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2014 NFL Confidence Pool Picks – Week 1

 2014, Confidence pool, NFL, Win probability  Comments Off on 2014 NFL Confidence Pool Picks – Week 1
Aug 292014

(Updated Sep. 2)

Game Victor Win Probability Confidence
Green Bay@Seattle @Seattle 66.58% 12
Buffalo@Chicago @Chicago 69.80% 14
Washington@Houston @Houston 57.46% 3
Cincinnati@Baltimore @Baltimore 55.98% 2
New England@Miami New England 63.51% 8
Tennessee@Kansas City @Kansas City 63.20% 6
New Orleans@Atlanta New Orleans 58.42% 4
Minnesota@St. Louis @St. Louis 63.49% 7
Cleveland@Pittsburgh @Pittsburgh 68.75% 13
Oakland@N.Y. Jets @N.Y. Jets 66.05% 11
Jacksonville@Philadelphia @Philadelphia 79.15% 16
San Francisco@Dallas San Francisco 63.80% 10
Carolina@Tampa Bay @Tampa Bay 50.75% 1
Indianapolis@Denver @Denver 72.10% 15
N.Y. Giants@Detroit @Detroit 63.52% 9
San Diego@Arizona @Arizona 59.51% 5
Possible Points 136  
Expected Points 91.52  
95% confidence interval* 55 to 123  

*Prior to 2014 the “Likely range” reflected a 90% confidence interval. Beginning in 2014 it reflects a 95% confidence interval.

 Posted by on August 29, 2014 at 4:46 pm


 College Pick 'Em  Comments Off on College
Aug 252014
2015 March Madness - Regret minimizing bracket
Tournament Pool Size Widget
2015 March Madness - Expected Survival Rates
2015 March Madness - Most Likely Bracket
2014 College FB Bowls
2014 College FB Week 15
2014 College FB Week 14
2014 College FB Week 13
2014 College FB Week 12
2014 College FB Week 11
2014 College FB Week 10
2014 College FB Week 9
2014 College FB Week 8
2014 College FB Week 7
2014 College FB Week 6
2014 College FB Week 5
2014 College FB Week 4
2014 College FB Week 3
2014 College FB Week 2
2014 College FB Week 1
2014 March Madness
2013-2014 College Football Bowls
 Posted by on August 25, 2014 at 9:12 pm

2014 College Football win probabilities – Week 1

 2014, College football, NCAA football, Win probability  Comments Off on 2014 College Football win probabilities – Week 1
Aug 242014
Game Victor Win Probability
Abilene Christian@Georgia State @Georgia State 61.13%
Texas A&M@South Carolina @South Carolina 75.47%
Presbyterian@Northern Illinois @Northern Illinois 99.61%
Chattanooga@Central Michigan @Central Michigan 78.09%
Howard@Akron @Akron 91.69%
Wake Forest@UL Monroe @UL Monroe 50.95%
Eastern Illinois@Minnesota @Minnesota 95.61%
Idaho State@Utah @Utah 99.70%
Tulane@Tulsa @Tulsa 65.01%
Boise State@Mississippi @Mississippi 74.48%
Cal. Poly – SLO@New Mexico State Cal. Poly – SLO 60.20%
Temple@Vanderbilt @Vanderbilt 81.75%
Rutgers@Washington State @Washington State 69.76%
North Dakota@San Jose State @San Jose State 94.33%
Weber State@Arizona State @Arizona State 99.89%
Brigham Young@Connecticut Brigham Young 85.66%
Jacksonville State@Michigan State @Michigan State 98.19%
Villanova@Syracuse @Syracuse 82.55%
Bowling Green@Western Kentucky Bowling Green 68.76%
Texas-San Antonio@Houston @Houston 76.53%
Colorado State@Colorado @Colorado 57.33%
UNLV@Arizona @Arizona 93.62%
Penn State@Central Florida @Central Florida 53.46%
Delaware@Pittsburgh @Pittsburgh 93.97%
UCLA@Virginia UCLA 91.91%
Tennessee-Martin@Kentucky @Kentucky 89.53%
Western Michigan@Purdue @Purdue 75.32%
Ohio State@Navy Ohio State 86.24%
Troy@Alabama-Birmingham @Alabama-Birmingham 55.79%
North Dakota State@Iowa State @Iowa State 57.69%
Indiana State@Indiana @Indiana 93.51%
Northern Iowa@Iowa @Iowa 85.65%
Youngstown State@Illinois @Illinois 77.08%
Appalachian State@Michigan @Michigan 98.65%
Georgia Southern@North Carolina State @North Carolina State 91.33%
Wofford@Georgia Tech @Georgia Tech 50.05%
Nicholls State@Air Force @Air Force 90.66%
Colgate@Ball State @Ball State 95.04%
Boston College@Massachusetts Boston College 85.27%
Southern Utah@Nevada @Nevada 93.15%
Duquesne@Buffalo @Buffalo 96.16%
Rice@Notre Dame @Notre Dame 91.93%
Hampton@Old Dominion @Old Dominion 97.39%
South Dakota State@Missouri @Missouri 97.14%
James Madison@Maryland @Maryland 92.19%
California@Northwestern @Northwestern 76.33%
Florida Atlantic@Nebraska @Nebraska 92.21%
West Virginia@Alabama @Alabama 95.49%
Marshall@Miami (Ohio) Marshall 93.71%
UC – Davis@Stanford @Stanford 98.95%
Montana@Wyoming @Wyoming 67.38%
William & Mary@Virginia Tech @Virginia Tech 90.17%
Arkansas@Auburn @Auburn 89.91%
Portland State@Oregon State @Oregon State 97.76%
Clemson@Georgia @Georgia 69.36%
Ohio@Kent State @Kent State 56.90%
Morgan State@Eastern Michigan @Eastern Michigan 74.06%
Elon University@Duke @Duke 98.37%
Liberty@North Carolina @North Carolina 97.18%
Western Carolina@South Florida @South Florida 93.11%
Louisiana Tech@Oklahoma @Oklahoma 99.34%
New Hampshire@Toledo New Hampshire 56.42%
Central Arkansas@Texas Tech @Texas Tech 97.20%
Northern Arizona@San Diego State @San Diego State 90.11%
Austin Peay@Memphis @Memphis 98.00%
Savannah State@Middle Tennessee @Middle Tennessee 99.53%
Southern@UL Lafayette @UL Lafayette 99.30%
Arkansas-Pine Bluff@Texas State @Texas State 97.58%
Bethune Cookman@Florida International Bethune Cookman 61.46%
Samford@Texas Christian @Texas Christian 98.61%
Idaho@Florida @Florida 99.03%
Montana State@Arkansas State @Arkansas State 69.75%
Stephen F. Austin@Kansas State @Kansas State 99.06%
Southern Mississippi@Mississippi State @Mississippi State 97.33%
Fresno State@Southern California @Southern California 91.94%
North Carolina Central@East Carolina @East Carolina 99.55%
Texas El Paso@New Mexico @New Mexico 68.35%
Florida State@Oklahoma State Florida State 87.29%
North Texas@Texas @Texas 94.77%
Wisconsin@Louisiana State @Louisiana State 62.81%
Washington@Hawaii Washington 86.49%
South Dakota@Oregon @Oregon 99.92%

Unlike NFL football pools, which games your college football pool chooses can vary. Use this page to help with your college football pool. Copy or import the page into Excel, sort by the Win Probability column in descending order to identify the best ranks for your pool.

 Posted by on August 24, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Maximizing weekly AND season-end winnings

 Confidence pool, Office pool strategy, Weekly Payout  Comments Off on Maximizing weekly AND season-end winnings
Aug 062014

(Updated Sept. 2)

A reader requests the optimal strategy for maximizing his pool winnings. He writes:

I’m in a small pool that pays both weekly and at the conclusion of the season. To maximize my payoff, I need to win weeks and finish on top. 60% of the funds are paid weekly, the rest after week 17. I need enough variability to win weeks, but not too much, first place pays 20% of the pot.  

Five obstacles argue against tuning your strategy too precisely: risk, noise, user error, modeling other entries in your pool, and the bias/variance tradeoff.

The accuracy of picking favorites to win outright varies over time. Typically it ranges between 60% and 70%. Some years it is as low as 57% or as high as 75% over the course of a season. We can go three years without getting a single week when all the favorites win. So even using the highest expected point model, such as WinThatPool’s, is no guarantee you will win your pool by season-end, although in most small pools (say, fewer than 20 entries) it should always rank near the top. In pools with 50 to 100 entries, depending on the others’ skill and on the year you should finish in or near the top five, but coming out #1  is not guaranteed.

An NFL season entails only 256 games spread among 17 weeks. That is a small sample size, with lots of room for bad streaks for the best model and good streaks by useless models. Better to join a pool whose season stretches into the playoffs.

User error
Have you ever entered the wrong side of a game you picked correctly just because Yahoo! or ESPN or poolhost displayed the game wrong, or at least differently from how you expected? It only takes one of those slip-ups to put you permanently behind. I have seen other pool members forget to pick the winner of the Monday night game in time and miss out on winning that week. It happens.

Modeling other entries in your pool
There is a right way to do this, and it is beyond most entrants’ capabilities. It is quite complex, and it entails simulation. In 2009 WinThatPool used to recommend confidence pool picks to optimize winning that week’s pool. Such recommendations depend heavily on the size of the pool, that is, the number of other entries. If demanded by enough readers, WinThatPool might add that feature back.

Bias/variance tradeoff
WinThatPool’s recommendations are effectively unbiased, which is ideal for maximizing points over the course of a season. Lots of entries pick the right favorites but their confidence ranks are biased. Unbiased confidence ranks are what you want for a season-long prize. Compare WinThatPool’s picks to, say, Brian Burke’s win probabilities on AdvancedFootballAnalytics(AFA). Which teams will win is seldom in disagreement between our picks, but in the past Burke’s probabilities have been biased – that is his 80% and 90% picks have not won 80% and 90% of the time. If you applied his picks in a confidence pool, you probably finished out of the running for a season-long pot.

Weekly strategy: Deviate on one heavy favorite
The corollary is WinThatPool’s recommendations are a starting point (hence the slogan, “your starting point for winning office pools”). If you really want to risk your season-long ranking by going against the model, select one of the highest confidence games that week and pick the underdog without changing the confidence points. For week 1 in 2014, that might mean picking Buffalo over @Chicago, and leaving it at 14 points. Your expected point total is worse than picking @Chicago, but if the upset occurs so few of your pool-mates will pick Buffalo that you’re in a good position for the Week 1 pot. Another possibility is to use a different, biased set of confidence ranks. For example, you could simply apply AFA’s picks, but so many people read those picks in the NYTimes chances are you won’t be the only one doing so.

By the way, I am not complaining about AFA or its model. AFA (formerly known as Advanced NFL Stats)  is an innovative sports analytics blog. Brian Burke has influenced how the game is played – how many sports sites can say that? Burke was an early critic of received wisdom that too often resulted in overly conservative play. I credit him with evolving how fans, commentators, and even coaches think about football strategy and tactics, and specifically for catalyzing the growing tendency for NFL coaches to go for it on fourth down.

Update – I would add that AFA’s in-game modeling is revolutionary, and one of the primary reasons so many pay attention to AFA. 

Best strategy? Start with the season-end strategy and switch if necessary
If after several weeks you fall too far behind you can always switch from the season strategy to the weekly strategy, but you probably cannot do the opposite unless you win Week 1. Figure out in advance what your expected winnings are for the weekly pot and the season pot by assuming a 1/n chance, where n is the number of entries. Compare your expected winnings for 17 chances at the weekly prize with one at the season prize. Pick either strategy and pursue that. If you start out with the season-end strategy, you will probably contend for the season pot, and maybe through a combination of other users’ errors and noisy luck, you might also win a week.

 Posted by on August 6, 2014 at 1:38 pm