Vintage Port

May 17, 2017 by

Vintage Port

It was a joy to see Portugal triumph at ESC 2017, a first ever win for a country which has been competing at Eurovision going all the way back to 1964. It was a true underdog story and a thoroughly deserved victory.

Salvador Sobral captured the hearts of Europe with his exquisite performance of a tender love song written by his sister Luisa. Intimately staged on the satellite stage, it was able to stand out by being under-stated – refreshing in an era of flashy stage shows, fire curtain climaxes and high concept visuals.

The quality of ‘Amor pelos dois’ and the endearing nature of Salvador’s nuanced delivery of the song was something that struck me as potential winner material on first viewing the song during the Portuguese qualification process.

The main concern at the time was whether Salvador would win the Festival da Cancao after only finishing 2nd in the first semi-final, though that element of doubt was a blessing in disguise as it enabled me to initially get matched on Portugal at over 100 on Betfair’s exchange.

Portugal’s win proved the shining light of the advised portfolio of investments provided exclusively for ESC subscribers this year, initially recommended at 12-1 and 16-1 pre-rehearsals.

The full list of ESC 2017 investments can be seen below. An overall profit of +72.5pts, equating to a return on investment of 49%, is the best ever ROI achieved since running the ESC subscription service.

The one costly, unforeseen reverse this year was Armenia, which finished a disappointing 18th. This had been expected to pull in Armenia’s traditionally strong diaspora vote but it failed to materialise despite the country sending what appeared a highly professional entry in the form of Artsvik’s ‘Fly With Me’.

It turned out to be Moldova that motivated voters in the east, as well as gaining plenty of televote traction in the west, enabling it to finish a surprise 3rd place overall. This is one that completely blindsided me.

Epic Sax Guy may have helped fuel that televote to a degree. You can argue it was well-staged but for such a limited song to earn more jury points than Belgium is one of this year’s more ludicrous anomalies.

A 4th place for Belgium’s Blanche was richly deserved. In the end she proved her critics wrong. She improved throughout the 2 weeks of rehearsals and probably produced her best performance on the Saturday night of the grand final. Her vulnerability performing ‘City Lights’ is what helped sell the song to televoters and yet this seems to have been punished by jurors.

There do need to be a few serious questions asked of the EBU this year. Firstly, what exactly was going on with Kristian Kostov’s ‘random’ draw in the 2nd semi-final qualifiers’ press conference?

Having predicted beforehand that Bulgaria would be called as the first qualifier from semi 2, enabling Kristian to pick his lot first, and for it to be ‘pre-arranged’ for him to pull out a 2nd half draw… I would refer anyone who doubts this to watch the video.

The EBU also needs to re-visit the scoring structure of the competition. For Australia to get only 2 televote points and yet still manage to finish 9th, courtesy of some VERY generous jury rankings, is preposterous. Were jurors not even listening to Isaiah Firebrace who was noticeably off-key during the grand final jury rehearsal?

We obviously had something similar happen in 2016, in reverse – Poland only getting 7pts from juries but finishing 3rd on the televote to finish 8th overall. But it feels a little more palatable, and democratic, when you are talking about televoters scoring an entry highly as opposed to a small, select band of supposed ‘music professionals’.

One of the main issues with the 1-26 ranking on the jury side is jury members being allowed to intentionally and tactically place certain entries at the bottom of their rankings, and in so doing a negative vote is being allowed to impact results on the jury side. Again, you can see clear examples of this in the full split results revealed. It has to go back to a 1-10 jury ranking only.

It is also not good for the diversity of the Contest if you have a scoring system which enables safe, middle-of-the-road fodder to prosper on the jury side by getting consistent average to high jury rankings. A song being considered ‘modern’ in an Anglo-American radio-friendly pop sense should not be an automatic path to high jury points. Nor should slick, gimmicky staging.

Salvador spoke eloquently about ‘fast food’ music, ‘plastic’ music and he is right. ‘Music is not fireworks, music is feeling,’ he added. It was refreshing to hear a Eurovision winner express an opinion and an extremely valid opinion at that.

People who care about music do not want to see the Contest monopolised by OTT cabaret acts and slickly-staged pop songs, high on visual gimmickry, low on musicianship. Sorry if this doesn’t sit well with Melodifestivalen fans, or Robin Bengtsson, but the Swedish template is not the only way.

The hope is, Salvador’s winning entry will inspire more nations next year to send songs true to their national identity; songs with more heart. ESC can go back to being more of a ‘Song Contest’. And if this Portugal win helps put to bed once and for all the debilitating, ‘This song is not Eurovision enough’ mindset that holds the Contest back it can only be a good thing.

As for the UK, the BBC really should be getting 6Music involved if it wants to achieve better than 15th place. The UK would do better unearthing an unsigned indie band/artist with a tune in the same sort of ilk as Belgium this year. Be brave, send something credible and don’t go sourcing another ‘ESC template’ song from Scandinavia. Lucie Jones was one of this year’s best live vocalists but the song was not strong enough.

We also seem to be getting dangerously close to artists virtually miming songs on stage, and having their vocals enhanced artificially. The clever sound engineering now goes beyond the simple use of backing singers and while this might be Christer Bjorkman’s idea of the future of the Contest, it is the wrong road to go down because it is conning viewers and jurors alike.

The insider money on the Betfair markets seemed more pronounced this year. Poland was backed in to Q in semi 1 in-running, as were Croatia and Belarus in semi 2, while both Portugal and Bulgaria shortened dramatically in their respective semi-final Win markets.

Having called 9/10 qualifiers correct in semi 1 and 8/10 correct in semi 2 (Tim B achieved the exact same tally), the biggest surprise NQs were Finland in semi 1 and Estonia in semi 2. Estonia’s song went wrong at the start during the live tv semi-final but it was on the jury side that this entry was punished. It was a little galling to see Serbia miss out on Q from semi 2 by only 3pts.

Both Belgium and Netherlands were Top 3 near misses in the 2 semi-finals, both finishing 4th. Having recommended Israel e/w in semi 1 it was pleasing to see Imri grab 3rd. Sadly, the song got the better of him come the Grand Final as he was noticeably off-key opening the show, scuppering any chance Israel might have had to make the Top 10.

As usual there are plenty of anomalies among this year’s results and it will take a while to fully digest the points breakdown. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed the coverage during ESC 2017 season, it helped you secure a profit, and a big thank you to Tim B for his help providing analysis.

With another profitable Eurovision secured, largely thanks to Salvador, a relaxing summer awaits before returning in the autumn for the usual run of Strictly and X Factor.

Eurovision 2017 official betting portfolio advised to subscribers:

Advised pre-rehearsals:

Portugal – 2pts e/w (quarter the odds, 4 places) – 12-1 – bet365, William Hill, boylesports, SportingBet = +30pts
Azerbaijan – 1pts e/w (quarter the odds, 4 places) – 25-1 – Skybet, Ladbrokes, Coral = -2pts

Portugal – 1pt e/w – 16-1 (quarter the odds, 4 places) – Coral = +20pts
Armenia – 1pt e/w – 28-1 (quarter the odds, 4 places) – Skybet – 25-1 with Boylesports (quarter, first 4), 22-1 with Winner (quarter, first 4) = -2pts

Semi 2 Outright: Israel – 1pt e/w (fifth the odds, 3 places) – 16-1 – bet365, William Hill = +2.2pts

day 2:

semi 1: Armenia – 9-2 – 2pts e/w (fifth the odds, 3 places) – bet365, William Hill = -4pts

day 3:

Semi 2 – FYR Macedonia – NQ – 5-6 – b365, 19-20 – Unibet – 10pt win = +9.5pts

Semi 2 – Netherlands – Q – 4-5 – Unibet, 4-6 – Paddy Power – 10pt win = +8pts

day 4:

Semi 1 – Portugal – 2pt e/w (3 places, a fifth the odds) – 7-2 – NetBet, 10Bet (100-30 with b365, 16-5 with Betstars) = +8.4pts

day 5:

Semi 1 – Finland Q – 2-5 – NetBet, Unibet – 10pt win = -10pts

day 7:

Semi 2 – Netherlands Q – 4-9 NetBet, 1.45 Unibet – 10pt win (2-5 with Betfred and SportingBet) = +4.5pts

Semi 2 – Switzerland – NQ – 5pt win – 6-5 – SportingBet (5-6 with bet365, 1.9 with Unibet) = +6pts

day 8:

Semi 2 – NQ – Croatia – 8-11 Betstars, Unibet (4-6 b365) – 5pt win = -5pts

day 9:

Semi 2 – Switzerland – NQ – 8-11 – Betstars – 5pt win (4-6 with b365, NetBet) = +3.64pts

Top 10 finish – Portugal – 2-5 – William Hill – 10pt win = +4pts

day 10 (semi 1):

Portugal – semi 1 – 2pt win – 68-25 MarathonBet (5-2 widely available) = +5.44pts

Armenia – semi 1 – top 3 – 10pt win – 9-20 MarathonBet (2-5 with NetBet) = -10pts

Belgium – semi 1 – top 3 – 1pt win – 4-1 (Unibet) = -1pt

day 11:

Belgium – Outright – 1pt e/w – 20-1 – bet365 (quarter the odds, 4 places) = +4pts

day 12 (semi 2):

Semi 2 – Serbia – Q – 10-11 Betfred – 3pt win (5-6 with Paddy Power, William Hill, Boylesports) = -3pts

Semi 2 – Netherlands – Top 3 – 3pt win – 6-4 MarathonBet, (2.3 (11-8) with NetBet) = -3pts

Outright – Bulgaria – 1pt e/w – 10-1 – Skybet (3 places, a quarter the odds) = +1.5pts

day 13:

Top 5 finish – Belgium – 10pt win – Evens – Paddy Power = +10pts

day 14 (Grand Final):

Armenia – Top 10 – 1-2 Betfred, NetBet – 10pt win = -10pts
Israel – Top 10 – 7-1 – Betstars – 1pt win = -1pt
Greece – Top 10 – 5-1 – Paddy Power – 1pt win = -1pt
Cyprus – Top 10 – 10-1 – Skybet – 1pt win (12-1 with Marathonbet) = -1pt

Top 5 – Armenia – 3pt win – 37-10 – MarathonBet = -3pts

Portugal to win by over 50pts – 1pt win – 8-1 – William Hill = +8pts

Romania – Top 10 – 8-15 – Paddy Power – 10pt win (1-2 with William Hill) = +5.33pts

Romania – Top 5 – 3-1 – Paddy Power – 2pt win = -2pts

Total Investment = 147pts

Total Return = 219.5pts

Profit = +72.5pts

Return on Investment = 49%


This is the best ever ROI for the ESC subscription service, pushing the site’s profit up to +511pts to a 1pt level stake since introducing a points-based system of recommendations at the start of 2014.

Previous ESC Results:

2014: Total Investment: 223pts, Total Return: 307pts
Profit: +84pts ROI: 38%

2015: Total Investment: 249pts Total Return: 339pts
Profit: +90pts ROI: 36%

2016: Total Investment: 183.25pts Total Return: 238pts
Profit: +54.75pts ROI: 30%


  1. apleximus

    Hi Rob, a very interesting read. I always thought Italy was massively overrated by the market and so won most by laying it throughout rehearsals at arpund 1.6-1.8. With hindsight I’m kicking myself for not also laying it in Top 3/4/5 markets where it would have been trading much shorter, but even I didn’t see it finishing all the way down in 6th.

    Just out of interest, why do you believe that the Bulgaria 2nd half draw was fixed? Yes, it’s true that Bulgaria were called first, meaning that Kristian picked first with more chance of pulling out second half, but watching the press conference back, he does seem to put his hand in and just choose a random one.

    Totally agree re the other points though, particularly with regards to the juries. The Bulgarian and Portuguese juries were quite blatantly voting tactically by giving each other 0 in the final, when both could be seen to be very consistently picking up 12s and 10s as we went through the sequence of countries. Also thought it was ridiculous how Greek and Cypriot juries swapped 12 points when neither entry was especially good. I mean it’s come to be expected from the televote, but it just looks so fixed when the juries do it too.

    • Rob

      Hi apleximus. There were 7 1st half slots & only 3 2nd half so it was much more likely he would draw 1st half. They called him 1st so he could pick 1st – there was no mixing of the lots – & he goes straight for one placed at the top.

      Kristian’s acting of surprise afterwards was also poor. I think he was briefed beforehand & the entire process was managed. It’s most likely it was due to the EBU not wanting the 3 big guns in the 1st half.

    • Montelll

      Kristian should’ve been more modest about drawing 2nd half. He was too excited and made obvious for everyone that he desperately wanted to win Eurovision. The same can be said about Sergey last year. He was like all dancing and doing high fives with Philip Kirkorov after drawing 2nd half. That’s not very cool. I think such behaviour harmed their image. Although most people don’t watch press conferences, Eurovision gods see all and they don’t approove that. Good song and performance may not always be enough. True Eurovision winner must also have good karma. Many previous winners didn’t care about winning or at least didn’t show that. That was the case with Mans, Jamala and Salvador. For God’s sake Salvador didn’t even know how points are calculated. I like this type of winner much more.

  2. Steve

    Just wanted to say a huge thank you Rob for finding the Portuguese diamond in the rough so early on and steering us through some tricky semis. It was certainly a profitable year. I would highly recommend anyone paying for future subscriptions.

    I’m also so impressed how you manage to keep your social media interactions professional, never bragging about success or belittling people whose viewpoints may differ. Others could certainly take a leaf out of your book.

    Enjoy your break and I look forward to hearing your early thoughts on this year’s Strictly cast. Surely we are looking at a female winner?

  3. Rob

    “This win, in all its improbable glory, was the most fitting ending to the 2017 edition precisely because I struggled with it so much. The more countries tried to aim at finding songs with the potential for radio airplay and commercial success, the more I couldn’t tell their songs apart. I couldn’t tell entire countries apart, because the only difference was the hashtag. So many entries had no character or identity. So many entries reeked of clear attempts to find the secret formula of Eurovision, of how to appeal to the masses. Many of those songs – the ones I can remember, at least – were perfectly nice, but they never gave me anything. They taught me nothing about their performer, they taught me nothing about the music scene in the country they are from. They tried to make themselves generic so they would have a better chance of appealing to a wider audience, and in doing so, they eliminated anything that might have made me care.”

    An article by Shi on that hits the nail on the head regarding Salvador’s win this year:

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