MIKE'S PICKS

Sports handicapping advice and picks from a future professional sports handicapper.

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Location: Lighthouse Point, Florida, United States

I am a corporate attorney with an MBA in finance. I've practiced since 1993. Currently I work for a high-tech company that focuses primarily on intellectual property development, technology licensing and venture capital transactions. In my spare time I am studying several so-called "advantage play" techniques as they relate to sports handicapping. I hope to someday pursue sports handicapping full time. Sportsbook managers, consider yourselves duly warned.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Advice: Using Excel To Create an NFL "Season Wins" Tool

Several books are now posting "Season Win" totals lines on the upcoming NFL Season (e.g. Buffalo Bills: Over 8.5 Wins (+119), Under 8.5 Wins (-135)). For you novices, this means that if you bet the "Over", you will be wagering $ 100 to win $219. Conversely, if you bet the "Under", you will be wagering $ 135 to win $ 235.

Other than simply eyeballing these posted Season Win lines, how do you evaluate them for accuracy? Is 8.5 the right number to use? If 8.5 is correct, is -135 the "fair price" for an "under" bet? Finding value in lines is one of the keys to advantage handicapping.

There are several ways to construct an analysis tool for this. One that I like a lot was suggested by an acquaintance of mine over at Fezzik's Place (a link to Fezzik's Place is on my "Links" navbar.) Follow these instructions exactly in an Excel spreadsheet and you'll be able to build a very useful tool. If you follow it step-by-step, it's not as daunting as it may first appear. Before you use the sheet, you will need to estimate and assign a probability of the chance of winning each game of the 16 game season.**

1. In row 1 columns C through S contain the numbers 0-16 (so cell C1 = 0, D1 = 1, ... S1 = 16).
2. In column A rows 2 through 18 contain the numbers 0-16 (so cell A2 = 0, A3 = 1, ...A18 = 16).
3. In column B rows 3 through 18 contain the win probabilities for the 16 games (B3 = game 1 win prob, B4 = game 2 win prob, ...B18 = game 16 win prob).
4. Cell C2 = 1, cells D2 through S2 = 0 (as in, after 0 games there is a 100% prob of 0 wins and 0% prob of >= 1 wins).
5. Cell C3 = formula {+C2*(1-B3)} or the prob of 0 wins after 1 game = {prob of 0 wins after 0 games * prob of game 1 loss}.
6. Copy cell C3 formula to cells C4 through C18.
7. Cell D3 = formula {+D2*(1-$B3) + C2*$B3} or the prob of 1 win after 1 game = {prob of 0 wins after 0 games * prob of game 1 win + prob of 1 wins after 0 games * prob of game 1 loss}.
8. Copy cell D3 formula to cells D3 through S18.
9. The bottom row of the chart will then tell you the exact probability of acheiving the expected number of wins for each column's win total, based on your assumptions of the % chance of that team winning each individual game.

** (For now, you can just estimate these on the fly. In the future, I'll give you some ideas on how to arrive at a team's % chance of winning any particular game. After all, garbage-in still results in garbage-out. )

Once you have these probabilities from #9, you can construct moneylines, and then evaluate whether there is any "value" in any particular posted line. If you don't know how to do this final step (that is, convert %s into moneylines), I'll clarify it in a subsequent post. I'll also give you some ideas on how to arrive at a team's % chance of winning any particular game.

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