Red Carpet Gambling: Betting On The Oscars

By: Scott Yager

It’s no secret that many people gamble. A practice that has been used by many to add a monetary level of excitement to sporting events has been going on for years, most of the time getting introduced into the person’s life around the time they venture off to college. Some people do their gambling in person, using hand-to-hand exchanges and real faces to match the angry voice on the other end of the phone come payment time. Some gamblers however, choose to do their bidding online. Now if you have ever been to, one of the more popular online gambling sites, you will see that the top part of the site lists what sports you may want to bet on: basketball, football, hockey, you name it. There is however one category that you may be neglecting due to its mysterious title. Now, if you’re used to surfing porn sites you might have trained yourself to ignore the term “EXOTICS” because it usually means something involving an animal or an amputee, but in regards to sports gambling it refers to anything that isn’t actually a sport and thus, by comparison would be considered exotic.

This includes TV shows like American Idol (we’ll get more into that later), Dancing With the Stars, presidential elections, and most importantly, award shows like The Academy Awards, The Golden Globes, and The Grammys. Pay attention because I’m about to change your world right now….

The same principles can be applied to almost all of these different events in which voting is the primary deciding factor, but I am going to focus on a) what I know best and b) what is coming up next Sunday and currently taking action.

First and foremost I must get out of the way that gambling is dangerous. Sure you could get the crap beaten out of you by your bookie, but even if you do everything electronically, where you are forced to put your actual funds on the line before you have even won or lost, you run the risk of emptying out your account and ruining your life. Let’s not be stupid, people. In particular, if you are going to try out betting on the Oscars, don’t do it with thousands of dollars. Try it out with a manageable amount you would be okay with losing because, as in all gambling, losing is a very distinct possibility.

You do however have more control over the risks you are taking and how much you are taking them for, something that makes knowledge of the situation much more valuable. For instance, you may think you KNOW that say, the Colts are going to beat the Lions. This is such a foregone conclusion that they will not give you a moneyline, that is, an amount of money you can wager to win $100 if the Colts just win outright. They will, however, give you a spread, say seventeen points, that the Colts HAVE to win by in order not to lose. Now no matter how much any of us know about football, this removes the idea of that game being “a lock” because anything can happen and although the Lions beating the Colts is VERY unlikely, there are million things that could happen to cause them to only lose by ten, or fourteen, or sixteen. This happens all the time and this is why sports will always be tough to bet on. Most of the time that there is a moneyline, it is in tune with how confident you are as a bettor that your team will win. More often than not if you are certain a team will win (or at least think you are) you are either not going to get a moneyline at all, or have to put up an absurd amount of money to win a little bit.

This is also true with the Oscars, and this year is one in which it is very apparent because there are several “locks” up on the board.  Contradicting what I said earlier, if you have $2,000 you can risk, by all means throw that money down on Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique to win the supporting actor awards because there is no chance in hell either of them lose. Because they feel the need to put them up there they are trying to scare away anyone not willing to risk over a thousand dollars to win a hundred (as a normal person, you should not be willing to do such a thing).

Let’s take a look at those categories. Here are the odds you are getting for the nominees as of 2/28/10. Remember, like game odds these odds move as well and do so based on how much action somebody is getting. For instance, Kathryn Bigelow, who directed The Hurt Locker and who a lot of people think has no chance of losing, even to her former husband James Cameron, opened at -200, then moved up to -400 (due to a ton of action) and has since moved back down to -350. This means if you want to win $100 if Bigelow scores the statue, then you need to put up $350. If you believe she is a guaranteed win (which depending on how you look at it, she might be) these are pretty good odds. The second option, which I am going to go into further and is very important to this type of betting, IS James Cameron at +120.

Best Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer +2000 (20-1)

Christoph Waltz -2000 (1-20)

Matt Damon +1200 (12-1)

Stanley Tucci +900 (9-1)

Woody Harrelson +900 (9-1)

To win $100 on Christoph Waltz from Inglorious Basterds you have to wager $2,000. THAT is a lock. They do not want anyone winning any money off of this award because there is no chance that he loses. Every other actor should be +2000 like Plummer is, but they staggered them to give the appearance of a multiple horse race. To say simply that they all have no chance, which is the case, would be stupid. This way they might get some money coming in on Damon by someone who thinks he is a shot in the dark, and based on the other numbers thinks they are getting good odds.

The same can be said about the Best Supporting Actress category. You see the same idea here and can easily pick out, just based on the odds, who’s the clear-cut favorite.

Best Supporting Actress

Anna Kendrick +800 (8-1)

Maggie Gyllenhall +2000 (20-1)

Mo’Nique -1500 (1-15)

Penelope Cruz +1200 (12-1)

Vera Farmiga +1200 (12-1)

Hopefully this is starting to make sense to you because I am about to move to some of the categories that are not set in stone and although you would be taking a risk by betting on them, you have a chance to win some good money. The two categories above simply do not allow that. To win $100 you have to bet $2000 or $1500. If they lose a few hundred bucks to the few people stupid or rich enough to do this, so what, they probably more than make up for it with the idiots who take Damon or Farmiga and hope to score some cash on The Departed duo. Due to betting maximums, it is most likely mathematically IMPOSSIBLE to win any sort of real money on either of these categories. If I thought there was a chance either of these people could lose I would urge you to bet WHOEVER you thought had a chance cause either way you are getting fantastic odds, however there is simply no chance Waltz or Mo’Nique goes home empty handed, so let us move on…

Last year Slumdog Millionaire was a LOCK for Best Picture. I cannot recall what the odds were but they were not worth taking. This year it is a two horse race between Avatar and The Hurt Locker and currently they have Avatar as the favorite at -250. This puts The Hurt Locker at +120 which I think are great odds for a movie that has a real chance of winning Best Picture. I think they felt like, and were probably right in doing so, that more money would come in on Avatar and thus that would be the way to go with the odds, even if they should be a little closer and a little closer to even. They figure more people will bet on Avatar and thus they want to minimize their losses if it does win – a smart move on their part. However, knowing this, and having a grasp on the film industry, which has given most of the prestigious awards to The Hurt Locker (PGA, DGA, etc) might lead a gambling man (or woman) to throw some dough on The Hurt Locker, which pays you out even more than you risked. For instance, if you bet $250 on The Hurt Locker you would win $300 (plus your $250). If you bet $250 on Avatar you only win $100. This race is a LOT closer than that. My advice is to throw some cash, maybe not hundreds of bucks, but SOME money down on The Hurt Locker and hope that justice is served come next Sunday. If you are looking for a way to spice up your time on the couch during the otherwise boring ceremony, I think this is a very practical way to go. The second option is often good value when the race is a lot closer than the odds may imply. Because they want to make the odds slightly worse than they should be for the favorite and thus, the film or actor that will garner the most action, the second option typically benefits with more realistic odds that mirror their actual chances.

Here are some other awards in which the winner is not yet set in stone. Unfortunately Best Actor seems to be a lock for Jeff Bridges at -800, but if you want to take a flyer on Jeremy Renner at +1400 or George Clooney at +700 I don’t have a problem with it, I just wouldn’t want to be the one who recommended it. Bridges is close to a lock at this point, even though I don’t agree with it. At full disclosure, I threw a tiny bit on George just cause I feel he’s so much more deserving. Probably a stupid move on my part.

Best Director is somewhere in the middle because I believe Bigelow is a lock and will become the first female to ever win the award. Why? Because no matter how cool Avatar was I feel like there might be a stigma where if a woman can’t win for a film as brilliant and well-made as The Hurt Locker, then they might never have a chance to compete in the category. Plus, the idea of a woman beating her ex-husband is too good to pass up. She is a lock and at -350 and that ain’t half bad. You’re not going to take home too much but if you have some cash to throw on her I have a hard time believing you don’t get it back.

Best Actress is being called a lock by some people and Bullock has a great chance to win, however the odds they are giving you make it acceptable to want to take a flyer on Streep in Julia and Julia at +160 or possibly Gabourey Sidibe, who played Precious for a longshot +1000. Bullock is -225 and is definitely the favorite, however out of all the acting favorites she has the best chance to lose. Because of this she has the best odds, but I also do not feel comfortable telling you to take her. This is definitely an open category to consider but do so carefully and do so on your own. One of the few worth gambling on, but sadly not one I can help you with.

This is just a hunch but I think Un Prophete at +160 has a chance to upset The White Ribbon at -225 for Best Foreign film. No real reason and chances are none of you have seen either of these films, I’m just saying…

Last year when there were four people left on American Idol I put $100 on Kris Allen to win at 8-1. My logic was that people were not going to vote for Adam Lambert, although deserving, who was -300 at the time, and if he wasn’t going to win then the teeny-bopper fans would select the male contestant with the most sex appeal, who ended up being Kris Allen. Now Allen really brought it at the end, delivering his most original performances like the Kanye West cover, but what really won him the award was the backlash against Lambert’s overt yet ambiguous sexuality, and the fact that when it came down to it, the girls who vote for this show wanted to vote for a guy that they had a crush on. This removed Danny Gokey who was goofy at best, Allison for being a girl, and Adam Lambert for being what most young and uneducated girls probably perceived as a guy who would permanently live in the “friend zone”. All said and done, a person who took a flyer on Allen at 8-1 when there were four people left took home $900 total. There is money to be made here. Anything with voting involved has the opportunity to be predicted fairly accurately as long as the gambler has a grasp on what is being voted on, who is voting and what factors into how they vote.

The Academy Awards has suddenly become one of the easier shows to predict because it is one of the only awards show that carries its past with it and allows politics to affect the results just as much as the performances. The campaigns for certain films or performances are so out in the open that it is somewhat easy to keep in touch with what films or stars are gaining steam towards the end of the race and might produce an upset.

There’s even something for female gamblers as well with the two dress categories. Bettors can wager on who will be the designer of the Best Actress winner’s dress as well as what the color of the dress will be.  Being that starlets tend to like to keep this a secret until the last minute, unless you have some sort of inside source it seems like these are more or less just blind luck wagers. Who knows though, to somebody out there this could seem like free money and gamblers shouldn’t be scared to let their sister make the call for them.

My Oscar column will be out later this week, but hopefully this little look into the world of Exotics Gambling will either get dudes more interested in the Oscars or get chicks more interested in gambling. Either way, for all of us normal people who love sports, gambling and movies, it’s all win/win baby. Good luck!

For a complete look at all the Exotic wagers in play at the 82nd Academy Awards, check out


Tags : AvatarAward ShowsBest PictureChristoph WaltzExotics GamblingGeorge ClooneyInglourious BasterdsJeff BridgesKathryn BigelowMo'NiqueMoney LineOddsOscarsPreciousSandra BullockThe Hurt Locker