack big ballad, staging straight out of the Running Scared playbook, heavenly running order positions. The only significant cons were that the vocal performances were perhaps not “all that”, and that the nods to the past were perhaps a little too blatant (see also: Cascada), but the combined effect was that from being amongst the ante-post favourites, Nodi and Sophie barely scraped through the semi and died a slow death in the final.

    So was it actually the box-ticking that was the problem, or was it those two big negatives? It’s something to watch out for.

  • john kef

    Happy new Eurovision Year to you Daniel and all the folks!

    I believe that this is a very crucial year for the contest with all the withdraws. 37 countries left and almost all the balkan-ex yugoslavian countries out.

    Having that in my mind, i’m trying to figure out which countries are hoping for the win and have a big chance making it happen.

    My big favourite, before hearing to any song, is Russia.

    The ex-soviet block had 3 big contenders the previous years. Ukraine-Azerbaijan and Russia. Ukraine with all the riots and the political instability is out of the question of hosting the show and i don’t think they care about it. Azerbaijan is a very strong contender but its reputation was damaged last year with all the accusations about the tele-voting and the jury influence scandals.

    It’s to early for another Nordic victory (Norway would be my favourite of the Nordic block) and i can’t see any other country really wanting to host the show.

    That leaves us with Russia. The country that has all the ex-soviet block support and has the resources to produce a great song. They might not have the western support because of the anti-gays law, which is a great deal for ESC, but the soviet block plus a small help from the rest of Eastern Europe can do the job.

    Ps: We also have a pattern

    1999 Sweden 2000 Denmark 2001 Estonia 2002 Latvia
    2012 Sweden 2013 Denmark 2014? Estonia? another Blatic country?

  • Justin

    I think thats a good point Nick.

    I think Georgia last year was a timely reminder that the slow build ballad doesn’t go down as well with televoters as some of us in the UK expect. It took an age to get going and I can imagine viewers going off to put the kettle on during the first minute and not returning. Coupled with that Nodi and Sophie ended up shouting their through the song which would have been a turn off for the jurors – compared with the (in my view) outstanding vocals in a similar song by Pastora for Spain a year earlier (and sung in her native language).

    Russia last year struck me box-ticking but did quite well in the end. That song had the more instant verse-chorus-verse format which seems to go down better with televoters.

    Thats just my theory but I think I will avoid the slow-builds for backing purposes this year.

  • Chris Bellis

    “The article listing the utility and dangers of following blogs during rehearsals also stands.” Worked well for me in that that I so strongly disagreed with one blog that San Marino had a chance that I bet against them. Worked badly in that I thought Spain had a chance when their performance on the night turned out to be way out of tune. I agree therefore to take the blogs with a bucket full of salt.
    Never under-estimate Russia or Azerbaijan – they want to win, and they will throw money at the project, including the full range of dirty tricks.
    Another fly in the ointment is whether the contestants gel with the sound engineer. In Dusseldorf a few years ago Blue fell out with the technicians, who certainly got their own back, ruining their harmonies with a bad mix. So when an established band with some so-called credibility appears, ask yourself whether their (prima donna like) behaviour might p*** off some lowly but highly important sound engineer.
    Great article – I really liked it. Keep them coming.

    • I never heard any such backstage gossip about sound engineers Chris…?

      • Chris Bellis

        Hi Ben
        There was a lot of talk about Blue falling out with their own sound engineers prior to Eurovision, and the German sound engineers got the blame at Dusseldorf. I think it was Blue’s attitude myself, but as I wasn’t there, I shouldn’t really say. I did hear them sing the song very well on a couple of occasions, but in the actual performance in Dusseldorf they reverted to the mess they were on RTE. A sound engineer doesn’t have to do much to f*** a performance up. Equally they can do a lot to improve things as well. The staging wasn’t so hot either if I remember correctly.

  • Steve

    There appeared a few issues with the sound technicians in X Factor this year albeit with endorsement from the producers. But a very true and telling point Chris having watched Lee Ryan for the past 20 odd days and cameos from the other Blue boys, I can fully understand why the sound engineers would stitch them up.

  • Yes indeed, happy new Eurovision year to everyone, nice to see things kicking off now we’re at the end of this unusually quiet January.

    So far I’ve been playing Finland’s UMK finals and feel quite comfortable with my bets in the knowledge that Finland will either be sending the “Coldplay meets 30 Seconds to Mars” band Softengine, or Mikko Pohjola with a tender, dramatic Finnish-language mid-tempo number about having an affair, (of all things!)

    I’ve also taken advantage of some overpriced contenders in Norway’s MGP on Unibet which may still be there if anyone’s interested. I personally like Carl Espen but go and check out the little snippets before jumping on anything.

    And as for Eurovision proper, right now I’m just waiting to get matched on some early back-to-lays, purely speculative choices. For some reason I have a funny feeling about Belgium this year, but I hope the songs on offer will be contemporary instead of more like the amateur free-for-all that Switzerland put on.

    Good luck everybody!

  • Slightly off-topic, but the Finns seem to have selected a pretty decent ‘Friend In London’-lite song/act, which I think presents their best recent chance of a respectable placing. Would love to hear people’s opinions!

    • Daniel

      You’re right on-topic I reckon, Panos. 😉 I like ‘Something Better’ too – should comfortably qualify though not sure how it will do in the final. In its favour, the lite rock numbers stand out without too much competition in their genre. And juries should be respecting it. But an early draw might see it easily forgotten, as indeed A Friend in London were by televoters in the final.

    • Ben Cook

      It was probably the best choice they had there, and it might qualify, but I don’t see it doing nearly as well as Friend In London. Not as catchy. It’s sort of nearer to Sinplus territory in my opinion.

      My tip for dark horse for the top 10 in the final is still Dons with “Pēdējā vēstule”, if Latvia pick it. Could do a “Kuula”. Seems to be a two horse race there between him and that folky one with the Avicii-esque breakdown.

      That Swiss entry is dreadful isn’t it? I cannot bear whistling.

      • Chris Bellis

        Switzerland should dip into its laundered money banks and get Celine Dion back. They’ve had some pretty putrid entries lately but this one is appallingly bad. What a pity it won’t qualify as it would be a cert for bottom three.

  • chewy wesker

    Hello again sofabet team,
    I agree Ben, “new tomorrow” was a lot more catchy. However I must say this Finland entry is an above average song. I think it will have no problem of QF for the final, I’d have to consider all the competion it will be facing before I could give it the nod for a top10 spot. At the moment I lean towards the opinion that it may well fall short of top 10 glory. I do have more of a sense of excitement with YOHIO and “to the end” I find him a really great artist rock/pop star, how eurovision voters will take to him with his image I kind of have my doubts. I hope he wins the MF he has such great energy, I love when he throws the firework across the stage, it’ll be great shame if we don’t get to see him perform. Anyway I look forward to reading all analysis discussions and debate on this years eurovision songs.

  • Ben Cook

    Yohio seems to have deliberately toned down the girliness in an apparent effort to make him more appealing to the international juries, but the song just isn’t good enough I think. I don’t think this will be his year.

  • Ben Cook

    Dons’ performance in last night’s Latvian semi. It already looks ready for Copenhagen to me with this staging.


    • Chris Bellis

      I prefer the first Rihanna like one over the Ruth Lorenzo “Dancing in the Rain”, but either could do well. I got burnt last year on “Quedate conmigo”, but that was because the tuning was all over the place on the night. The song was ok and the article says that the same writers penned the Brequette entry. “Dancing in the Rain” got a bit repetitive and shouty for me. The others were typical Spanish pop ballads. Even if well sung, I doubt they would do much. Thanks, Whoever, for posting that.

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