Listen and win by betting on EurovisionWritten by Ewan Spence on December 2, 2010

Most of Europe won’t pay any attention to the Eurovision Song Contest until they spot either a national final in their TV Guide, or the Grand Final comes around in May. Of course there’s a huge block of fans around the world who follow the contest with as much passion as the supporters of a football team, as much knowledge as an American Baseball fan, and just a tinge of obsession.

And some of them turn that knowledge into profit by betting on Eurovision

Let’s be clear, there are three ways to potentially make a profit through gambling on Eurovision but there are also a lot of ways that could easily loose you a lot of money, so do remember there is risk involved and you should only play with what you can for.

The obvious strategy, the first way, is to place a bet when the odds on a song are winning are long. For example at the start of 2010, Germany’s odds on winning the contest turned a nice profit. As the contest approached, more people spotted the potential of Lena Meyer-Landrut and the odds moved to become shorter. It goes without saying that it’s the odds when you place the bet that matter to you, not what they are when the contest is over.

The smart Eurovision watcher can usually listen to a song and have a rough idea if it’s going to be a hit or a miss. Having a portfolio of £5 bets on songs to win, while the odds are longer, increases your chances of winning something, while exposing you to a little bit more loss. If you can manage to ensure that a win for any of the songs covers the lost bets on the other song, then you’re on your way to paying for the cost of your travel to Düsseldorf.

You don’t need to restrict yourself to a win either, as the “each-way” option will allow you to win if a song places in the top three or four at Eurovision. Generally you’ll get a smaller amount if the song wins, but you also make a small profit if they come second, third or fourth. Check with the bookmakers how many places down the list an each-way bet will cover, and also how much you’ll make.

So far this is all a bit of fun, with a dash of risk… there’s still the chance an outlier of a song is going to pick up votes on the night. It would be rather foolish to bet on up to forty countries in the hope the one winner covers the losses. That’s how to not loose money, but if you’re like me, you want to win.

As well as betting that a song will win the Contest, at many bookmakers you can bet that a song will not win Eurovision. This is the second style of betting on the contest. Generally referred to as laying a bet, it’s the key to a profitable night on May 14th. Because if you manage it correctly there is nothing to stop you betting on the same song to win and loose the Contest.

No it’s not mad. It’s down to predicting what way you think the price will move. Let’s take a simple example and take a mythical song from Italy (or perhaps not so mythical now, yaay!). It’s initially priced at 50-1 (maybe because the bookies aren’t sure how to handle their return). Your Eurovision Sense is that this song has a good chance of wining, and you expect the odds to shorten.

Let’s put £5 on this song to win – if it does manage it then we’ll get the stake back and the winnings, so £255 in hand, £250 profit.

As the contest gets nearer, the realisation of just how good the song is dawns on pretty much everybody, and the price comes in to a more sensible 5-1. We’ve still got a ticket that says we’ll win at 50-1 if Italy tops the table, but what we want to do now is bet on Italy to loose the contest. Generally this is the reverse of the odds, so Italy to loose is 1-5. If we put down a bet of £50 and they don’t finish in first place, then we’ll win £10 and our stake back. Let’s look at the two outcomes, and what would happen to our bets in each case.

If Italy win:
We have a £5 bet £250 and our £5 stake back, but lost £50 on the Italy to loose bet. Our profit is £200.

If Italy loose:
We loose the £5 bet on them to win, but do take the £10 winnings from our £50 to loose bet (and the stake back). Our profit is £5.

No matter the result of the Song Contest, we’re going to win some cash. Invest £55 and you’ve got a return of either 9.1% or 363.6%. Show me a bank that would give you even the lower rate for five months or so investment (because those long odds are really only available in the first month or two of 2011).

Lets do the same for another country. Again, some hypothetical numbers. but looking at betting the opposite way – if you think the odds are going to lengthen (such as pouring money into Sweden last year until you saw it was Anna Bergendahl and not Eric Saade representing the country).

The odds start at 4-1, but because you think they’ll lengthen, you bet on Sweden to loose. Let’s “lay Sweden by £40” for a potential profit of £10. Once we’ve seen the rehearsal go horribly wrong, the price has moved out to 10-1. Now is the time to bet. £5 again, for a potential profit of £50. Now let’s add this to our Italian Job.

If Italy win:
Italy to win hands us £250; Sweden to loose hands us £10.We loose our Sweden to win (£5) and Italy to loose (£50). Our profit is £205.

If Sweden win:
Sweden to win hands us £50; Italy to loose hands us £10. we loose our stakes on a Swedish loss (£40) and an Italian win (£5). Our profit is £15.

If Italy and Sweden both loose:
Italy to loose hands us £10, Sweden to loose hands us £10. We loose our two £5 stakes on the countries to win, but our profit here is £10.

Even in our worst case scenario, the two countries loosing, we’ve got a return on our £100 investment (The two £5 to win stakes, and the £40 and £50 lays) of 10% – less of course any commission fees that may be taken by the bookmakers, typically around 5%, so do check the small print. But here’s the important thing to realise. We’re now in a position that no matter what happens on the night you’re still going to walk away with more money than you started with.

Two things you do need to be aware of. The first is that to make a big win you still need to spot a song early to get the long odds that can really make a difference to your winnings. The second is that as a rule you can’t cash out any winning until the contest is over, so your money will be tied up with the bookmaker until the end of May.

Neither do you need to cover every country for a win – if the price doesn’t move that much it might be tough to get into a situation where both options (win or loose) turn a profit. In that case you want to at least make sure you “green up” by at least ensuring that each bet wins the stake of its opposite number (Oh and why greening up? Because when many betting sites will show your potential win or loss, they’ll colour the text green if you’re not loosing money).

And while we’re not going to be responsible for the betting that you might make, we’d love to know your success stories and if they’ll match up to ours!

Picture by DJ Damien (Flickr CC).

About The Author: Ewan Spence

British Academy (BAFTA) nominated broadcaster and writer Ewan Spence is the voice behind The Unofficial Eurovision Song Contest Podcast and one of the driving forces behind ESC Insight. Having had an online presence since 1994, he is a noted commentator around the intersection of the media, internet, technology, mobility and how it affects us all. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, his work has appeared on the BBC, The Stage, STV, and The Times. You can follow Ewan on Twitter (@ewan) and Facebook (facebook.com/ewanspence).

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