Monday, November 09, 2009


My football secret revealed

I'm not a betting man, and I never have been. I'm not good enough at math to beat the system at a casino, but I AM good enough at math to know that I won't beat a casino without amazing memory and computational skills.

However, I am pretty good at picking college football games. I don't bet on them, but I do play "college pick-em" over at Yahoo. I'm consistently in the top 10% of people there, and always end the season with more winners than loser against the line.

My secret is very simple: I always pick the smaller school.

The reason this works, at least over the long term and so long as "working" just means getting significantly ahead of 50% over time, is because the line on a game is established by the bets that are placed. That is, the bookies will try to have an equal number of betters over and under the line. Big schools have more alums, and those alums bet on their school regardless of opponent and the line, so that distorts the line over time. That is, the line responds to the irrational betting of big-school alums by giving those people a worse deal, so the smaller school is always the smarter bet (though not always the winning one). This is most true when the schools are significantly different in size, and roughly equal in ability. For example, if TCU were to play Penn State, the larger number of Wisconsin alums would skew the line, giving an advantage to those betting on the smaller school, TCU.

You will never get every game right this way, but overall... it's pretty good.

Hey wait, Miss Lewis and Mr. Krucki were excellant math teachers.
They were excellent teachers-- I just wasn't such a great student.
Do you pick the Wolverines each week?
(Snarky chuckle here)

... I'm sorry. Its not easy being Green and White. We so often resort to schadenfreude because our hearts get broken on a yearly basis.
I'm impressed that you figured that out. I would not have in about a million years, but then I don't follow sports so avidly.
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