Raybon: The One Bet You’d Be Silly Not to Make for Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars

Raybon: The One Bet You’d Be Silly Not to Make for Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars article feature image

Courtesy of BAFTA Official Twitter. Pictured: Adam Driver (left), John David Washington (right).

  • Chris Raybon has watched all eight nominees for Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars with an eye toward picking the winner.
  • He breaks down whether the frontrunner, "Roma," is a good betting value compared to the other contenders.

2019 Best Picture Odds

  • Roma -330
  • Green Book +360
  • The Favourite +1800
  • Bohemian Rhapsody +1800
  • BlacKkKlansman +3000
  • Black Panther +3000 
  • A Star Is Born +5000
  • Vice +5000

If there were a way to track “sharp action” for the Oscars, Hollywood prediction site GoldDerby.com would be it. The site has been tracking Oscar predictions from a variety of sources since 2011, and some voters even anonymously reveal their picks.

But it’s their select panel of roughly 30 experts that has provided the biggest edge.

It’s simple: No film has won best Best Picture without at least two expert votes.

Even though they haven’t always gotten the order correct, their predictions are extremely valuable because if you can accurately whittle the field down to around three contenders in a betting market like this, the odds are such you can lock in a profit.

This year, the 34 expert votes were split between only three films.

Which films didn’t make the cut, and which of the remaining three offers the best betting value?

Failed to Make the Cut

  • Vice +5000. Even though we know that this film got at least one vote, it still felt more like Christian Bale’s latest attempt to satisfy his obvious fetish for voice distortion than true Best Picture material.
  • A Star Is Born +6600. This was an early frontrunner, but started to plummet once everyone realized Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga tricked us into watching a two-hour trailer for their Grammy-nominated single, “Shallow.”
  • Bohemian Rhapsody +1800. Rami Malek acted his ass off in this, and it put up silly box office numbers, but this never felt like something VH1’s  old “Behind the Music” couldn’t have done just as well if not better.
  • The Favourite +2000. To me, this is the most surprising omission (RIP to my future). It seemingly had all of the ingredients of a sleeper, including the co-lead in overall nominations and a chance to sweep the actress categories. But maybe the film’s liberal use of the term “c**t” did it in — or maybe it was when Abigail (Emma Stone) stomped on that poor bunny’s head on purpose.
  • BlacKkKlansman +2000. From the lack of a clear explanation as to why a black undercover officer would continue to pose on the phone as his white colleague to the KKK when the actual white guy he was posing as could have just taken the calls, to the jarring, forced ending, to the curious decision of a black director putting “KKK” in his movie title in the “no publicity is bad publicity” era, this movie was just awkward. It’s a trendy upset pick because it has all the necessary nominations — except the all-important co-sign from the Gold Derby expert panel — who apparently see a familiar end in sight for Spike Lee:

Ranking The Contenders by Betting Value

Here are the movies ranked by percentage of votes along with a comparison to its implied odds,

  • Roma: 24/35 experts (68.6%)  vs. -330 odds (76.8%) vs.  = -8.2%
  • Green Book: 8/35 experts (22.9%) vs. +360 odds (21.7%) = +1.2%
  • Black Panther: 3/35 experts (8.6%) vs. +3000 odds (3.2%) = +5.4%

3. Roma -330

If there were an award for Best (Worst) Ghosting, “Roma” would be a lock for its depiction of Fermin (George Antonio Guerrero) leaving Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) at the movies right after learning she’s pregnant.

But this is Best Picture we’re talking about, and not only is Roma’s precursor resume not airtight, but it’s also quite possible the idea of giving Best Picture to a black-and-white, foreign language film created by Netflix is divisive to a silent majority of voters — especially since they can be fairly confident it will get honored in other ways (at -3300, it’s a runaway favorite to win Best Foreign Language Film, and Alfonso Cuarón is a heavy favorite for Best Director at -2500).

2. Green Book +360

Oscar voting didn’t begin until Feb. 12, which means voters had plenty of time to have second thoughts about rewarding a film which saw pretty much everyone who played an important role in it — from director to star to one of the actual people one of the main characters was based on — engage in a contest to see who could have the worst public relations catastrophe. A recent article from Metro about the film’s many controversies contains famous last words such as “used the n-word during Q&A,” “flashing his penis while working,” and “anti-Muslim tweet reemerged” — and that’s just from one paragraph.

Still, the film itself has seemingly been extremely well-received by fans and voters alike, and it features arguably the year’s best acting performance in Mahershala Ali portraying Don Shirley.

1. Black Panther: +3000

No superhero film has ever won Best Picture, and though “Black Panther” earned five other nominations, it missed out on the crucial screenplay nomination. And a nomination for Best Director. And nominations for all of the acting categories.

That’s why I find it highly peculiar and eyebrow-raising that not only has “Black Panther” not been completely written off by the experts at Gold Derby, but its odds of winning have actually been trending upward as the Oscars draw nearer. In fact, its percentage of expert votes (9%) is slightly higher than 2017 surprise winner, “Moonlight (7%).”

Maybe we’re underestimating the preferential ballot, and Black Panther ends up being the “least disliked.” Maybe the impact of #OscarsSoWhite is about to reach a tipping point. Maybe we’re underestimating the fact that this film already made history; an outlier film makes for an outlier year, and while we’ve never seen a superhero film win, we’ve also never seen one nominated, so it’s not like we’ve ever seen one lose, either.

Or maybe it’s just a byproduct of the crisis mode stemming from the ceremony’s ratings rock-bottom of 2018, and the “changes” it spurred are even more far-reaching than initially thought. If so, Bill Mechanic’s resignation letter from the Academy’s Board of Governors would end up reading like a prophecy:

We have failed to move the Oscars into the modern age, despite decades of increased competition and declining ratings. …We have nominated so many smaller independent films that the Oscars feel like they should be handed out in a tent. Big is not inherently bad. … You can’t hide … the cataclysmic decline in the Oscar ratings, the fact that no popular film has won in over a decade.

“Black Panther” is nothing if not big. At $1.3 billion, it’s the ninth-highest grossing film of all-time. If the intention for this award was always “big,” it would explain the early buzz and subsequent flame-outs from “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”: Once the Academy saw they weren’t going to be “big” enough, it was over  (the former grossed $421 million; the latter, $826 million). And of course, its “big”extends far beyond dollar signs; The New York Times, for instance, called it “a defining moment in Black America.”

So maybe British GQ put it best, “Black Panther doesn’t need an Oscar — it’s the other way around.”

Win or lose, it’s already clear that this film matters in a unique way. But in the context of betting, the only thing that matters is we have the opportunity to make the rare +EV 30-to-1 bet.

The Pick: Black Panther +3000

How to Hedge

If one of “Black Panther,” “Roma,” or “Green Book” does indeed win, it would technically be possible to lock in a tiny profit by betting on all three, but it would essentially be inconsequential.

The real value is on pairing Black Panther with either Green Book or Roma. You can calculate the appropriate hedging amounts relative to the odds at your own sports book and whatever bet size you choose using our hedging calculator, but here are a couple of examples:

Green Book-Black Panther hedge (31.5%)

  • Bet $100 on Green Book to win $360
  • Bet $14.84 on Black Panther to win $445.20
  • Total Bet: $114.84
  • Payout if either wins: $460
  • Profit: $345.16
  • Expected Value: 31.5% X $345.16 = $108.73

Roma-Black Panther hedge (77.2%)

  • Bet $100 on Roma to win $33
  • Bet $4.20 on Black Panther to win $126
  • Total Bet: $104.20
  • Payout if either wins: $130.30
  • Profit: $26.10
  • Expected Value: 83% X $26.10 = $20.15


Chris Raybon is a Senior Editor at the Action Network and a co-host of “I’ll Take That Bet” on ESPN+. He has watched every snap of every NFL game since 2010 — even the kneel downs. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRaybon and read about how he quit his accounting job and got paid to watch sports.