How to Bet on the Oscars (Understanding Odds and Bet Types)
The Oscars, formally known as the Academy Awards, are the most prestigious awards in film. Conducted annually, the Oscars are the signature event for Hollywood (and the entertainment business as a whole) where awards for excellence in cinematic achievement are doled out.
In addition to the glitz and glamour of the Oscars, the Academy Awards present a good betting opportunity. If you’re plugged into the movie scene and understand how the betting lines work, there’s a good opportunity to cash in.
If you’re new to all of this, we’ll walk you through betting on the Oscars, starting with the basics and ending with some advanced betting strategies.
Where to Bet the Oscars?
It used to be that only a few sportsbooks would carry the lines for the Oscars, and they’d only offer up odds on the main awards. Nowadays, lines on the Oscars are readily available everywhere as betting on the awards show has grown in popularity. Bovada, in particular, maintains the entertainment betting portion of its sportsbooks, of which the Oscars heavily factor into.
Even though the latest Academy Awards passed has just passed, the 2020 betting lines are posted, giving bettors an opportunity to lay down their wagers for next year early.
Understanding the Oscars’ Betting Lines
When you’re betting on the Oscars, it’s important to understand what the betting lines mean. You’re going to see a bunch of movie names, actors, and directors you recognize, but you might not be familiar with how the odds work.
You might see a betting line that looks like the following:
The first thing you’ll want to notice with these odds is whether there is a “+” or a “-” sign in front of the lines. If it’s a “-” sign, like we see with Glenn Close at -600, that indicates the amount of money you’d have bet to win $100 (bet $600 to win $100).
If it’s a “+” sign, as we see with Olivia Coleman at +500, that indicates the amount of money you’d win if you bet $100 (bet $100 to win $500).
Of course, you don’t have to bet in exactly those increments, but it gives you a clear idea of what your payout will be. The higher the “+” number goes, the bigger the underdog. In this case, Yalitza Aparicio is the biggest underdog on the board. Meanwhile, when you go the other way, the smallest number on the board indicates the favorite.
Types of Oscars Bets: Award Winners and Prop Betting
There are mostly only two types of Oscars bets that you’ll find: who’ll win the awards and separate props.
The first type is fairly straightforward. You’ll see a category with the nominees and you’ll be able to bet on who you think will win. If they win the award, you’ll cash in your bet. Extremely straightforward.
Props bets (also known as proposition bets) are bets on aspects of the Oscars not related to the awards. They allow you to bet on aspects of the ceremony itself.
For example, you might see a prop on if a thank you speech will get cut-off prematurely by the music or if someone will make a political comment during their thank you speech. Here’s an example of a prop bet that was popular at sportsbooks for the 2019 Oscars:
You’ll notice that there’s a 1.5 in this prop bet, instead of a single integer. Obviously, Trump’s name could be mentioned once, twice, not at all, and so on; it’s impossible for him to mentioned 0.5 times. Bookmakers assign the half point to prop bets to eliminate the possibility of a push (a tie). Half points guarantee a winner.
You have to be fairly tuned into Hollywood pop culture to handicap these props.
Oscars Betting Strategy: The Fundamentals
To many sports bettors, the Oscars are just a one-night affair. While you don’t need to dedicate the same time and effort as you would an entire NFL season, you do need to put some effort in to have any sort of accuracy.
There are great opportunities to make some money betting on the Academy Awards but it takes a little bit of research and a little bit of homework to put yourself in a position to succeed. We’ve compiled some strategies for you to consider to get a leg up on your bookmaker.
Understand the Categories
One of the first places where people get tripped up betting the Oscars is not having a clear understanding of the categories.
Categories like ‘Best Actor’ or ‘Best Original Song’ are usually quite clear, but sometimes people have a tough time differentiating between ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Director.’ A movie can win the Oscar for ‘Best Picture,’ but it doesn’t mean it is a sure bet to take home the ‘Best Director’ award as well.
If you’re going to dive deeper into categories like ‘Best Original Screenplay,’ ‘Best Cinematography,’ or ‘Best Production Design,’ make sure you know what those mean and what the judges will be looking for.
Watch the Movies
It might sound obvious, but it is an aspect of Oscars betting that often gets overlooked. Always watch the movies. A lot of sports bettors find themselves bored on a seemingly random Sunday night in March and end up investing in the Oscars’ different directors, supporting actors, etc. without really having a clue about who’s who.
Nowhere was that more obvious than during the 2019 Oscar Awards where a crowd of bettors piled in on longshot Yorgos Lamprinos to win the ‘Best Director’ award based on anonymous Twitter tips. He was around 40/1 and eventually closed as the favorite based on the action, but that proved to be a mistake. The original favorite, Alfonso Cuaron, who nearly swept the board in this category during the awards season, ended up winning at the Oscars again.
Just like sports betting, it’s not enough to read predictions and analysis; it’s important to watch the movies themselves, and weigh all the information available before you bet. Absent of that, you run the risk of making mistakes while trusting others.
Track the Winners Through Awards Season
One of the best tells of who will win at the Oscars is to take note of how the movies are performing during the awards season. While it is the most revered show in the industry, the Oscars are not the only awards show. There’s a slew of them like the People’s Choice Awards, the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, and the Golden Globes that start in November and take place all the way up until the Oscars.
The Golden Globe Awards are viewed as the No. 2 in the power rankings, but it’s not always the best tell. As a matter of fact, the Critics’ Choice Awards have been a good indicator for the ‘Best Director’ award at the Oscars. In fact, 19 of the last 25 ‘Best Director’ winners at the Critics’ Choice Awards have also won that same award at the Oscars.
The other thing to keep in mind here is the general consensus. In some years, as in 2019, there is no clear-cut favorite movie overall. That leaves the races wide open all the way through the Oscars. At the same time, there are years like in 1997 with Titanic, for example, where one movie earns wide adoration from the critics. In that case, this can help you bet the Oscars.
If you see one movie sweeping the board, you know there’s a good chance that’ll continue at the Oscars. In these scenarios, it’s best to get your bet in as soon as possible, as bookmakers will likely make favorites’ odds even shorter as time passes and they draw a greater volume of betting action.
Take Note of Each Film’s Momentum
We touched on momentum a little bit in the previous paragraph, but it’s important to understand it in a different way too. In the NFL season, you’re going to have different teams that look like strong Super Bowl contenders at different points in the season. A team might look good in September, a different team could emerge in October, and a third contender could rise when the weather gets colder in January. The idea here is you don’t want to get caught betting the September sweetheart if they’ve cooled off by December.
The same theory applies with the Oscars. Some of the best contending movies are released in the fall and as they come out, the critics fawn over the performances. We saw this with A Star Is Born in 2019. When the movie was released, everyone was in love.
Lady Gaga was being penciled in as for ‘Best Actress’ and Bradley Cooper was the favorite for both ‘Best Director.’ But as the fall turned to winter, other movies came out and A Star Is Born was drowned out. As we moved through awards season, other movies took center stage. That’s often how the Oscars go.
Keep that in mind as you’re betting the Oscars. Track the awards and see who is gaining momentum as we reach the climax of the season. Similarly, keep your eye on which movies are losing momentum.
Understand the Nuances of the Academy’s Process
Not all awards voters created equal. It’s similar to how boxing judges are different from UFC judges, and how NFL officiating is different from college football.
Just because an actor wins the ‘Best Actor’ award at the Golden Globes doesn’t mean they’ll win at the Oscars. That theme plays out regularly as directors like Martin Scorsese had many misses before he finally won for The Departed, and actors like Glenn Close and Amy Adams each have been nominated at least six times and have never won. This is all in spite of the fact that they’ve picked up hardware at other festivals and shows.
The Academy is a cut above and they have a closely guarded method for picking awards. While the award selection process is notoriously opaque; they have 5,830 members and they vote on each award.
However, performance and artistic merit matters just as much as campaigning. Marketing, interviews, parties, dinners and general exposure all play a factor into who ends up winning an Oscar. At times, awards shows can sometimes feel more like a political campaign than an celebration of the arts.
If you think that the Oscars are awarded solely on each individual film’s merits, that’s inaccurate. That might be the case with other awards but this, along with a few other nuances, is what makes the Oscars different.
Get Started Betting on the Oscars Today!
If you’ve been watching the Oscars for years just enjoying the festivities and the fashion, now you can capitalize on your broad knowledge and add to the fun.
There’s money to be made betting on Hollywood and now you’re up to speed on how to do it!