Eurovision, incredibly, has been running since 1956. In that time, it has launched careers (Lulu, ABBA, er...that Russian ice skater who won a few years ago) and has become a byword for naff kitsch the continent over.
However, since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the widening of the participant pool, Eurovision has also become massive news in certain parts of Europe. Just look at how much effort Russia and Ukraine put in to winning (2008 and 2016, respectively) and what it meant to the population. Azerbaijan even brought out a stamp commemorating their 2011 winners, Ell and Nicki.
Unless you get lucky playing some of these great slots here at MrGamez and feel you’re sorted for the year, you might want to place bets on Eurovision winners. The question to answer is simple: how can anyone predict the winner? With our look at the last 20 years of winners, we've sourced everything from country to age to the eye colour of the singer (no stone left unturned, of course).
The Eurovision is all about bringing unity through music across the globe, not just in Europe. It's why this popular show also made it across the Atlantic and to the States, where it is now broadcast. The Americans can gather around their screen to cheer their favourite song from millions of miles away, and that's the beauty of this show. It brings together people in celebration of something happy and that we all love - music. In fact, that's also how Australia (a long-time kitsch follower) earned a 'guest' entry into the competition. It was probably getting lonely for this massive country with very few neighbours to compete against. So the Eurovision welcomed it into its fold.
Ireland used to have plenty of success in Eurovision, but the rising cost of hosting the show meant they arguably did all they could to not finish top. Ireland went as far as sending a puppet turkey into the 2008 competition. It failed to make it past the semi-finals.
With the introduction of semi-finals to cater for the wider European populace, it means many of the more polished songs make it past the dross. Azerbaijan's 2012 win famously came through the semi-finals (we really have no idea how that happened. It reminded us a little of a fun turkey slot we house here at MrGamez so we kind of grew fond of it).
When the Berlin Wall fell, Yugoslavia (Riva - Rock Me) marked a change in Western European winners taking down Eurovision. Normal service was resumed when Sweden, then Ireland (three years on the trot), and Norway (1995) all won. 2001 saw the first win for a former Soviet Bloc country as Estonia took home the prize.
Not to be outdone, neighbour Latvia won in 2002. Ukraine, Serbia, Azerbaijan (pushing the 'European' envelope perhaps a little too far), and even Russia (2008's bonkers ice-skating win) have all bagged wins in the past 15 years.
Portugal's 2017 marked a rare break from the Eastern Europe/Scandinavia axis, but recent phone voting has been a bigger factor in results. While there is arguably still country-to-country bias from the panels, phone voters tend (mostly) to go for the songs they like, regardless of where they come from which completely changes the odds.
That's not to say politics doesn't play a part every time, of course. Ukraine stormed to victory in 2016 with 1944 from Jamala. Although it's against Eurovision rules to sing political numbers, Jamala claimed the song was - in part - about Russia's long history in Crimea. The entry caused a political spat between Ukraine and Russia.
While the likes of Spain - who haven't won since the 60s - and the United Kingdom were once Eurovision powerhouses, it's all changed since then. Germany's 2010 win was a catchy hit but in most years, they come at or near the bottom.
In recent years, Russia have been the big bookies' favourites to win pop's "biggest" prize. In 2016, the clear front runner, Sergey Lazarev, lost out to the Ukraine in a highly-politicised Eurovision. Jamala was a 4/1 shot to win, with some bookies like Betfred Casino going 11/8 that Russia would win easily.
The Western powers like France (6/1), Italy (25/1) and the UK (40/1) always feature, but usually fail to deliver. France ended 2016's competition way down in 5th, with under half of Ukraine's total. Russia came 3rd.
Austria's Conchita Wurst won in 2014, and it was a landmark win for Austria. It's interesting that most winners in the past decade have been women, but a first transsexual winner was a massive story for the competition.
Of the past 20 winners, only six have been male (including 2006's bonkers Finnish rock act, Lordi), and 2017's Portuguese ballad-singing winner, Salvador Sobral, who marked a move away from high-tempo dance tunes.
Overall, though, look for tunes that wouldn't be out of place on a Friday night DJ's set list in Croydon, Vienna, or Minsk. Also check the songwriters' credits. Many countries now employ the services of big-name producers to get them over the line.
The Swedes are a lucky group of folks - and not just at the slots. Or so it transpires. The Eurovision is probably most famous for having launched the amazing career of ABBA, who won in 1974 with 'Waterloo', setting in motion a decade-long career of top 10 hits and divorces. Scandinavians have performed well since then, with either Swedish songwriters behind some of the winners, or triumphs coming from home-based acts.
Sweden's Mans Zelmerlow (2015) won with Heroes in 2015, while the similarly upbeat Only Teardrops from Danish act, Emmelie de Forest (2013) won in style. Sweden's Loreen won the year before with Euphoria, starting a trend for club anthem-style tunes bagging the top prize. Her Kate Bush-on-acid dance routine didn't do her any harm, either.
In the past, juries alone voted on their favourite acts. That meant Sweden would give Norway 12 points, Cyprus would give Greece 12 points, and so on. Not many people gave France any points.
These days, phone voting is a massive contributor to the winner, and viewers who can be bothered to pay for a text message are a lot more discerning on who is "good". That means that bookies' odds, even major ones like BetVictor, can be massively off.
In 2016, hot favourite Russia would have won Eurovision if only the public vote (361 votes) had been included. Ukraine only got 323 points. However, a poor jury's vote for Russia (just 130 points) meant they ended in third place.
Similarly, in 2017, Bulgaria were head and shoulders above the field due to their public vote. A low jury vote meant they ended up 2nd behind Portugal.
Interestingly, last year was one of the most straightforward Eurovision contests in years. The bookies' favourite won in style, while Eastern European countries with catchy tunes came 2nd and 3rd. The stalwart Swedes, came 5th.
Betting on Eurovision is good around semi-finals time. The bookmakers will lay big odds (as no-one has "qualified" for the final yet) so there's certainly value before the final is set. Once this is set, save a chunk for the hot favourite, and see if there are any special deals on each-way places (1/4 the odds if your pick comes 2nd, 3rd, or 4th). Then, back up your bet with two or three longer picks on some Eastern European countries that might have a lot of local backing.
Last year, bet365, one of the larger bookmakers went 20/1 on Bulgaria. However, it was a good song (honest) and it ended up getting a massive amount of tele votes. An each-way bet there was the smart option.
We'll see you in Lisbon in 2018!