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The 92nd Annual Academy Awards (The Oscars): Betting Odds & Suggested Picks

by February 7, 2020

The biggest night of awards season is upon us. On Sunday, February 9, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present the Oscars, and this year, both DraftKings and 888sport are in on the betting market. Both books have odds on all 24 categories, and some of those groupings have clear winners and heavy favorites. Because of that, I won’t break down the odds for each category. Instead, I’ll pick out the categories where you stand to make the most money from an individual bet. Remember — these aren’t necessarily my favorites to win, they’re just my favorite bets based on the odds they’ve received. Keep that in mind before you cross-apply my advice to your Oscars pool.

Unlike the Academy, I’ll start with Best Picture. Let’s take a look at the odds:

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Best Picture

Film DraftKings 888sport
1917 -200 -200
Parasite +275 +275
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood +900 +750
Joker +1000 +1000
Jojo Rabbit +5000 +8000
The Irishman +5000 +8000
Little Women +10000 +10000
Marriage Story +10000 +15000
Ford v. Ferrari +25000 +25000

There are three contenders for this year’s Best Picture award: “1917,” “Parasite,” and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Sam Mendes’ war film, “1917,” nailed down the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award for Best Picture last week, and it has to be the front-runner for Sunday night. The BAFTAs, according to Ben Zauzmer, author of “Oscarmetrics: The Math Behind the Biggest Night in Hollywood,” are reasonably predictive of the eventual Academy Award winners. He’s even developed a model for Hollywood Reporter that gives “1917” a 36.5 percent chance to lock down the award.

If you’re in an Oscars Pool, it’s a smart pick. But if you’re a sports bettor, it’s not a great value. The film’s -200 odds at two major sportsbooks give its victory an implied probability of 66.7 percent — far greater than what Zauzmer’s model predicts. Obviously, sportsbooks aren’t going to sell you odds without inflating implied probability, since they do have to make money somehow, but this race is more of a tossup than these odds suggest. While “1917” has good odds to win, but they’re still worse than a coinflip. Similarly, the implied probability for Parasite (26.7 percent) also exceeds the rate given to it by Zauzmer’s model (19.3 percent), although by much less.

That leads us to “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” DraftKing’s +900 odds imply that the Tarantino film has just a 10 percent chance to win Best Picture, but Zauzmer’s model gives it a 15.3 percent chance. While his model also loves “The Irishman,” the lack of buzz around the Scorsese film makes risking much money on it tough to stomach.

The voting process for Best Picture could also give Tarantino’s film a boost. Voters rank each film, and “Best Picture” goes to the film with the most overall support, not the most top rankings. That means “1917” and “Parasite” could still receive sizeable backing within the Academy without coming away with its top honor. That means you should take the money and run by betting on Tarantino’s penultimate film. It’s a high-risk, high-reward dart throw, but it might just pay off.  To lower your risk, I’d recommend that you make “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” a one-unit play, and that you pair it with a two-unit play on either “1917” or “Parasite.”
Suggested Pick: Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (+900 at DraftKings Sportsbook)

Best Original Screenplay

Film DraftKings 888sport
Parasite -265 -263
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood +160 +160
Marriage Story +1700 +1200
1917 +3300 +3300
Knives Out +3300 +3300

Best Original Screenplay is a tight race between “Parasite” and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” emerged as the front-runner after wins at the Writers Guild Awards and the BAFTAs, but the race is a bit closer than the odds would suggest. Zauzmer’s model gives “Parasite” a 45.2 percent chance of winning, compared to its implied odds of 72.6 percent at DraftKings. Meanwhile, the model gives “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” a 39.9 percent chance, while the sportsbooks’ odds give it just a 38.5 percent chance.

Although momentum is undoubtedly in Bong Joon-ho’s favor, the odds have him out too far ahead. Once again, you can snag some solid value by taking Tarantino’s film for Sunday night.
Suggested Pick: Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (+160)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Film DraftKings 888sport
Jojo Rabbit -177 -175
Little Women +125 +125
The Irishman +1000 +1000
Joker +2500 +2500
The Two Popes +5000 +5000

The race for Best Adapted Screenplay is one of the night’s closest, and “Jojo Rabbit” is one of the few betting favorites with odds this low. Like “Parasite” in the race for Best Original Screenplay, “Jojo Rabbit” locked down the BAFTA, although neither DraftKings nor 888sport favor the film as heavily.

Maybe that’s because it’s got such tough competition from Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women.” The Academy was rightly criticized for failing to nominate Gerwig for Best Director, and there’s some speculation that she could receive this award as a kind of recompense.

Zauzmer’s model favors “Jojo Rabbit” for this one at 40.7 percent to Little Women’s 28.9 percent. Like with Best Picture, both favorites’ implied probabilities (63.9 percent and 63.6 percent for “Jojo Rabbit,” respectively, and 44.4 percent for “Little Women”) exceed what he predicts. With this race, however, I don’t think you’re getting enough value with the underdog to justify breaking with the favorite, and I wouldn’t recommend taking a shot in the dark on Scorsese’s drama. Instead, I’d take Taika Waititi’s quirky screenplay on 888sport.
Suggested Pick: Jojo Rabbit (-175 at 888sport)

Best Documentary Feature

Film DraftKings 888sport
American Factory -265 -118
For Sama +175 +125
Honeyland +500 +400
The Cave +5000 +5000
The Edge of Democracy +5000 +8000

With the consensus we’ve seen in the other categories, I’m surprised to see this much difference between the two sportsbooks here. Although both of them correctly present the category as a three-way race, DraftKings’ heavy favorite gets only a slight edge from 888sport.

According to Zauzmer, this race is “wide open.”  “American Factory” and “Honeyland” lead the way, with 36.8 percent and 35.4 percent chances to win, respectively. But “For Sama” beat out “American Factory” at the BAFTAs just last weekend, and while it only gets an 11.2 percent chance from Zauzmer’s model, both DraftKings and 888sport give it better odds than “Honeyland.”

Implied probability reveals that DraftKings is significantly overcharging for “American Factory,” as its odds suggest the film has a 72.6 percent chance to win — almost twice what Zauzmer’s model shows. In contrast, 888sports’ margin rests on an implied probability of 54.1 percent, which is far more reasonable.

But neither sportsbook has given “Honeyland” a fair deal. DraftKings’ odds only assume it has a 16.7 percent chance to win the Oscar, less than half of what Zauzmer’s model predicts. It’s certainly risky, but DraftKings is offering a pretty good deal on “Honeyland” at the moment, and I’d buy now before anything changes.
Suggested Pick: Honeyland (+500 at DraftKings Sportsbook)

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Isaiah Sirois is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Isaiah, check out his archive and follow him @is_sirois.

Academy Awards, Entertainment