Friday, April 18, 2014

This Fortnight in Degen Internet (4/5-4/18)

G.O.A.T. of the Fortnight

Phil Ivey.

W.O.A.T. of the Fortnight

Joshua Longobardy, for publishing more Pregame propaganda.

Tweet of the Fortnight

The Rest

Zach Lowe hands out his NBA awards.

The SEC football "bag man" is, well, about what you'd expect.

The Rams are running an absurd contest.

Dee Gordon stole second.

Friday, April 4, 2014

This Month in Degen Internet (3/8-4/4)

G.O.A.T. of the Month

#FF the indefatigable @GroovinMahoovin.

W.O.A.T. of the Month

So many options, but have to go with the individual who made this sign.

Tweet of the Month

This Month in Pregame

The worst podcast ever created.

The most recent Pregame scam was pretty standard.

One of the funniest forum posts you will ever read.


Fuck the NCAA Tweet of the Month

This Month in Tuley

A solid month of analysis -- as always -- from Dave.

Having football reporters cover the CBB tourney is a risky proposition.

#teamINTERNETFRIENDS Tweet of the Month

The Rest

Chad stroking his chin dot gif (thanks, Nick).

An interesting Deadspin piece on Sloan.

The unintended consequences of the 2011 NBA CBA.

An interview with one of the lawyers involved in New Jersey's battle to legalize sports betting.

Why are there so many conference tournament games in Vegas, but never any NCAA tourney games?

The NFL doesn't want Madden to be *too* accurate.

Schatz lol.

Friday, March 7, 2014

This Week in Degen Internet (3/1-3/7)

And what a week it was!

G.O.A.T. of the Week

Jeff Ma, for his excellent work moderating the SSAC betting panel.

W.O.A.T. of the Week

The best part of this back-and-forth between RJ and RAS was...well, the best part was definitely when RAS done scorched the earth. But another funny aspect of it was that both sides so clearly knew the reality of the situation. Both RJ and RAS know that Pregame is not offering information of any actual value (well, no "$-based" value, at least). It's also obvious that each of them are aware that RAS's picks actually, you know, win. Yet the battle goes on, at least until RAS decides he's had enough of this nonsense.

Just a funny thing to keep in mind while reading through their "argument".

Tweet of the Week

The previously mentioned RAS tweet was both the best one this week and a #TotY candidate, but don't want to spoil the payoff of the Storify, so this was a good tweet as well:
The Rest

A pretty standard interaction between Chad, Scucci, RJ, and WagerMinds.

RJ shares others' tweets in a different fashion that most. This may shock you, but it's quite self-serving! Fifty-one RTs tho.

Pop gonna Pop.

MLB announced their new fielder/batted ball tracking system at Sloan. It is cool.

#FF @WagerMinds, who had some excellent RJ-related content this week, both on Twitter and his blog.

Steinberg asks Trevor Booker about Deadspin's list of top cereals. Hilarity ensues.

Colin Cowherd had some rant on his radio show the other day about how the media's coverage of sports betting is terrible. His solution? More people should talk to Chad and RJ.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

#SSAC14 Betting Panel: Chad Millman

As you may have heard, the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was in Boston this past weekend, and one of the panels focused on sports betting. Throughout the week, I'm going to be taking a look at what each of the four panelists had to say, including transcripts, related tweets, my own commentary, and (if they're eventually free) YouTube clips.

Chad Millman (Twitter, SSAC profile, ESPN Insider archive) is the Editor-in-Chief of
ESPN the Magazine, and often covers betting-related topics for both The Magazine and ESPN Insider. Prior to his ESPN gig, his most notable gambling-related credential appears to be having written this book.

Anything after a bolded name is directly transcribed from the panel itself, anything in italics is me.


David Frohardt-Lane (known NFL #shrap): No matter how big of a deal the Conference Championship is, you're going to get up for the Super Bowl.

Chad Millman: Well, you got two weeks [...]

Millman: [...] but also, what made the Super Bowl so difficult to handicap, and to make a line for, was the public perception. And the perception was that the 49ers were becoming better and better as a team, and that they were really a team that a lot of people were thinking was probably the Super Bowl favorite, the team to represent the NFC. So when the Seahawks beat them, and they didn't beat then soundly, they potentially beat them, they did beat them, because of what a lot of people saw as sort of a lucky play, where they had otherwise been dominated the rest of the game, and possibly could have lost the game on a last second touchdown. Then you've got the Patriots, who had been playing great, and then the Broncos beat the Patriots, and you've got this, sort of, vortex of all these public teams, and people parsing the way each team won the game, so that's why even though the right play was to open the Seahawks as two-point favorites, you had all this public money rushing in, and don't forget, you're in Vegas for Championship weekend, and that is as big a weekend, in terms of handle, as anything that is leading up to the Super Bowl now, and so you've got people rushing out of town who had just seen the Broncos destroy the Patriots, who everyone thought was playing as well as anybody could be playing because the week before LeGarrette Blount had run for god knows how many yards, and you've got the Seahawks barely beating the 49ers, and everyone thinking they barely escaped. So you've got this rush of money that comes in. That's what makes the Super Bowl so difficult, that's where the analytics, on a game like that, from the oddsmaker perspective, go out the window. Now, it turns out, everybody who was handicapping from an analytical perspective...most people were on the Seahawks. So they were thrilled, because most people I spoke to were on the Seahawks, and would have played the Seahawks at -2, except they got lucky and the public money moved the game toward the Broncos, and so that's why the Super Bowl always ends up being the most difficult game to calculate from an analytical perspective, because the public has so much influence on that particular line.

Frohardt-Lane: I think the Super Bowl really stands out. I mean normally, if you disagree with the market by four points, you're wrong, is basically what it comes down to. But I do feel like the Super Bowl is different, like you can actually look at that line and say that line was wrong by four or five points. I attribute that to all the public money that comes in on the Super Bowl.

Word count: Millman 397, Frohardt-Lane 73.


Millman: I think the value in betting isn't in finding that unknowable stat, it's in the offerings. What is the next wagering. First 5 innings of betting on baseball. What are those things where the market hasn't quite caught up to what the professionals are doing yet, is where professionals are finding the most advantage. I've spoken to so many professional gamblers who...they're doing as much playing in-game as they are doing pregame.
Jeff Ma (moderator): Are they able to get a large amount of money down on in-game and First 5?

Millman: Some guys are. Depends on how many bets you're laying.
Millman: But the way these things are sliced, you've got all this data you are thinking about, and you've got all this research you've done as a professional gambler over the course of a week, or over the course of a season. And the way NFL lines specifically come out, it's so difficult because they're moving so quickly, and they become pretty sharp, you know, pretty quickly, and so your opportunity to really beat the market is when the game is happening [...]


Millman: I do think that the examination of the value of player injuries -- I'm thinking more about the NFL than I am about the NBA -- but that...

Ma: Are you going to tout your Millman rankings right now?

Millman: I wasn't going to, but thanks for bringing it up. So, for the past couple years we've done this thing on the blog that I do called the Millman rankings, because I'm a very humble guy. It's based on a metric we created called Point Spread Value Above Replacement. And what it does is it measures the value of a player, against the point spread, compared to what the spread would be if his replacement was playing. It's got a bunch of complicated stats in there because, you know, we're very, very smart.

Ma: What are the complicated stats?

Millman: They're not complicated stats. But what we're doing is we're going back and judging how well teams performed without those players, what the stats of those players who replaced them were, and then just sort of doing formulaic complications...

Ma: How can you do that with a guy like Tom Brady?

Millman: It's sort of a judgment call.

Ma: So there's not a lot of analytics that go into it, it's kind of very subjective?

Millman: Jeff, don't pull back the curtain on this thing, okay?

Frohardt-Lane: I don't know if this is what Chad's doing, but you could look over history of all kind of quarterbacks, and see how much does the dropoff from various levels of quarterback hurt the team, and then you ask yourself, okay, where does Tom Brady fall on this spectrum of quarterbacks.

Millman: The point is that you get a specific number on this, and if you are aware that the injury has happened, you can take advantage of that before the market adjusts, and get a very good sense of what the value is in the point spread, if bookmakers have adjusted it too much, have they not adjusted it enough, and I think that's often why [...]

Millman: You know, I talk to so many professional gamblers who are watching preseason games, deep into the fourth quarter, because they want to know, how good is the second- or third-string guard for the Niners, in case the first-string guard gets injured, because that's a lot of the places where you're going to find value, if that guy is out, and bookmakers don't necessarily adjust because, you know, the first-string guard for the San Francisco 49ers isn't playing.


Ma: What are some other things, Chad, that you see in the future, where value might come, and what are the opportunities there?

Millman: [strokes chin and stares at the ceiling for 11 seconds]

Ma: We'll get back to you.

Millman: Well, I was going to say, does it have to be a particular sport, or any sport?

Ma: Any sport.

Millman: You know, I think a lot about the NFL, and to me...

Ma: The NFL seems like the worst place.

Millman: It's the worst place to bet, but it's what everyone bets.

Ma: Right, but why would that be the place where there's an opportunity?

Millman: Well...can I finish?


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

#SSAC14 Betting Panel: Jay Kornegay

As you may have heard, the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was in Boston this past weekend, and one of the panels focused on sports betting. Throughout the week, I'm going to be taking a look at what each of the four panelists had to say, including transcripts, related tweets, my own commentary, and (if they're eventually free) YouTube clips.

Jay Kornegay (Twitter, SSAC profile) is the Vice President of the LVH SuperBook, which is one of the largest
 and most well-respected sportsbooks in Las Vegas. His thoughts/comments/opinions can often be found in the tweets, columns, and podcasts of Chad Millman and RJ Bell.


Jay Kornegay: We're not defined like a lot of people think. We're not running all this massive data, you know, we're not a bunch of mathematicians back there, in the NFL. The NFL is more of an art form for us. Our power ratings are pretty much in our head. In fact, I think you guys would be very disappointed on how we make some of these lines [laughs]. For the NFL, for the NFL.
Kornegay: And we usually, at the LVH, we usually post NFL lines about a week ahead of everybody else, and it's exactly that...we have some very sharp oddsmakers and guys that have been doing it for a long time, and it's pretty much a group just like this were we just kind of go around and say, "What do you got? 2.5, 1.5, 2, 3...let's go with 2," unless someone makes a case.

Jeff Ma (moderator): Sounds pretty scientific.

Kornegay: [laughs] But it is a feel, and there's, and I'm going to tell you, oddsmaking, on our part is always going to have some kind of art form to it. And I think that's where you might see some of the flaws of just statistical systems, you know, they don't have...


Kornegay: Seattle's big rivalry is the 49ers. I mean, that was a really big game for them...

Ma: But shouldn't they have been a letdown then for the Super Bowl?

David Frohardt-Lane (known NFL #shrap): A letdown for the Super Bowl?

Ma: Well that's what I'm saying, this is all, like doesn't make any sense to me.

Kornegay: That's what some people were looking at it.

Frohardt-Lane: No matter how big of a deal the Conference Championship is, you're going to get up for the Super Bowl.


Ma: So you're bearish on analytics in sports betting?

Kornegay: Yeah. On our side of the counter, Jeff, we really don't do that much.
Kornegay: We're doing a little bit more and more each year, we look at KenPom, like he said, four or five years ago we looked at that. Whether it's other websites, or systems, ratings that we use, we don't actually calculate those ourselves. We actually go to many different types of websites and use that information, if we need to.

Kornegay: I heard last year you guys talking about player profiling; we look at people that are beating us, and we're trying to figure out what they're doing. We look at their track record, look at their types of bets, the time that they bet these things.

Kornegay: We look at some of the information that is out there on these websites, whether it's KenPom, Massey, whatever it might be. We use ESPN, Chad. We look over all this type of information to try to figure out what kind of angle that they might be coming at us with.


Kornegay: We get paid for being close. That's our job; we have that luxury of just being close. There's a difference of opinions out there. There's statistical systems that find value at -3.5, and there's other that find value at +3.5, and that's the beauty of being on the bookmaker's side.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

#SSAC14 Betting Panel: David Frohardt-Lane

As you may have heard, the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was in Boston this past weekend, and one of the panels focused on sports betting. Throughout the week, I'm going to be taking a look at what each of the four panelists had to say, including transcripts, related tweets, my own commentary, and (if they're eventually free) YouTube clips.

David Frohardt-Lane (Twitter, SSAC profile) won the 2013 LVH SuperContest, finishing with a 55-26-4 record and taking home the top prize of $557,850. While it's possible for anyone to run really good for 85 (or 170!) picks, that doesn't look to be the case with Frohardt-Lane, who also went 58-23-4 in a similar Cantor contest in 2011, yet still doesn't appear to have any plans to go tout. He does have a day job, working at as a trader for 3Red Group.


Jeff Ma (moderator, counting enthusiast): [Chad,] you obviously talk to a lot of sharps, is there one sharp...if you could bet on only one guy's games, who would it be, and why?

David Frohardt-Lane: Somebody who doesn't go on his show, maybe?


Ma: Where does the value come from in the future for sports betting?

Frohardt-Lane: I think the value is approaching the whole process completely differently. I think the analytics are getting better and better, the edges available are just smaller and smaller. There will always be edge, you will always be able to figure out how to bet with positive expected value, but I think the edges you're chasing are just going to keep going down, to the point where it's not worth it.

At the same time, you just have to stop looking at it as, "I'm going to find value in an NFL line," you start looking at new stuff, like daily fantasy sports. I think the biggest opportunity in the world right now is in Europe, where they have these betting exchanges, where you're just going to be churning out volume constantly, it's kind of like high-frequency trading, you're going to be betting the game both ways like 20 times, and just trying to make a tiny bit on each transaction; there's big money there. But I think it's going away, just because people are getting smarter.


Frohardt-Lane: I still think there is some analytical information that's probably not fully integrated into the betting market. I think if somebody could do a really thorough job of processing Pitch F/X data, and detecting when a pitcher is getting better, or worse, or learning a new pitch, that could be an edge. I still think there's some to be done on the analytical side, but, again, the edges are going to be smaller and smaller.


53:30 Ma: Why have you never thought about being a professional sports gambler? Or have you?

Frohardt-Lane: I did. And then I decided to be a trader instead, and I had really mixed feelings about that, and I had a lot of regret, and then all of the sudden it became a lot tougher legally to do the gambling, so I was like okay, there goes my regret, it's okay, I can move on now.


Monday, March 3, 2014

#SSAC14 Betting Panel: Patrick Donovan aka The Sports Boss

As you may have heard, the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was in Boston this past weekend, and one of the panels focused on sports betting. Throughout the week, I'm going to be taking a look at what each of the four panelists had to say, including transcripts, related tweets, my own commentary, and (if they're eventually free) YouTube clips.

First up is Patrick Donovan, aka The Sports Boss (Twitter, picks site, blog). Donovan is a tout who appears to work in finance. He is not particularly well known, and may have only been invited onto the panel (at the last minute, it seems) due to being buddies with Chad Millman and the ESPN Insider crew. 

Anything after a bolded name is directly transcribed from the panel itself, anything in italics is me.


Jeff Ma (moderator, table games enthusiast): So, quick question. If you're a handicapper...and you're a good handicapper, I assume, right? You think you're a good handicapper?

Patrick Donovan aka The Sports Boss: I think I'm alright, I'm alright.

Ma: Why don't you just bet your own games? Why would you sell your games to start with?

Donovan: Well, I do bet my own games. But I don't see, there's really no, it doesn't impact me by selling my advice to somebody else if they could profit off or it. So I don't see any reason why not to if I can consistently win and feel comfortable doing that philosophically.

Ma: So do you always bet your games first, and then send your picks out?

Donovan: Yeah, or vice versa. Either way.

Ma: Vice your picks ever move lines?

Donovan: Um, no, I wouldn't say so.

Donovan's website suggests that he "is the BOSS in the sports betting world!"
Ma: Are you, Jay, are you aware of his work at all?

Jay Kornegay (Las Vegas Hotel and Casino SuperBook VP, #makingshitup enthusiast): No.

[laughter throughout the audience]

(video, subscription required)


Donovan: I don't really have a power rating formula for college, for football now, because I think it's very complex, with the strength of schedule. When I was sitting in on the college football panel yesterday, you know they were discussing different ways to calculate a strength of schedule. How do you really calculate it? How do you know, if they say it's the 32nd toughest schedule, what is that based on? Teams' records? Well, who did they play? It's just too tough, I think, to come up with.

Donovan's CFB picks record on his site goes back to 2008.

(video, subscription required)


Donovan: I also look at the probability, so if a team wins like 10 in a row, and especially if some of them were close games, down to the last second, recently, then I like to fade that team. So I've been fading Florida a lot of late. They just keep barely scraping by in these low-scoring games. Very close, and they haven't been covering a lot lately.

Donovan: Virginia, which we talked about in the green room. Today, my biggest play is on Syracuse, because Virginia has won about 11 games in a row; they're statistically...defensively they play well, but offensively they struggle.

Donovan: So I think those are the areas where you have to try to find an edge, whether it's probability, the likelihood of something happening, and the emotional level that a team is going to play with [...]

(video, subscription required)

A few things:
  • Coming into Saturday's game, UVA's offense was averaging ~1.12 points per possession in ACC play, which was second in the 15-team conference.
  • Not expecting Virginia to come out with a high "emotional level" seems reasonable, at least if you ignore the part where a victory would clinch their first outright ACC title in 33 years...
  • ...and also the fact that Saturday was Senior Night in Charlottesville.
  • The Cavaliers had actually won 12 consecutive games coming into Saturday. They have now won 13 consecutive games.

Ma: Patrick, your explanation about Florida and whatnot, I understand it, but it also doesn't give me a warm sense of calm that you know what you're doing.

(The snips in the following section are due to the fact that Chad Millman just would not stop interrupting the discussion with absolute nonsense. This was a regular occurrence throughout the panel. I don't understand how it happened, but he really thinks he's an expert on this all things sports betting at this point, it's pretty unbelievable.)

Donovan: To your point on injuries, I think injuries are one of the most overrated things that handicappers, or oddsmakers, adjust for [...]

Donovan: We can look at a couple of examples here. We could look at Miami, the Heat. LeBron James has missed, I don't know if it's seven or eight games over the last however many years, they're 7-1 in those games. You look at that infamous Spurs-Heat game from a couple years ago where Popovich sent everybody back...Spurs win, in Miami.

Ma: This is not a very big sample size you're talking about here.

Donovan: No, but I've actually researched this. I was discussing with one of the students earlier, where I went back and I looked, in the NBA, at All-Star players. And I looked at when they wind up missing one or two games, and the winning percentage ATS [...]

Donovan: In the NBA, when you're missing an All-Star player, for just one or two games, the rest of the players are able to elevate their game in that small sample size to actually cover, and the number was like 65%, I went back like 10 years. But most of the betting public will go the other way, "Oh, LeBron James isn't playing?" There will be a huge adjustment...

Ma: So do you blindly bet on teams, pretty much, that are missing an All-Star?

Donovan: You honestly could blindly bet on teams that are missing an All-Star in the NBA, and you would be profitable. Blindly bet it. Just follow it out there. Only in the first two games, too.

(video, subscription required)