Jeff Bridges among Oscar gamblers' picks

'Hurt Locker,' 'Avatar' in virtual tie for best picture race

Those who are betting real cash on the Oscars have determined that "Crazy Heart's" Jeff Bridges is a lock for best actor, so much so that most online bookies will require you to risk $6 just to win $1.

But if there's an upset in that category, it will come from George Clooney for his portrayal of a frequent flyer in "Up in the Air," and gamblers can get much better odds on him, as much as 13-1.

Jeremy Renner for "The Hurt Locker" is the long shot at about 28-1.

Gambling on the Oscars has become a tradition for some, and participants can check out the odds from several different options at a single Web site:

While checking in with folks who are putting up real money is a sound strategy for those seeking help with their office Oscar pools, it's not foolproof. After all, five years ago "The Aviator" was odds-on favorite for 2004's best picture among Oscar gamblers, but "Million Dollar Baby" took the statue.

This year's best-picture pick among gamblers is "Hurt Locker," but "Avatar" is so close among the odds-makers that it's probably more accurate to call it a tie.

The same can't quite be said for best director, where "Hurt Locker's" Kathryn Bigelow is favored over "Avatar's" James Cameron by a bigger margin -- comparatively speaking. One site has Cameron at 3-1, while you'd have to wager $5 to win $1 on Bigelow.

Sandra Bullock for "The Blind Side" is favored over Meryl Streep for "Julie & Julia," though it is almost as close as the race for best picture.

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Judging from where the money is flowing, the biggest surprises Sunday night would be if "Avatar" didn't win for best visual effects or if Christoph Waltz did not win a best supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of a twisted Nazi in "Inglourious Basterds." One site requires a $40 bet on Waltz just to win $1.

Like director, picture and actress, both writing categories are also tight: In adapted screenplay "Up in the Air" is favored over "Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire," and in best original screenplay it's "Basterds" over "Hurt Locker."

A couple of Web sites let you bet on which movie will earn the most Oscars. "Avatar" edges out "Hurt Locker," and you can get 4-1 odds if it's a tie.