Wicked Game

May 19, 2014 by

Wicked Game

After a rollercoaster of a Eurovision trading year, it was satisfying to depart Copenhagen with a healthy profit but with a nagging sense of what might have been. It’s not often in life you latch on to a 250-1 shot which ends up trading at 4-1, sees off the 2 front runners in the betting market for so long – Armenia and Sweden – only to get beaten by a ringer.

It was a return to form in this year’s semis with 17 out of 20 called correctly. Strongest play to qualify from semi 1 was The Netherlands, and not to qualify, Moldova; strongest play in semi 2 was Ireland not to qualify. The case was also made as to why San Marino was a value investment to qualify in semi 1.

The 2 that proved widest of the mark in the semis were Belgium and Israel. Their failure perhaps backs up the trend spotted last year that minority genres or songs sung in a foreign language can be hamstrung under the new scoring system. Opera proved too niche and Hebrew once again unpalatable for televoters and jurors alike.

It was a very harsh result for Israel in particular. Mei sang ‘Same Heart’ unassisted. It was a modern tune, and she sang and performed this uptempo number very well indeed. This is an example of where the EBU needs to seriously re-visit its staging rules.

For viewers sat at home, and for jury members, Mei’s solo vocal effort went unrecognised and unrewarded. Tanja’s energetic performance for Estonia was aided by backing singers. Meanwhile, there was Sanna Nielsen made to look like a stellar live vocalist when she was being carried by 5 hidden backing singers. Watch this back and see how the sound produced doesn’t sync with Sanna.

How can this sort of deception be justified? Christer Bjorkman wants to see a backing track-assisted Eurovision and this is effectively what Sanna received this year. The EBU should either be beholden to inform jurors on the vocal assistance, or lack of, each song has, or at the very least all backing singers should be visible on stage and shown to be aiding the lead vocalist.

My thought process was always that the EBU wanted, and needed certain nations to qualify this year to ensure their ESC future. This turned out to be a shrewd trading angle as all 4 made it through in San Marino, Montenegro, Poland and Slovenia. The slight regret here is not remaining steadfast enough in this opinion, and holding off on investing more heavily in these 4 qualifying. Of course, this is all in hindsight.

Sitting there in the press centre you guard against getting caught up by the media and fanboy hype. You think to yourself, ‘Put yourself in the shoes of a juror, and approach this objectively.’ In 2014, this proved a flawed starting point.

The adulation surrounding Conchita felt like a very fan-centric phenomenon, as she had been treated like the new messiah by fans at the Amsterdam and London concerts too. That Conchita-mania spread to the wider voting public, and many jury members, was completely unforeseen.

The sickener, as a Netherlands backer – as high as 250-1 e/w on the high street and much bigger on Betfair – was how and why juries could rate ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ superior to ‘Calm After The Storm’. Many juries have acted like televoters here, seduced by the high cabaret staging and Conchita’s image. If Valentina Monetta had sung this ballad there is no way it would have got anywhere near winning.

Yes, songs need to make an emotional connection with viewers and Conchita unanimously achieved this but songs should also be assessed by music professionals in terms of actual merit. Her vocal was far from exceptional, and the song itself was old-fashioned. This is not sour grapes but many jurors have revealed their fallibility as arbiters of what constitutes a quality song.

As much of a surprise was the televoting success achieved by Austria in Eastern Europe. It looks like Conchita managed to galvanise the gay community Europe-wide to vote for her in remarkable numbers.

It was another big surprise to see Greece fail this year so spectacularly. This was a modern-sounding, well staged and well performed song. It looks like Conchita immediately following Freaky Fortune in the final was a freaky misfortune for Greece, though a 7th place finish from the 13 slot in semi 2 is harder to fathom.

The ultimate jaw-dropping result has to be reserved for Romania, 2nd in semi-final 2 and 12th in the final performed from the 6 slot. Again, we see the power of the pimp slot at play in that semi-final result. Having layed Romania for a top 10 finish it was nerve-racking to see it holding 10th place heading to the last country to call, Slovenia.

The 4 Slovenia awarded to Spain and the zero to Romania came as a relief but the 6 it awarded to Denmark was far less pleasing as it meant Denmark snuck into the top 10 in 9th. Having taken on Basim in the top 10 market it was a case of hitting the crossbar, but there are few regrets over that one.

Spain and Norway proved to be wise top 10 shouts. As a backer of Switzerland for a top 10 finish, and e/w in semi 2, where it finished 4th, only beaten 5pts for third, you cannot help feeling peeved that it finished so high on the televote, only to be destroyed by jurors.

As feared, many considered it amateur and disappointingly failed to recognise its charm and originality, certainly in comparison to the dreadful, derivative Malta which managed an absurdly high 6th place among juries in the final but was understandably shunned by televoters in 24th.

Poland was also severely dented by juries after proving a huge televote success. This exposes the new scoring system as far too punitive and while Jon Ola Sand likes to utter the empty refrain ‘every vote counts’ clearly this is not the case.

Jury corruption is transparent among these results. Georgia’s jury result got thrown out but this begs the question why the EBU didn’t also disqualify the jury results from the likes of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Montenegro, when there appears to have been such blatant collaboration among jury members, with the latter 2 seemingly involved in a tactical vote swap.

A year without the brown envelopes and students armed with SIM cards hurt Azerbaijan badly. It is still interesting to note the tactical voting of the Azerbaijan jurors in killing the 3 market leaders in Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands. This is a hint of how well-drilled they are in the ESC dark arts. Armenia decided Sweden and Austria were its 2 main dangers so penalised them and not The Netherlands.

Malta looks like it was up to no good as well, especially in its semi-final, with other nations also implicated. Was that pure coincidence the Albania jury-only result saw San Marino land a crucial 8pts that helped propel it to qualify from semi 1 in 10th place, a meagre point ahead of Portugal? It all looks a little too convenient.

The UK’s disappointing 17th place finish is not surprising in the cold light of day. There was always a nagging sense the song was too disjointed and took too long to get going. Molly, however, performed it well in front of the juries on the Friday night and there was a void at the top of the leaderboard you sensed could be filled by the UK this year.

The plaudits for Molly were perhaps exaggerated due to the poor UK efforts in recent years. But the (pre-arranged 2nd half draw?) which led to the pimp slot, the fire curtain, the fact BBC personnel were sniffing around asking questions about hosting costs, the credibility of the song and the artist…  there was a case to be made for the UK doing extremely well this year.

It was also interesting to see how strong the lay money was for the UK on the Saturday of the live tv grand final, both on the Outright and the Top 10 market. It was a similar story with Greece. You can’t help but wonder if there are some people trading on Betfair with inside knowledge of the jury result from the Friday night.

The most ingenious trading move this year was, of course, latching on to The Netherlands at huge odds on the Outright and in semi-final 1. News The Netherlands had won semi-final 1 was greeted by the sort of wild-eyed celebration not seen since Marco Tardelli in the 1982 World Cup final:

It is pleasing to add the 50-1 Netherlands recommendation to this site’s outstanding history of long-priced winners of tv betting events. This advice proved the lynchpin of the portfolio of advised investments during ESC 2014 which resulted in a +84pt return.

This means that if you blindly followed every advice provided here on a £10 per point basis, you would have trousered a profit of +£840. You’re welcome!

Here is that full list. Please note, the Estonia bet was noted down incorrectly at the time, so no profit is being added there, and the 2 bets combined are being treated as a zero overall.

5pts e/w Azerbaijan semi 1 – 8-1 (7-1 a quarter) = -10pts

30pt win Netherlands to qualify semi 1 – 8-15 = +16pts

1.5pts ew Netherlands semi 1 – 50-1 (a fifth the odds, first 3) = +90pts

0.5pts ew Netherlands Outright – 125-1 (a quarter the odds, first 4) = +15.13pts

30pt win Netherlands to qualify semi 1 – 2-5 = +12pts

4pt win h2h Denmark to beat Sweden – 7-4 = -4pts

20pt win Estonia to qualify semi 1 – 1.55 = -20pt

20pt win Estonia not to qualify semi 1 – 2-1 = +40pt (this should have been 10pt stake as a position closer) = +20pt

15pt win Greece Top Balkan – Evens = -15pts

1pt ew Greece Outright – 60-1 (first 4 places) = -2pts

5pt ew Greece semi 2 – 5-1 (quarter the odds) = -10pts

12pt win Moldova not to qualify – 5-6 = +10pts

1pt ew Belgium semi 1 = -2pts

4pt win Lithuania Top Baltic – 7-2 (VOIDED) = 0pts

15pt win double Latvia NQ, 5-18, Finland Q, 1-4 = +8.96pts

Ireland not to qualify – 7-4 – 12pt win – Paddy Power = +21pts

semi 2 – Switzerland – 40-1 – 0.5pt e/w – Coral = -1pt

Top Balkan – Greece – Evens – 20pt win – bet365 = -20pt

Switzerland to finish top 10 – 9-2 Ladbrokes – 6pt win = -6pts

UK to finish top 5 – 7-4 Ladbrokes – 8pt win = -8pts

Greece, top 10 finish, 3-5 with SportingBet, 15pt win = -15pts

Spain to finish top 10, 5-2 with SportingBet, 4pt win = +10pts

Norway to finish top 10, 9-4 with SkyBet, 4pt win = +9pts

Dual forecast – Netherlands/UK, 16-1 with Skybet, 1pt win = -1pts

Germany to finish last, 5-1 with SportingBet, 4pt win = -4pts

Ukraine, top 4 finish, 4-1 with Boylesports, 4pt win = -4pts

Who will Russia award its 12pts to? Armenia – 2-1 Ladbrokes – 6pt win = -6pts

It is an incredibly exhausting, relentless 2 weeks – it has taken a week to recover – and writing for this site sometimes gets in the way of my number one priority of being at the event: trading the Eurovision markets. As a demonstration of the level of fatigue you are dealing with during ESC fortnight, post-semi 2 I was informing everyone in earshot what a shock it was that Finland hadn’t qualified.

This site’s proven track record for offering readers profitable tv betting advice now stretches to 5 years but EntertainmentOdds in its current form is not financially viable and a re-think is required ahead of the autumn season of Strictly and X Factor and next year’s ESC, as these 3 shows will continue to be the mainstays of the tv betting coverage here.

A big thank you to the guys from esctips and sofabet for being such entertaining company throughout the 2 weeks in Copenhagen, well done Conchita, but ESC 2014 will be remembered more here for the epic 2nd place finish and semi 1 victory for The Common Linnets. Also just realised what the guitar solo in ‘Calm After The Storm’ is reminiscent of: Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ – an apt description of the wonderful world of tv betting.


  1. Montell

    Second place for The Netherlands? First picture must reflect exactly how they are feeling. I would have been so much better if Netherlands won. Anyway, this year was very generous for poorly rated countries like Montenegro, San Marino, Slovenia, Austria, Netherlands and even Poland. The only loser was Israel. I’m glad for the new voting rules. I think Eurovision is moving to the right direction.

  2. Rob

    Let’s hope so, Montell. One concern has to be, if the EBU allows to stand some of the jury scoring we saw this year, you have to assume the same thing will continue to happen.

    Israel seems to be somewhat persecuted at the ESC. It remains true to its national identity with songs sung in Hebrew (at least in part) but it seems to disadvantage it massively no matter the quality of the song.

  3. neomichael

    For me there were 3 lessons this year:
    1)Stick to the first impression https://entertainmentodds.com.cp-uk-2.webhostbox.net/wp.cp-uk-2.webhostbox.net/wp/eurovision-song-contest/phoenix-flames/
    2)Forget Past eurovision performance (Austria, Greece)
    3)Don’t back a country to win the contest if based on it’s allies it does not seem to gather more points in the second part of the voting procedure (UK).

    Hope to see you again Rob and all of you guys at next ESC

    • Rob

      Very true Michael. Thanks for your contribution & looking forward to (Vienna?) next year. Will hope to see you there 🙂

  4. Rob

    Eurovision 2015 Outright market up on Betfair 🙂

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