Strictly Come Dancing odds: When have bookies been right and very wrong?

With the good ship Strictly Come Dancing setting sail once more tonight, and the pro and celebrity pairings being revealed, anticipation is high as to who could be the winning couple.

The bookies’ favourite for 2021 is currently McFly frontman Tom Fletcher, with Rose Ayling-Ellis also seen as a contender, while Dragons’ Den star Sara Davies is languishing at 25/1 with Nina Wadia and Judi Love, but how often have the pre-show odds been proven right – and wrong?

We look back at initial predictions from previous years of Strictly, before the contestants stepped foot on the dancefloor, to find out when the odds reflected that year’s competition winner and when they very much didn’t.

Who were the stars that burned bright and fast before shock eliminations, and who were the underdogs that built up momentum before going on to clinch the campest trophy in showbiz?

Strap on your dancing shoes and dust off your glitterballs as we dive in.

2020 – right or wrong? WRONG

Last year’s champions, comedian Bill Bailey and Oti Mabuse, were not initially tipped for success, starting as 50/1 outsiders. Judge Craig Revel Horwood even admitted he had originally had him pegged as ‘the Ann Widdecome’ of the series in an interview ahead of the final, but the pair’s fun routines and Bill’s joy and commitment saw him and Oti eventually triumph and head into the final as the expected champions.

It was also Oti’s second (and consecutive) competition win, equalling Aliona Vilani’s record.

Fellow finalists Maisie Smith and HRVY had been the favourites ahead of the show kicking off, with Ladbrokes putting them at odds of 7/4 and 5/1 respectively.

2019 – right or wrong? WRONG

Now in fairness 2019 was a year that surprised us all, as Emmerdale’s Kelvin Fletcher stormed to victory after being unveiled as a last-minute replacement for Made in Chelsea star Jamie Laing, who injured himself during the launch show.

Obviously, bookies were therefore unable to set odds on him ahead of the show airing – but there were still some interesting frontrunners in the competition ahead of it airing.

Footballer turned sports pundit Alex Scott was the early favourite, with Ladbrokes at one point putting her odds of winning as high as 4/1, but she was eliminated 10th, while Corrie star Catherine Tyldesley and CBBC presenter Karim Zeroual, who were both at 6/1 initially, ended up as shock fifth elimination and finishing runner-up, respectively.

2018 – right or wrong? WRONG

In 2018, it was Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts who had the betting companies dazzled ahead of the competition kicking off, with the singer and dancer the favourite across the board and Betway putting her at 9/2.

It was a pretty crowded field at the top with Coral and Ladbrokes pegging Casualty actor Charles Venn at 5/1, while Betfair and PaddyPower had Blue singer Lee Ryan at 5/1.

The bookies’ favourites also included Steps’ Faye Tozer (6/1), DJ Vick Hope (6/1) and Red Dwarf’s Danny John-Jules at 7/1.

However, it was now real-life couple Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton that emerged victorious, defeating YouTuber Joe Sugg and early favourites Faye Tozer and Ashley Roberts in the final with their foxtrot, showdance and paso doble.

2017 – right or wrong? WRONG

Betfair’s Alan Dudman went all in on JLS star Aston Merrygold being crowned champion in 2017, and he entered the fray as a strong favourite with his casual backflipping ability and 11/4 odds.

Strictly is a fickle mistress and he ended up a surprise elimination in week seven after a shock bottom two result. His direct competitor was The Saturdays’ Mollie King, who Dudman had put second at 7/2, and she made it to the semi-final with her partner, AJ Pritchard.

Actress Gemma Atkinson and singer Alexandra Burke, who were both given odds of 5/1, did make it to 2017’s final, but both fell, alongside stage performer Debbie McGee, to Holby City actor Joe McFadden and Katya Jones, who, until last year remained the oldest winner at 42.

He had started the competition in the middle of the pack with 16/1 odds.

2016 – right or wrong? WRONG

2016’s show saw a lot of potentially strong contenders taking to the dancefloor, with gymnast Claudia Fragapane, Olympian Greg Rutherford and singer Louise Redknapp all putting on their dancing shoes.

But it was ex-Hollyoaks actor Danny Mac who the bookies gave leading 3/1 odds, with pop star Will Young just behind on 4/1. Although Danny made it all the way to the final – scoring the first perfect 40 for that sizzling samba along the way – Will opted to bow out of the competition after three weeks, citing ‘personal reasons’.

It was left to Ore Oduba, who started with odds of 10/1, and partner Joanne Clifton to ultimately claim the top prize, with Ore’s consistency throughout the weeks standing him in strong stead – even against tough competitors.

2015 – right or wrong? CLOSE

It should be said, it was a close-run thing in 2015 when it comes to initial odds and the eventual winner, but it was Peter Andre who bookies had as their favourite to begin with, with Ladbrokes offering odd of 7/2 on the singer and reality TV star.

However, Peter wound up eliminated ninth with his pro partner Janette Manrara, and it was joint second favourite, The Wanted’s Jay McGuiness, who stepped up to the plate with partner Aliona Vilani and blew his competition away – especially with his faultless Pulp Fiction-themed jive in Movie Week.

He had started the competition with 5/1 odds, alongside Corrie’s Georgia May Foote, who made it all the way to the final.

2014 – right or wrong? WRONG

2014’S talent included This Morning’s Alison Hammond, EastEnders’ star Jake Wood and BBC Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, who treated viewers to a memorable samba to Under the Sea, dressed as Sebastian the crab.

It was also the year of Caroline Flack’s triumph, alongside partner Pasha Kovalev, and although her starting odds put her near the top in terms of the likelihood of winning, others were considered a safer bet.

William Hill put Flack on odds of 13/2, but singer Pixie Lott was favourite with odds of 7/2, followed by rugby player Thom Evans on 4/1, The Saturdays’ Frankie Bridge on 5/1 and Blue singer Simon Webbe on 6/1.

Pixie was eliminated during the quarter finals, while Thom was voted off fourth. Simon and Frankie were both finalists.

2013 – right or wrong? WRONG

Runner-up Natalie Gumede, who wowed the judges with her moves from the start, was also a favourite with the bookies, who gave her odds of 5/1 of winning the show.

Perhaps more surprisingly, Countdown star Rachel Riley shared those same odds – but it didn’t stop her and Pasha Kovalev, now her husband, from being eliminated in week six.

The next favourites were Hollyoaks actor Ashley Taylor-Dawson on 7/1, alongside both popstar Sophie Ellis-Bextor and newsreader Susanna Reid. All went into the final weeks of the show, but it was model Abbey Clancy who lifted the Glitterball trophy with Aljaž Skorjanec, after initial odds of 10/1.

2012 – right or wrong? CLOSE

Again, 2012 was a tight race on the Strictly dancefloor, with its eventual winner, Olympian gymnast Louis Smith only ever being as low as second place in the odds for a win. However, it was TV presenter and West End performer Denise Van Outen who was the initial favourite on odds of 3/1.

Silver medallist Louis had to settle for odds of 7/2, alongside Girls Aloud’s Kimberley Walsh, although once partnered with Flavia Cacace and strutting his stuff in the launch show’s first group number, he quickly became the favourite.

2011 – right or wrong? RIGHT

The betting companies were right on the money in 2011, predicted a Harry Judd win right from the start, and with Ladbrokes offering 2/1 odds.

The McFly star proved to be one of the competition’s most memorable winners as he grew in confidence to add showmanship to the list of his technical talents. This marked his professional dancer, Aliona Vilani’s, first win.

His closest competition was marked as The One Show presenter Alex Jones and singer Holly Valance, who were both eliminated in the semi-final.

They were both on odds of 6/1.

2010 – right or wrong? RIGHT

This was the year of Kara Toniton’s win with Artem Chigvintsev, with the pair’s sizzling chemistry eventually spilling off-screen into a real-life romance.

The EastEnders actress was the favourite from the outset, with the shortest odds of 4/1 from Paddy Power, and presenter Matt Baker was just a fraction behind, on 9/2. Considering Matt dd finish as a memorable runner-up, this was a very accurate year for the bookies.

The only wildcard proved to be Pamela Stephenson reaching the final with her partner James Jordan, having been on 33/1 odds to triumph.

2009 – right or wrong? WRONG

This was the perhaps the first year where Strictly Come Dancing produced an underdog winner, with BBC Breakfast sports presenter Chris Hollins producing a stunning victory against bookies favourite Ricky Whittle.

Re-doing their iconic Charleston, which scored them full marks in the final, as well as a jubilant freestyle dance to Do You Love Me?, seemed to cement Chris and his partner Ola Jordan in the hearts of viewers.

Chris’ odds were 33/1 to win earlier on in the competition, but shortened as he made it further and further in the competition against the likes of boxer Joe Calzaghe, The Bill star Ali Bastian and actress Laila Rouass.

2008 – right or wrong? RIGHT

With help from his professional partner Camilla Dallerup, 2008 was the year audiences saw actor Tom Chambers fulfil his childhood dream of learning to dance like musicals legend Fred Astaire. Leaning into full-on Hollywood glamour, the Holby City star wowed viewers with his grace.

Sky Bet had him on 4/1 odds from August as the frontrunner, so it’s a pretty cut and dried success for them.

His closest competition came from swimmer Mark Foster, on 7/1, and presenter Christine Bleakley (now Lampard), models Lisa Snowdon and Jodie Kidd, EastEnders icon Jessie Wallace and S Club 7’s Rachel Stevens all on 9/1.

And it was Rachel, paired with Vincent Simone, who came in second, and Lisa, partnered with Brendan Cole, who placed third.

2007 – right or wrong? WRONG

Ahead of Strictly starting in 2007, it was model and actress Kelly Brook who was the bookies’ favourite. Partnered with Brendan Cole (before the show started its surprise partner unveiling), Ladbrokes had her on 4/1 to dazzle the judges, ahead of EastEnders star Matt Di Angelo on 6/1.

Sadly, Kelly withdrew from the competition following her father’s death. Matt, however, did go all the way through to the final before being pipped at the post by Alesha Dixon.

Perhaps less of a sure bet before the show began, Alesha’s time on Strictly saw her breaking records with partner Matthew Cutler left, right and centre, never scoring below 31 but also never being awarded a perfect 40 either.

She than famously found herself on the judging panel for three series of Strictly, offering the unique viewpoint of a former contestant.

2006 – right or wrong? WRONG (according to Matt Dawson)

A tricky year for tracking down odds, although by the time of Mark Ramprakash’s triumph with Karen Hardy in the final, he was the bookies’ favourite.

The second consecutive cricketer to win, Mark is still the only celebrity dancer who has ever restarted a routine on Strictly, after his microphone wire became caught in Karen’s dress. This led to a moment of television gold, starring the late, great Sir Bruce Forsyth, as he and the crew came together to improvise the fix, live on TV (and the salsa was pretty good too).

As far as odds go, Mark was up against rugby star Matt Dawson in the final, who placed a £1,000 bet on himself to win the show, with plans to donate any pay out to Children in Need.

2005 – right or wrong? WRONG

Cricketer Darren Gough became Strictly’s first-ever male winner in 2005, proving to have nippy feet and excellent posture as his partner Lilia Kopylova coached him to victory.

He triumphed over the bookies favourite, DJ Zoe Ball, in the final, who finished third, as well as 110m-hurdles world record holder Colin Jackson, who came second.

Darren’s triumph came despite never finishing top of the leader board – instead he showed huge improvement in the first few weeks before finding a consistently good standard. His dances in the final, a foxtrot and a paso doble, both scored him 36, his highest marks of the series.

2004 – series one and two

Initial odds from Strictly’s first year are a challenge to find as the show bedded in, although it was popular enough that two series were shown, with the first starting in May before it returned again in October.

In the second series, eventual winner Jill Halfpenny was paired with Darren Bennett and faced competition from the likes of Olympic heptathlete Denise Lewis and comedian Julian Clary, who were her fellow finalists.

However, Jill became the one to beat when she and Darren pulled out their jive to I’m Still Standing in week three. Becoming the first couple to achieve a perfect 40 for any dance when they performed it a second time in Blackpool, for the final, that routine remains perhaps the greatest dance still in Strictly’s history.

In its first series, newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky was one of seven brave celebrities to take part, with her and partner Brendan Cole also standouts from the start. In fact, the show’s first final saw Natasha and Brendan finish a whopping 41 points ahead of runners-up, EastEnders actor Christopher Parker and his partner Hanna Karttunen.

Strictly Come Dancing begins tonight at 7:45pm on BBC One.

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