Italian archbishop Angelo Scola is favourite to be the next pope ahead of Ghana's Peter Turkson and Odilo Scherer of Brazil, bookmakers said Tuesday as cardinals prepared to choose the new pontiff.
Bookmakers were also taking bets on the official name that the successor to Benedict XVI will take, with Leo, Peter and Gregory the favourites.
Irish bookmaker Paddy Power and Britain's William Hill said Scola's chances had improved dramatically and both gave the Milan archbishop odds of 9/4 to be the next pope.
The likelihood of a first African pope diminished meanwhile as the once highly favoured Cardinal Turkson dropped down the betting rankings, while Cardinal Scherer leapt up the table.
William Hill put Turkson in second place on 7/2 and Scherer, the archbishop of Sao Paolo, in third at 4/1. Paddy Power put Scherer second at 4/1 and Turkson in third on 6/1.
Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone -- the Vatican camerlengo, or chamberlain -- is at 6/1 with William Hill and 10/1 with Paddy Power.
The odds of a first pontiff from North America lengthened meanwhile as the bookies abandoned the once highly favoured conservative Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada. He is at 10/1 with both William Hill and Paddy Power.
Among the US cardinals with a shot at the papacy, Sean O'Malley is at 14/1, Raymond Burke at 16/1 and Timothy Dolan at 20/1.
One-time favourite Francis Arinze of Nigeria has meanwhile suffered a dramatic reversal in his fortunes, at 40/1 with William Hill, having been at 2-1 just after Benedict resigned in February. He did not feature in Paddy Power's odds.
On a lighter note, Paddy Power put noted atheist scientist Richard Dawkins at 666-1 and U2 frontman Bono at 1000/1 to be the next pope.
For the next pope's official name, Leo is the favourite at 5/4, followed by Peter at 2/1, Gregory at 5/1, Pius at 6/1, John Paul at 8/1 and John at 10/1. Benedict is at 12/1.