Friday, December 15, 2006

X Factor: Leona vs Ray - The Final.

On the eve of the final of X Factor 3 we find Ray, a one time 200-1 outsider, charged with the task of over-turning the immense lead that Leona has commanded in the polls for nearly two months now.

Firstly, let's check in and see how the polls are looking for one last time:

No surprises there then. Leona registers 60% + in all polls barring the Internet Forum, which has a history of being pro-Ray verses the overall landscape.

However, If someone who had never seen the X Factor, the polls, or the current markets, were to do some brief internet research into the contest, they would find countless pro-Ray discussions on internet forums pointing to the superior "all-round entertainer" credentials of Ray, his advantage with the female demographic both young and old, the advantage of his "underdog" status, his more likeable personality, his advantage in singing second on the night, and his physical profile fitting the description of an X Factor winner.

They would read comparisons of Ray's plight with that of a certain Matt Willis who in a recent Reality TV series had consistently lacked support in the polls, yet against the odds managed to triumph over the series favourites. They would read about the substantial influx of viewers switching on the programme for the first time and introducing voting behaviour that current polls fail to pick up, and they would read about the support base of the recently eliminated semi-finalist Ben being more likely to vote for Ray over his old adversary Leona. They would read newspaper articles quoting bookmakers about six figure sums being wagered on Ray. They would read about how close last week's vote was, and how Simon Cowell was quoted this week as saying "There were only 1000 votes between them".

They would find very little, almost an uncanny silence, written about his opponent.

They would be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that Ray should be favourite to win tomorrow night's final.

But he is not. And he shouldn't be.

Some of the above points are valid, some of them are not. All of them are non-measurable at this stage, and contain some level of subjectivity. Indeed, some of the above points could be seen to benefit Leona, however observers who think this most likely feel they don't have to shout quite as loudly as the pro-Ray observers do.

We know from first hand experience that finals tend to be harder to call than weekly shows, due to the intensity of the swings that can occur on the final night. Could Ray win? Of course he could. Is he more likely to win than Leona? Probably not at this stage.

Bearing all of this in mind, we view the markets to be correctly positioned right now by implying a 70% chance of Leona coming through, and 30% chance of Ray winning. With no value, it's difficult to take any action.

Our advice is, if not done already, to level up the books which should be a healthy shade of green if the polls have been followed correctly so far, sit back and enjoy the show.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

BBC Sport Sports Personality Of The Year - Poll Results

A very Happy Sunday to you all.

We have been conducting a good-sized poll since Wednesday morning on the views of those interested in the much discussed BBC Sport Sports Personality Of The Year Award. The winner will be named after a public vote by phone and text during the BBC One show, which starts at 1900 GMT this evening. For any readers unsure of the credentials of the final ten candidates, a three minute video can be found on the BBC's website here.

Our poll does not attempt to mirror the demographics of the BBC show and so should not be viewed as "scientific" in any way, but we hope to provide a general snapshot of the background level of support for each contestant going into tonight's program.

Here are the live prices on the key markets of winner top 3 position and also "winner without Darren & Zara" and "winner without Clarke".

It is of course critical to the outcome of tonight's show to gauge how viewers will react to the program as the voting period is restricted to the period of the show itself. Many will have not thought about voting or may be "floating voters".

One key factor is of course the emotion associated with the market favourite - golfer Darren Clarke's sucessful team performance just weeks after the death of his wife Heather, when he scored three points from three matches as Europe beat the United States to retain the Ryder Cup. Clarke broke down in tears as the jubilant crowd saluted him. How voters react to the interview with Clarke could well be the deciding factor this evening - one may be as well advised as to make a "gut" decision on that rather then rely on any pre-show poll.

Here are the results at time of writing;

Zara Philips and Darren Clarke are the pre-show favourites among the 417 responders to our survey since Wednesday, with Calzaghe and "arrows" hero Phil Taylor occupying the 3rd and 4th positions;

The second choice question is more open, with Calzaghe, Tweddle and Clarke at the front of the group;

The answer to this negative question (remember that this is a positive vote) made us feel that Zara Philips' strong showing in question 1 was not due to us stumbling across a horse-mad demographic. Zara is the group's least favourite winner overall, even less popular than Andy "I'm Scottish, not British" borderline xenophobe Murray. Who is known for playing world-class tennis one minute, then throwing sets and tantrums the next;

OK, so we'll conclude this post with some suggestions for exchange traders.

We don't wish to back or lay Darren Clarke at the moment at current price (about 1.33 on the Betfair exchange). Clarke is the contender who could build in on his strong base supprt out there during the show as voters are sympathetic to this recently-beraved golfer and could win in a landslide.

The flip-side of this consensus opinion though for us, is that judging how the public will react to these sorts of situations in live voting shows is notoriously difficult. If Clarke says that he does not want to win due to a sympathy vote - does that make the public more or less likely to vote for him. We don't have a good answer - so Clarke at 1.33 is a "no bet" for us.

If our poll is generally correct the poorly priced contenders tonight are;

Zara Philips in the outright (8 or 7-1). We would back Zara here at 8s on the exchanges. We think that given the difficulty in predicting the public's live reaction to Clarke, Zara could easily trade to 4s this evening - at which point we would suggest laying to go "all green" or if that's not your style laying back your stake for a "free bet".

In the "top 3" market, Phil Taylor (8s) and Tweddle (7s) may be worth small bets at those prices for a place. Phil as he's not so far behind Calzaghe in the "favourite winner" question. Tweddle as she's a popular 2nd choice and we hear she's performing live on the show tonight - which may sway a few floating voters. As we said above, this show is a live event and we would lay Taylor at "fair values" of 4s and Tweddle at 3s to level up if they reach those prices on the exchanges during tonight's show.

We've also backed Zara at 1.4 for a top-3 position. Her price has already moved nearer 1.3 at time of writing. Nimble exchange traders would be better served waiting for the show itself as there may be an opportunity for a better price. We think backing Zara at 1.4 for a top 3 position is a decent bet. We'd cover that at 1.2 type levels as we like to have an all-green screen running into results.

We'd appreciate your feedback as ever, email the author at or please use the comments section.. Special Bets.

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