No, Queen of Kings Was Never Favourite to Win MGP
Today I’ve received messages and seen Reddit and Facebook posts all claiming the same thing. They claim that Alessandra and Queen of Kings is the favourite to win Melodi Grand Prix in Norway.
This is fake news. Let us explain why.
The reason for this thread has come from the way Eurovision World has been showing the odds for Melodi Grand Prix. What Eurovision World does is it tracks all the sites that produce odds for each Eurovision event and puts them into a list based on their back prices available. It is a great tool and my go-to for the latest Eurovision odds from the bookmakers.
This works great for the conventional bookmakers which in almost all circumstances will offer odds on all of the entrants. However there are no conventional bookmakers that we can see currently which offer odds on who will win MGP 2023. The only places offering odds are the betting exchanges on Betfair and on Smarkets.
It is worth a reminder here of what a betting exchange is and, to best explain this, I take this text from the Betfair Exchange site.
“A betting exchange allows members to bet against each other rather than a bookmaker. Customers can offer odds to, or request odds from, fellow bettors.
Where traditional bookmakers risk going head-to-head with gamblers on markets, a betting exchange takes on no risk at all. Instead, a betting exchange provides the platform for its customers to match bets against each other and takes a small commission on winnings."
The key phrase is that the betting exchange simply provides the platform for people to match bets for and against different outcomes. If I believe that a certain country or certain artist should be certain odds for me to back them, I can input that into the exchange and wait for somebody to agree with me that my price is a fair price. The exchange then interacts as a proverbial handshake between two customers who have agreed on a bet at a certain price point, and stake amount.
As a general rule the betting exchanges are better than conventional bookmakers. For a start especially in specialist markets the ‘knowledge’ of the exchange is likely to be better than the knowledge of one individual bookmaker, so if one is looking for an ‘accurate’ prediction tool I’d tend to recommend the exchanges rather than the bookies. Furthermore, especially in special markets the exchanges tend to get a much lower overround, meaning you are likely to get far better value with the exchange compared to the bookmakers.
The problem though comes in how the odds of the betting exchange are interpreted, especially by sites like Eurovision World. Eurovision World’s system scans the Betfair Exchange looking for the best odds being offered on each act. But what does it do when no odds are offered? Unlike a bookmaker that will readjust their odds when more money is placed, those odds simply disappear on the exchanges when all of the money staked has been matched.
This situation happened with our Alessandra. As the song went TikTok viral in the past week and it crossed into one million stream territory, money was getting matched at lower and lower odds on the Betfair Exchange. Queen of Kings first matched at odds of 30.0 and these odds kept tumbling until reaching its lowest price of 3.05. This price, nearly ten times lower than the original bet placed, is clearly lower than anybody expected Alessandra’s warrior princess track would ever get, because after that point there was no more money available to bet on Alessandra.
None of Betfair’s users had thought it was worth their time, effort, or locking away their liability on any shorter odds.
This resulted first in Alessandra disappearing completely from Eurovision World’s tracker. This happened because, with no odds available to bet on Alessandra, their system didn’t register her as a competitor.
Soon after that was noticed however, odds did appear on the Exchange for Alessandra but at conservatively low odds of 1.56. Eurovision World’s tracker then alerted people to the ‘fact’ that Alessandra was favourite to win MGP, because this 1.56 was lower than the available 1.66 on Ulrikke.
There’s two reasons to note this as being wrong. Firstly we should question a scenario where both acts are odds on in a large field of competitors. Odds of 2.0 would imply an even bet and an agreed 50% chance of success. Two acts shorter than this implies that the odds for one, if not both of them, is too short. The second reason goes back to those matched prices. While Ulrikke has been matched at prices varying from 1.37 to 2.4, she has most recently matched at 2.0, whereas no gambler has accepted a price on Alessandra at less than 3.0. The true favourite, by some distance, is clearly still Ulrikke.
And I would agree that Ulrikke should be the favourite. While Queen of Kings has hit one million streams Ulrikke has quietly reached 500,000 for a song that doesn’t necessarily appeal to a streaming audience and that hasn’t had that viral TikTok success. We assume the televote for Ulrikke in the final will be larger than streaming data alone suspects in part for the sob story narrative but also for its appeal to a more mainstream Norwegian Saturday night audience.
Furthermore the success of Jone’s Ekko Inne Meg could easily split the ‘streaming’ vote in the final (especially in a televote system that is one user, one vote) and leave Ulrikke to stroll to victory through the gap that opens up between the two other frontrunners.
The graph below shows the price history on the Betfair Exchange of both Alessandra and Ulrikke.
I want to use this point though to say that, unusually, I haven’t placed a bet on this year’s Melodi Grand Prix winner market. One frustration with MGP compared to Melodifestivalen is that we get very little data about previous results, with televote scores only revealed in the head-to-head finals in previous years. That makes it harder for us to work out the likelihood of certain songs doing well. To make that worse for this year we have a new voting system in Melodi Grand Prix that is 50% international jury and 50% public vote. That’s all we know about it though. Depending on how one weights the international jury results and the public vote (i.e. is it one big jury or lots of juries in different countries, or a 12-10-8 borda count televote or a proportional televote reveal a la UMK/Melodifestivalen pre-app) that could sway the ‘real’ weighting of power towards the jury or the public vote in different ways (for an obvious example, look at how Junior Eurovision is much more heavily weighted to the jury despite being 50/50).
With so much unknown I am not touching this market unless I have real conviction for value. I agree with the market that Ulrikke is the likely outcome, possibly finishing 2nd and 2nd in both jury and televote blocs, but more insight than that I can’t really give.
This article also gives me a point to explain a key benefit of BetEurovision’s new creation Alexander Rybot. What Alexander does is stays logged in to the Exchange to check and publish the most recent price moves based on the matched price. This is publicly accessible data (assuming you have a Betfair account) and our bot makes this information more useful to all. The matched price is a far better indicator of the real odds as it is that point where two people have agreed with each other to make a fair trade. We have already added an Ulrikke tracker to MGP but will add Alessandra and some other acts in national finals that are likely to attract significant interest in coming weeks.
You can always request more things for the Rybot to track by contacting us on Twitter, Facebook or by email with firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don't follow Alexander Rybot yet check out our sidekick here.