Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The NFL (Pick Your Sport) is Fixed!

I remember back in the late 70's I'd go to Sunday dinner at my aunts and uncles, and on one occasion the final round of the Masters was on.  Lanny Wadkins or some other golfer of the era made a putt and my uncle exclaimed, "I knew that was going in, they want him to win, this is all fixed."

A curious little fellow, I asked why and his explanations didn't seem to make much sense. It was just fixed. All sports were. 

I found out later - talking to many people with grandpas and uncles like him - this seemed to be a common theme with some immigrants like my uncle from the "old country", where communism and socialism reigned. You don't believe "the state" because the state has everything figured out for you. 

Weakening my life experiences conclusions, fast forward to free and open twitter in free and open countries, and forty years later - the fix was in on Sunday for the Chiefs-Bengals game. The calls went one way, the NFL wanted this match up, etc. It's all over the web. 

I understand there is some evidence of this. In fact, studies have been done and books like Scorecasting delved into home-away or chalk dog biases. We watched the Bortles led Jaguars against the Brady Pats a few years ago in the AFC Championship where the Jags were thrashing them and the Pats didn't have a flag until late in the 3rd quarter. Perhaps there was an iota of "how is this underdog ahead, are we doing something wrong" from the officials. But replaying the game it's really hard to see that. The calls were kind of fine, and the better team did win.  

We might lament the inquiry at Santa Anita that "they won't chuck Baffert" but really, would they have chucked any horse in this position? And who in California racing really, really loves Baffert anyway at this point? Perhaps a better argument is the other way around. 

The problem I find with "fixes", is that when we do the math, they're really hard to conclude. It's like the old Trump-Russia threads by that internet celebrity prof who had 400 tweet strings. He'd start with a premise that might be 50% true and add 50% possible truth's to it, weaving a story. You'd read the end conclusion and say "wow this makes sense". But mathematically we were looking at a conclusion that was 0.5 to the power of 400 of being true. In other words, zero. 

Maybe the fix was in when they pitched my horse, or my team got called for holding. Maybe the officials wanted Patrick Mahomes to be in the Super Bowl (Joe Burrow is not marketable, I guess). Hey, I'm the first to admit that I don't know for sure. But when I apply a little math and common sense, I can't help but conclude it's just simply the randomness of it all. 

Have a nice Tuesday everyone. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Could HBO's Luck Have Actually Worked?

Blast from the past here, but for those who remember the ill-fated horse racing series Luck, a headline came across the twitter today about another show, Yellowstone. 

It appears that this Paramount program has done some good for Montana's economy. The most interesting stat to me from the University of Montana study, was that over 1 million tourists have visited the big sky state due to the show. If even half true, that's certainly something. 

Way back in 2012, Luck was a hot topic in the sport. While I was never one of the people who thought a Triple Crown champ, or horses on cereal boxes would increase horse racing's popularity, the HBO show did give me pause. I thought there was something there. Each week Dan Needham (a sharp guy who is now off twitter) was wholly convinced it would move the needle. He, as some may remember, held a weekly Luck chat on twitter each airing. 

Could Luck for horse racing have been what a Yellowstone has apparently done for Montana? We'll never know. But maybe there was something there. 

Have a nice Thursday everyone. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Poll - Can You Be a Winning Player With a 5% Loss?

I noticed an interesting tweet on Monday from @derby1592 - 

I think it's sound advice; advice we've heard from people like Mike Maloney. Note that beating the take is not winning, but showing you have some sort of edge in the win pools. 

Not long after, I wondered what people thought about this question - 

I chose 0.95 (out of $1) because a 5% loss is really hard to achieve, and if you're doing that (especially without subsetting giant chalk, or otherwise), you are a very, very good player. Can a very, very good player make tickets properly to overcome a 5% loss?

You're pretty split on this and I did read some good comments saying "no" but I do disagree. 

If you're only losing 5%, you are clearly doing the right things - you recognize good chalk and bad, recognize contenders versus the ones to throw out. You have a really good feel for a race. 

If you have a really good feel for a set of races, I think you might be selling yourself short. 

By recognizing contenders, you are able to play better pick 4 or 5 tickets, because your cost per ticket is much lower than average. This matters. 

If you are able to scope out a race, a few tips and tricks can lead you to some vertical success, too. For example, if you are near profitable in the win pool, you are likely finding 4-1 to 10-1 shots who are ROI positive. Playing these horses, say 1 or 2 in supers, and using your skill to not use obvious horses underneath (because you recognize good and bad chalk), can yield superior payoffs. 

There's no bigger drain on a bankroll than liking a 10-1 shot, betting $20 to win, then spending a pile of supers and tris with all chalk underneath. Using a price swing horse you may like (and if you like a 10-1 shot you probably don't like the obvious horses) in exotics can turn a super that pays $800 with chalk, to one that pays $4,000 or more. Hit several of those a year and you're certainly doing good things. 

Knowing when to push this or not, i.e. not taking exotic tickets when you don't see an edge underneath your play, means something too. 

In the end I go on the premise that because a 5% win pool loss is so hard to achieve for the pen and paper capper, using that skill to construct mathematically and logically sound tickets by eliminating wastage can vault a player over the top. 

Have a nice day everyone. 

Most Trafficked, Last 12 Months


Carryovers Provide Big Reach and an Immediate Return

Sinking marketing money directly into the horseplayer by seeding pools is effective, in both theory and practice In Ontario and elsewher...