Heavy Favorites Dominate 2011 Oscar Betting



Sportsbooks already have indulged gamblers with prices on the Golden Globes and Grammy Awards--and the Tony Awards and Emmy Awards are still to come--but nothing will approach the amount of interest or action that Academy Awards betting generates. Oscar takes center stage at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Feb. 27 before a TV audience estimated at more than two billion.

If oddsmakers are right (and they usually are) this could be a very good evening for chalk players. In fact, all of the top six categories (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress) boast odds-on favorites and only in the Best Director competition is the race even considered close. Of course, that also means that if an upset occurs, the price on the winner could be quite substantial, boosting the prospects for longshot hunters.

Let's take a look at the major categories:

BEST PICTURE

"The King's Speech"                     1/5

"The Social Network"                    3/1

"True Grit"                                 30/1

"Black Swan"                             40/1

"The Fighter"                             40/1

"Inception"                                 50/1

"Toy Story 3"                           100/1

"The Kids Are All Right"             100/1

"127 Hours"                             100/1

"Winter's Bone"                        200/1

The Skinny: After losing Best Drama to "The Social Network" at the Golden Globes, "The King's Speech" has been on a roll, collecting hardware from the Directors Guild, the Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild (SAG). With 12 Academy Award nominations, it would be a surprise—but not a shock—if "The King's Speech" lost to "The Social Network" here. None of the other eight films have a realistic chance of winning.

BEST DIRECTOR

Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech")             4/5

David Fincher ("The Social Network")       10/11

Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan")               20/1

Joel & Ethan Coen ("True Grit")                 40/1

David O'Russell ("The Fighter')                  66/1

The Skinny: Of the 16 sportsbooks surveyed, all had Directors Guild of America winner Hooper slightly ahead of Fincher, albeit narrowly. Far more telling, perhaps, is that only six times since the DGA's inception in 1948 has the winner not gone on to receive the Academy Award for Best Director.

BEST ACTOR

Colin Firth ("The King's Speech')                1/33

James Franco ("127 Hours")                      15/1

Jesse Eisenberg ("The Social Network")      20/1

Jeff Bridges ("True Grit")                           33/1

Javier Bardem ("Biutiful")                          50/1

The Skinny: Not since 2001, when Julia Roberts won a Best Actress Oscar for "Erin Brockovich"  at odds of 1/25 has there been this overwhelming a favorite in an individual acting category. The only question is whether Firth, who was offered at odds of 1/50 at one venue, will deliberately stutter during his acceptance speech, a likelihood on which you can bet. (More about that a little later).

BEST ACTRESS

Natalie Portman ("Black Swan")                  1/14  

Annette Bening ("The Kids Are All Right")  13/2

Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone")           33/1

Nicole Kidman ("Rabbit Hole")                     50/1

Michelle Williams ("Blue Valentine")            66/1

The Skinny: With victories at the Globes and Screen Actors Guild, this is Portman's to lose. Bening, who never has won in this category, will receive votes from those who think the much younger Portman needs to wait her turn. That said, expect the swan to flap her wings on Oscar night.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christian Bale ("The Fighter")                     1/9

Geoffrey Rush ("The King's Speech")           9/2

John Hawkes ("Winter's Bone")                40/1

Mark Ruffalo ("The Kids Are All Right")     40/1

Jeremy Renner ("The Town")                  50/1

The Skinny: Bale has won every award leading up the Oscars and it would be a major upset if Rush overtook him here. "The King's Speech" is expected to have a big night, but not this big.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Melissa Leo ("The Fighter')                                  1/3

Hailee Steinfeld ("True Grit")                               7/2

Helena Bonham Carter ("The King's Speech")        7/1

Amy Adams ("The Fighter')                               20/1

Jacki Weaver ("Animal Kingdom")                      40/1

The Skinny: Leo is the favorite but Academy voters often choose this category to reach for a newcomer. Steinfeld fits that description but we still think Leo will be holding Oscar, Feb. 27.

In addition to the big six categories, many sportsbooks also are offering betting on more than a dozen other awards, including songs, screenplays, documentaries, editing, foreign language and, for the truly inspired, Best Makeup.

On the fun side, it's 2/3 that Firth delivers his acceptance speech in the stuttering manner of King George VI and even money that a lead or supporting actress winner cries during her time at the podium. You can get 4/1 that Portman swears during her acceptance speech and 10/1 that any recipient's speech consists of a single "thank you." It's 16/1 that any of the major six winners drops the Oscar and 33/1 that a streaker interrupts the proceedings.

Favorites are expected to dominate but Oscar betting still should have some appeal to a wide variety of gamblers.