Eurovision 2015 odds: the intelligent punter's guide
What are the odds on Russia's Polina Gagarina beating the hot Eurovision 2015 favourite from Sweden, Mans Zelmerlow?
Twenty-seven countries will line up for the final of the 60th Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna on Saturday. It will be broadcast live on BBC1 from 8pm, with Graham Norton providing the caustic commentary.
For punters, there are four key stats that have a bearing on Eurovision odds:
1. Countries which are part of a voting bloc have an advantage.
Three distinct blocs of countries can be identified for voting purposes: a Nordic bloc, an ex-USSR bloc and a Balkan bloc (which includes Turkey). Since 1998, all but two Eurovision contests have been won by a bloc member. Last year's victory of the 'bearded lady' Conchita Wurst, representing Austria, showed that non-bloc countries can still win, but their entries must stand out to have a chance.
2. Running order is important.
As the contest has expanded to include more countries, so the running order has become more important. By the time the voting comes, it's easy to forget the songs that were performed earlier in the evening: the first ten songs performed are, statistically, up against it. Conchita Wurst, who was the 11th to perform in 2014, was the first act to win from a top half draw for 11 years. Before that the running positions of the winners, working back from 2013 were 18th, 17th, 19th, 22nd, 20th, 24th, 17th, 17th and 19th.
3. Songs not sung in English don't do well.
Globalisation has had its impact on Eurovision: 20 of the last 23 winners have sung in English.
4. Solo artists do better than groups.
Eurovision used to be dominated by groups, but today it's solo acts who tend to do best. Solo performers have won nine of the last 12 contests. Female solo performers do best of all.
So, to sum up, the ideal profile of a modern Eurovision winner is a solo artist (preferably female) from a bloc country, with a position in the second half of the running order (or at least not in the first ten), singing in English.
Now let's take a closer look at some of the likelier contenders, plus some outsiders, who could be worth an each-way bet. Check with your bookies whether they are paying out for the first four or five places…
'Tonight Again' sung by Guy Sebastian. Best odds 12-1.
No, you haven't misread it: Australia is included in this year's contest as a special guest to mark Eurovision's 60th birthday. Hard to weigh up their chances, but Sebastian is fancied to do well despite the lack of bloc votes and a first-half draw (position 12).
'I am Yours', The Makemakes. Best odds 200-1.
It's hard to win this contest two years running - the last country to achieve the feat was Ireland in 1994 - and with Conchita Wurst co-hosting and not performing, Austria would appear to be against it.
'Hour of the Wolf', Elnur Huseynov. Best odds 40-1.
The ex-Soviet republic has a great recent record in the contest, finishing in the top five in eight of the last nine years. They've got an excellent late draw (24) and at current odds it's tempting to place an each-way bet.
'Rhythm Inside', Loic Nottet. Best odds 6-1.
An interesting number and it has come in for some late support. However, the Belgians could have got a better draw (13) and they are usually handicapped by a lack of bloc votes: they've won the contest only once, back in 1986.
'Goodbye to Yesterday', Elina Born and Stig Rasta. Best odds 20-1.
Quite a good song from a country which will pick up bloc votes, but its odds have gone out after Estonia received a poor early draw (4).
'Black Smoke', Ann Sophie. Best odds 200-1.
Reasonably catchy number and quite well drawn (17), but Germany doesn't get bloc votes and has won only once - in 2010 - since the early 1980s.
'Wars for Nothing', Boggie. Best odds 200-1.
This gentle anti-war song is in pleasant contrast to some of the brasher entries. Deserves to do really well and although the Hungarians can't rely on bloc votes, it could out-perform its long odds because of a good draw (22).
'Golden Boy', Nadav Guedj. Best odds 66-1.
Catchy number which has come in for some late support, but Israel has only won once since 1979 and has the disadvantage of a very early draw (3) to overcome
'Grande Amore', Il Volo. Best odds 4-1.
We can always rely on the Italians to bring a touch of quality to the proceedings. This classy piano-accompanied ballad, which is the last song to be performed, would be a worthy winner (it's certainly a better song than Sweden's); negatives are that Italy doesn't get bloc votes and it's not sung in English.
'Love Injected', Aminata. Best odds 50-1.
A solo female performer from a bloc vote country and with a second-half draw (19), this has plenty going for it. Although the song probably isn't quite strong enough to win, it could do better than its odds would suggest.
'A Monster Like Me', Morland and Debra Scarlett. Best odds 33-1.
Quite a good song, and it's come in for market support. However, while it will get bloc votes, duos haven't done too well in recent years. It also has a poor draw (9) to overcome.
'A Million Voices', Polina Gagarina. Best odds 7-2.
An ode to peace and healing, this well-performed number ticks all the right boxes: it's sung by an attractive solo female, it'll get plenty of bloc votes and it's well drawn in 25th position. Looks a strong contender if anti-Russian politics don't come into play.
'Beauty Never Lies', Bojana Stamenov. Best odds 33-1.
Some have been saying that Stamenov – a very big lady with a very strong voice, who sings the lyric 'Finally I can say, yes, I'm different and it's okay!' – could be this year's Conchita Wurst. Serbia, who won in 2007, get bloc votes; the downside is the top-half draw (8).
'Amanecer', Edurne. Best odds 66-1.
Spain haven't won since the days of General Franco and a lack of bloc votes is usually a big handicap. However, they've got a good draw (21) and it's an okay song performed by a female solo performer so it could out-perform the odds.
'Heroes', Mans Zelmerlow. Best odds 7-4.
While it's a repetitive number, it's not hard to see why it's the red-hot favourite: it's from a country with a great record in Eurovision and which will do well with bloc votes. That said, Sweden are not well drawn (10) and, at current odds, other songs could provide better value.
'Still in Love With You', Electro Velvet. Best odds: 100-1.
Catchy up-tempo number that deserves to do well, but the UK's recent record in this contest is lousy: no win since 1997 and just one top ten finish since 2003. Being drawn at five is no help either.