If you play office pools using some of the largest online pool websites — ESPN, Yahoo, UPICKEM, etc. — you can see the percentages of other users’ picks for every team. If you take a look at them, you’ll notice they’re remarkably similar. But how do you use this information? Here’s how: it is a decent initial approximation for the percentages of picks in your own local pool.
Let’s say 10% of all users on ESPN picked Cleveland, and you play in a pool with 15 participants. Using the ESPN distribution estimate, that means you can expect 1.5 of your participants picks Cleveland.
But it can’t be 1.5. It could be 1 or 2. It could also be 0, 3, 4, or 5, or more if you’re playing in a pool of Cleveland fans. Given the ESPN probability p, where p=10%, the formula for estimating the probability in an N-participant pool that a certain number i picked a team is:
Enter that formula in Excel, substitute the is and you can see the probabilities that the number of your friends who picked Cleveland are:
If you’re not considering this for every game every week, you’re short-changing your office pool picks.