The British Bookmakers Weigh In On Andrea Riseborough’s Chances For Best Actress

Now that the Pegasus World Cup is done and dusted, the charmingly hard-nosed British bookmakers, long a beloved subject in matters of probability in these pages, have as usual before the Middle East’s racing season begins, turned their attentions to handicapping that finest of Hollywood horse races, the Oscars. Sorry, what’s that? Who’s the actress in that little indie film? Blokes are putting some heavy money on that nomination. Problem in Hollywood? It’s just the Yanks, they get all up in arms about their awards being “reflective.” Happens every year, carry on.

In a word, no debate in Hollywood, much less any about any sort of perceived slant in within or blight upon the already-beleaguered Oscars, can get in the way of the British or their bookmakers exercising their God-given right to bet on every bet-able contest or supposition under the sun, very much including the Academy’s Best Actress award.

On cue, on January 17, the day the Oscar nominations dropped, the British bookmakers did in fact carry on and dutifully opened the betting markets on Cate Blanchett (TAR), Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once), Michelle Williams (The Fablemans), Frances McDormand (Women Talking), Ana de Armas (Blonde) and…oh, right, there was this other lady, British, wasn’t she?…and Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie).

In fact, over the days since the January 17 nomination drop, as the debate about the alleged irregularities in the “campaign” for Ms. Riseborough’s nomination began to heat up to its current white-hot temperature, the estimable Ms. Riseborough did what her apt name implies and rose swiftly to third-favorite status on what we’ll call the British megatote, right behind Cate Blanchett (ranging between 4/6 and 4/7) in the lead and Michelle Yeoh (5/4 and 11/10) in second. Ms. Riseborough’s odds range from 12/1 to 13/1, but she’s leagues ahead (in probability or likelihood of success) of Michelle Williams, Frances McDormand and Ana de Armas.

Not a bad showing in the British betting hivemind for Ms. Riseborough for her first nomination. But some history is in order. British odds are fractional and as such obviously don’t express pure likelihood of an outcome. Rather, they express the odds against the likeliness of that outcome, which means that the lower the odds, the higher the implied probability will be of that outcome being attained.

Put another way, at the moment, the British bookmakers’ current favorite Cate Blanchett’s odds of 4/6 in London are less than 1/1, or what’s called “even” odds. Even odds have an implied probability of 50%, which is to say, Ms. Blanchett’s 4/6 odds yield an implied probabillity of 60%. In the eyes of the British players who have put money on Cate Blanchett.

In a characteristically quaint, schoolmarmish way, the British bookmakers are absolutely unafraid of slicing their fractions to microscopic levels (to protect their payouts as well as simply to entertain and thus entice more detail-oriented players), so it’s not uncomming in close contests in racing, boxing and soccer to see some really hilarious fractional odds being offered.

The same is true of the Oscars odds, which, by definition, do instantly reflect the British view of the current intense conflagration around Ms. Riseborough’s nomination.