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Confidence pool end game: Don’t outsmart yourself

 Confidence pool, NFL, Office pool strategy, Win probability  Comments Off on Confidence pool end game: Don’t outsmart yourself
Jan 202014
 

While adhering to the recommended picks on WinThatPool! should always put you among the leaders by season-end, due to the imprecision of Win Probabilities whether you are in 1st or 5th entering SB week will largely depend on chance.

Approaching Super Bowl XLVIII I find myself in the same position I was in a year ago: 2nd place in a pool of some 90 participants. Here’s a doctored screenshot of my pool’s standings last year, just prior to the SB. (The screenshot is doctored to obscure the other team names, and I changed my team name to WinThatPool to avoid readers’ confusion).Standings_pre_SB

I was 1 point in front of the person in 3rd, 7 points behind the leader. The person in 4th place was 5 points behind the one in 3rd (and out of the money) and the guy in 5th place was 7 behind the guy in 3rd.

Last year I wound up winning the pool, but that was more due to luck than to well-conceived game theory. Let me elaborate.

Last year, San Francisco had a 61% Win Probability over Baltimore. The prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd last year were: 500, 300, 200. I was looking at 300 if the standings held through the SB. Both the guy in 1st and the guy in 3rd place had consistently bet the favorite all season long, so it was predictable that both would bet San Francisco.

I started anticipating what the guys in 4th place would do. If I were in 4th and looking at finishing out of the money, I’d pick the underdog. That way, if the favorite won (and all participants in 1st, 2nd and 3rd had picked the favorite) I wasn’t going to finish in the money anyway. But if they all picked SF, I was close enough to vault into 1st if Baltimore were to win. The same rationale applied to the guy in 5th place. That they both would pick Baltimore seemed self evident.

What this meant was: assuming both guys in 4th and 5th picked Baltimore (applying the above rationale), if I also picked Baltimore the worst that could happen to me if SF won was to fall to 3rd place. Seemed almost like a hedge position: if Baltimore wins, I win, if SF wins, I get 3rd place. The key assumption was that the guys in 4th and 5th considered their options the way I had. So I picked Baltimore.

When game time came around, both the guy in 4th and the guy in 5th had picked SF! I had outsmarted myself. If SF would have won, I would have finished in 5th place, out of the money. So I got lucky that the underdog eventually won. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Strategy for SB XLVIII
This year the Win Probability is close enough to even that I won’t assume anything about what the guy in 1st will pick, never mind the guys in 4th or 5th. I’m going with Denver, cold temps or not.

In the coming week I will analyze the Fan Pick distributions to arrive at strategies depending on assumptions about the guy(s) in front of you.

 Posted by on January 20, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Conference championship confidence pool analysis and tactical suggestions

 2013, 2014, Confidence pool, NFL, Office pool strategy, Win probability  Comments Off on Conference championship confidence pool analysis and tactical suggestions
Jan 152014
 

Editor’s note: this table and analysis were updated 1/17/14, 9:00p PST. Some fan picks have moved significantly since the initial post.

The table below lists the allotment of fan picks based on the “pick distribution” for Confidence pools available presently on Yahoo.

Confidence Points
%Fans 16 8
26% DEN SEA
26% SEA DEN
20% DEN SF
9% SF NE
9% NE SEA
7% SEA NE
2% NE SF
1% SF DEN

Confidence pool analysis and tactical suggestions:
There is considerable disagreement across fan picks, which makes for some decent potential for tactical maneuvering. If you’re within 8 points of someone ahead of you, even without any tactics by you at all there is a modest chance you could catch them just by entering the highest expected point total slate (16 DEN, 8 SEA). Among slates with 16 points on Denver, 44% of them pick SF instead of SEA. Among slates with 16 on SEA, they’re highly skewed toward DEN.

At this point, if you’re behind by over 16 points, I suggest the second least popular slate, 16 on NE and 8 on SF. The chance of both teams winning is about 1/6. Chances are you’ll be the only one in your pool with that slate, and in the event both teams win you’ll move up anywhere from 8 to 24 points on everyone else.

 Posted by on January 15, 2014 at 1:47 pm

2013-14 NFL Confidence Pool Picks and Win Probabilities: Conference Championships

 2014, Confidence pool, NFL, playoffs, Win probability  Comments Off on 2013-14 NFL Confidence Pool Picks and Win Probabilities: Conference Championships
Jan 142014
 

New post on strategy for picking games this weekend

Game Victor Confidence Win Probability
New England@Denver @Denver 16 63.2%
San Francisco@Seattle @Seattle 8 60.1%
Possible points: 24    
Expected: 14.9    
Likely range: 0 to 24    
       
       
 Posted by on January 14, 2014 at 11:29 am

NFL confidence pool picks and results for 2014 Divisional Playoff Round: 40 points

 2013, Confidence pool, NFL, playoffs, Results  Comments Off on NFL confidence pool picks and results for 2014 Divisional Playoff Round: 40 points
Jan 122014
 
Game Victor Confidence Win Probability
New Orleans@Seattle @Seattle 12 72.2%
Indianapolis@New England @New England 8 70.1%
San Francisco@Carolina San Francisco 4 55.7%
San Diego@Denver @Denver 16 76.3%
Possible points: 40    
Expected: 28.7    
Likely range: 12 to 40    
Actual 40
Year-to-date 1,580

 Posted by on January 12, 2014 at 7:41 pm

NFL Divisional Playoff round analysis of fan picks

 2014, Confidence pool, NFL, Office pool strategy, playoffs  Comments Off on NFL Divisional Playoff round analysis of fan picks
Jan 102014
 
%Fans Team 16 12 8 4 Avg. Conf.
88% SEA 36.7% 20.8% 18.6% 11.4% 11.8
13% NO 0.1% 2.1% 4.2% 6.1% 6.8
76% NE 6.6% 34.2% 17.4% 17.7% 9.6
24% IND 0.2% 3.6% 7.8% 12.4% 6.6
41% CAR 1.1% 6.7% 10.3% 22.7% 6.6
59% SF 2.6% 14.2% 16.5% 26.0% 7.6
91% DEN 52.4% 17.7% 20.9% 0.0% 13.4
9% SD 0.2% 0.6% 4.4% 3.7% 6.8

Strategy considerations:

Here’s the boring strategy: the pick set with the highest expected point total (DEN 16, SEA 12, NE 8, SF 4) also has the highest average rank. The next two strategies with the highest average rank are (SEA 16, DEN 12, NE 8, SF 4) and (NE 16, DEN 12, SEA 8, and SF 4).

If you’re behind by a lot, you’re running out of chances, but going with the favorites won’t cut it. Again SD looks tempting; SD has about a 1 in 4 Win Probability, but fewer than 10% of fans are picking SD. All other things being equal, ranking SD with 16 or 12 should give you that many more points than whomever you’re chasing, but if SD loses you’re nearly done. If you’re not so desperate, just give DEN only 4 points, which the table suggests almost nobody is doing. That way you still get something if DEN wins, but if they lose you haven’t spent 16 points on them.

 Posted by on January 10, 2014 at 3:50 pm

2013 NFL Confidence Pool Picks and Win Probabilities: Divisional Playoffs Round

 2014, Confidence pool, NFL, Win probability  Comments Off on 2013 NFL Confidence Pool Picks and Win Probabilities: Divisional Playoffs Round
Jan 092014
 

 

Game Victor Confidence Win Probability
New Orleans@Seattle @Seattle 12 72.2%
Indianapolis@New England @New England 8 70.1%
San Francisco@Carolina San Francisco 4 55.7%
San Diego@Denver @Denver 16 76.3%
Possible points: 40    
Expected: 28.7    
Likely range: 12 to 40    
       
       

 Posted by on January 9, 2014 at 6:13 pm

NFL confidence pool picks and results for 2014 Wildcard Round: 20 points

 2014, NFL, Results  Comments Off on NFL confidence pool picks and results for 2014 Wildcard Round: 20 points
Jan 062014
 
Game Victor Confidence Win Probability
Kansas City@Indianapolis @Indianapolis 8 57.5%
New Orleans@Philadelphia @Philadelphia</td> 4 57.5%
San Diego@Cincinnati @Cincinnati 16 70.1%
San Francisco@Green Bay San Francisco 12 58.3%
Possible points: 40    
Expected: 25.1    
Likely range: 4 to 40    
Actual 20
Year-to-date 1,540
 Posted by on January 6, 2014 at 10:08 am

UPDATED: NFL Wildcard Round: Analysis of Fan Picks

 2014, Confidence pool, NFL, playoffs  Comments Off on UPDATED: NFL Wildcard Round: Analysis of Fan Picks
Jan 032014
 

1/4/14 4:50P PST: The percentages reported in the table below previously were incorrect. Corrected numbers appear below.

Also, the most likely set of picks of SF 16, CIN 12, PHI 4 and IND 8 previously was reported at a probability of over 18%; the correct percentage is under 14%.
After fitting possible confidence point allotments to the pick distribution information available on Yahoo, these are the probabilities that a random fan assigns confidence points to a given playoff team this weekend.

If you’re playing catch-up, you could be running out of chances to do so without taking too much risk. With a nearly 30% chance of winning, San Diego might not seem too tempting until you realize that whoever you’re trying to catch almost certainly will pick Cincinnati with 12 or 16 points. It’s understandable why the few who picked San Diego allotted only 8 or 4 points.

%Fans picked Team 16 12 8 4
64% SF 20.6% 16.6% 13.0% 13.8%
36% GB 3.4% 7.3% 7.9% 17.4%
89% CIN 48.7% 33.9% 5.2% 1.2%
11% SD 0.0% 0.0% 10.2% 0.8%
51% PHI 9.5% 9.7% 9.7% 22.1%
49% NO 7.8% 10.6% 13.5% 17.1%
56% IND 6.3% 11.9% 26.3% 11.5%
44% KC 3.7% 10.1% 14.2% 16.0%

Something else: probabilities for the 384 individual pick combinations suggest that nearly 14% of all fans will pick SF 16, CIN 12, PHI 4, and IND 8. That’s right, 14%. The next highest probability was slightly more than 2 percentage points: GB 4, CIN 16, NO 8, and IND 12.

 Posted by on January 3, 2014 at 4:08 pm