Sunday 26 September, 8.00pm
Strictly is one of the crown jewels of the TV betting year and to bet on it successfully, Rob Furber outlines some of the tricks of the trade he has picked up over the years...
"Strictly's mainstay of voters are middle-aged, middle England, Home Counties women which partly explains why, across its 18 series, the historic tally is 11-7 in favour of male winners."
The 19th season of Strictly gets underway on BBC1 on Saturday and in nearly two decades scrutinising the show I have learnt a hell of a lot about the show's mechanics and, more importantly, how to trade it profitably on Betfair.
In truth, Darren Gough's Strictly win back in 2005 began my tv betting odyssey and as the show has evolved over the years so have my trading skills.
Who fits the winner template?
In the first instance, you need to go through the 15-strong contestant list and think about their potential appeal to the voting audience. This year's field:
Tom Fletcher - 36, McFly musician
Robert Webb - 48, actor and comedian
AJ Odudu - 33, tv presenter
John Whaite - 33, Great British Bake Off Winner and TV chef
Rhys Stephenson - 28, CBBC presenter
Sara Davies - 37, Dragon's Den entrepreneur
Katie McGlynn - 28, former Coronation Street actress
Dan Walker - 44, BBC Breakfast presenter
Tilly Ramsay - 19, social media influencer, daughter of Gordon Ramsay
Greg Wise - 55, actor, husband of Emma Thompson
Nina Wadia - 52, actress and comedienne
Judi Love - 41, Loose Women panellist
Ugo Monye - 38, former rugby player
Adam Peaty - 26, Olympic swimmer
Rose Ayling-Ellis - 26, Eastenders actress
Strictly's mainstay of voters are middle-aged, middle England, Home Counties women which partly explains why, across its 18 series, the historic tally is 11-7 in favour of male winners.
Who the celebs are paired with among the pros, which we will officially discover on Saturday night, is another key part of the jigsaw. Simply put, some pros are better than others.
When down-to-earth, Luton-born BBC presenter Stacey Dooley was paired with the popular Kevin Clifton in 2018, a series runner-up four times previously, this pairing screamed contender.
It's not just about dance ability
To win the show, a celeb needs to attain the requisite level of dance ability and these days a lot of the celebs arrive with dancing and performance experience lurking in their past. However, a celeb's personality, and the chemistry with their pro partner, can charm middle England and make up for any potential dancing deficit, with the Strictly final decided by public vote alone.
Classic examples of audience-pleasers who weren't the greatest dancers would include Chris Hollins who won in 2009 with Ola Jordan, and last year's winner Bill Bailey, paired with arguably the best pro on the show, Oti Mabuse, and who traded at huge odds on Betfair ahead of the live shows.
If you can figure out the show's most likely entertainers this can be a profitable angle of attack from a back-to-lay perspective on the Betfair Exchange.
Take Ed Balls, for instance, in 2016. His odds came crashing in on Betfair, with his 'Gangnam Style' routine with Katya Jones leaving viewers purring with delight. The Great British Public love an underdog and despite not winning the show, Ed's surprise run to the final six was a lucrative one for shrewd Betfair traders.
Great dancers can equate to great lays
There is a peculiar dichotomy at work with the Strictly Outright market. When celebs arrive with a bang in the show's opening weeks and blow everyone away with their dance ability, chances are, they are doomed to come up short on the public vote due to them being too good. But this won't stop them trading artificially short on Betfair. HRVY and Maisie Smith last year, Karim Zeroual the year before...
There are exceptions to the rule such as 2019 winner Kelvin Fletcher who was brilliant from start to finish but the history of the show is littered with great dancers who failed to win the final due to what might loosely be described as the danger of ringer status.
This can also occasionally throw up a big-priced elimination bet, one of the most famous of which was Aston Merrygold's surprise exit in week 7 in 2017.
On which subject, you don't necessarily need to find the winner of Strictly to profit from the series with Betfair's weekly elimination, bottom 2, lowest score and highest score markets offering additional trading platforms, not forgetting Top Male and Top Female.
Knowing the score
At the end of the Strictly live show on a Saturday night, you will see the judges' leaderboard scores ranked from first to last which is responsible for 50% of the overall points score. The other half of the score comes from the never revealed public vote figures, also ranked from first to last. In the event of an overall tie the couple with the higher public vote ranking is placed above the lower ranked one.
It is also worth noting when two couples share the same score on the judges' leaderboard, the next highest scoring couple receive only one point less, carried across to the public vote. A notepad can come in handy in trying to project potential public vote rankings, and adding up an estimation of overall ranking positions.
Keep an eye on mid-table mediocrity
It can be the case that couples anchored to the bottom of the judges' leaderboard have a chance to escape the dance-off sometimes due to a sympathy vote, sometimes due to sheer popularity. A mid to lower table position on the judges' leaderboard often proves the most vulnerable position to be in from a potential dance-off perspective.
Running order is always worth noting with early starters at risk of disappearing down the memory plughole. Strictly generally loves to start and finish with a flourish, so sometimes it pays to focus on running order positions from 2 through to around the mid-way point of the show.
It's pretty much a tv betting rule set in stone that later tends to be better from a public vote perspective. That said, an outstanding and roundly eulogised routine can also be used later in the show to overshadow a lower scoring couple who perhaps preceded it, putting them at risk of a dance-off appearance.
After a couple has survived a dance-off appearance, this can often lead to that couple being made favourites to be eliminated the following week. The beauty of Strictly is, it's rarely as clear cut as that and the show will often go out of its way to help a bottom two couple to escape the dreaded dance-off the following week, sometimes making Betfair's early elimination favourites worth taking on.
Beware of the dance of death
How the actual dances land each week, and the songs to accompany the dances, can also offer big clues as to who's likely to have a great week and who could be in danger of having a poor one.
Some dances like rumba are not called the dance of death for nothing and along with cha, cha, cha are sometimes cunningly used to trip up couples whose number is up.
The spin-off BBC2 show, It Takes Two, offers training room footage throughout the week which, much like gallop watchers in Newmarket, is a way for Strictly traders to mark their card ahead of the live shows.
Watch and learn
Watching the main show on a Saturday night will always give you the strongest indication of how things are most likely to pan out, not just in terms of the weekly elimination market, but also how prices will move on Betfair's Outright market.
The celebrities' VTs, the entertainment value, or not, of the routine, the judges' comments, the interviews with Claudia, the judges' scores ... the clues are bountiful and getting a feel for the overall edit remains the best way to find an edge, and trading the in-running markets on Betfair on a Saturday night is always when liquidity significantly ramps up.
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for successfully trading Strictly. Every series throws up a different dynamic which is part of the joy of tv betting and its unexpected nature. Rest assured, the quest for the Glitterball trophy will be keenly fought not just by the celebs on the show, but also the traders on Betfair.
Sunday 26 September, 8.00pm