Friday, December 20, 2013


I received an email this afternoon from a hero who would prefer to remain anonymous, alerting me to this gem. It's Insider (which is hilariously absurd, as you'll see), but the premise is going through each team in the playoff picture, and assessing their likelihood of making the playoffs, as well as which seed they should be expected to receive.

The article is written by Danny Tuccitto of Football Outsiders. He begins with the Broncos:

On the heels of a massive upset loss -- they were an 86 percent favorite -- Denver's probability of earning the No. 1 seed dropped from 76 percent to 63 percent. [...] But don't fret, Broncos fans. With remaining games coming against two of the worst three teams in the NFL (Oakland and Houston, according to weighted DVOA), our projection model says there's only a 15 percent chance Denver loses either game.

Well, this is worrisome. At 11-3, the Broncos are tied for the best record in the conference with the Chiefs. Denver owns the tiebreaker over Kansas City, having beaten them twice. So, stands to reason that if DEN wins out, they'll be the top seed.

With that in mind, let's revisit two things:

Denver's probability of earning the No. 1 seed dropped from 76 percent to 63 percent.

[O]ur projection model says there's only a 15 percent chance Denver loses either game.

Yeah, that's not gonna work. Even before considering the possibility that other teams may lose (more on that in a minute), Denver is 85% to get the one seed according to their W16 and W17 win probabilities. That same 63% number is here; maybe they're just splitting ties in half rather than, you know, considering that one team wins the tiebreaker 100% of the time?

To boot, the Patriots have a 74 percent chance of sweeping their last two games, which is only slightly lower than the Bengals' 81 percent.

New England is currently a two-point underdog in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon, so it seems like 74% to win out may be a bit high? FO's numbers famously don't "adjust for the future impact of recent injuries" so it seems possible that could be playing a role here? Not that there's any mention of that in the article, or that you could ever get to 74% by doing anything reasonable anyway.

According to our projection model, Indianapolis is a 19-to-1 underdog at Kansas City this weekend, while Cincinnati is a 19-to-1 favorite at home against Minnesota. Put those two odds together, and there's a 90 percent likelihood that the Colts will have nothing to play for in Week 17.

The best part of this is how casual he is about these insane numbers. The Colts are 6.5-point underdogs in Kansas City, and +233 at Pinnacle. But yeah, 19-1! Moving right along!

There is no point in any type of "analysis" like this if you're going to use 95% for the Chiefs' win % this week. If you actually think that, just bet as much as possible on Kansas City, and get very rich, very, very quickly.

According to our model, the Ravens are underdogs in both of their remaining matchups, with this week's game against New England presenting slightly less of a threat (42 percent win probability) than their Week 17 game at Cincinnati (31 percent).

The Ravens are 42% to win this week? Against the Patriots, who are 74% to win out? What? Where am I?

After Week 13, the Chiefs' likelihood of earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs was a mere 2 percent; it's now 24 percent. Although that means Kansas City's still a 3-to-1 underdog, it nevertheless makes them Denver's No. 1 contender and twice as likely as New England to overtake the Broncos for the top spot. Both Kansas City and Denver are better than 90 percent favorites this weekend, so the battle for home field will likely come down to a pair of West Coast games in Week 17. The Chiefs will need to win as a slight favorite in San Diego (53 percent) and hope the Broncos lose as a huge favorite in Oakland (93 percent).

So, the Chiefs' HFA shot likely comes down to W17, where they need to win (53%) and have DEN lose (7%). Seems rather unlikely? Nope! There's a 24% chance that Kansas City gets the top seed.

I'm not even going to bother with the NFC. It's absolutely remarkable that the writer didn't pick up on any of this while writing and/or proofreading, and the fact that this then passed through an editor (assumption?) and was published on ESPN Insider (just $8.95 per month!) is mind blowing.

Keep building that brand though, guys. Build the shit out of it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

VFV's Adventures in Predicting NFL Line Movement With Darts (Week 15)

Thankfully for everyone involved, this did not become a weekly thing. But now seems like as good a time as any to remind everybody how absurd this exercise really is.

Using lines from Bodog and LVH this time because #whocares.

Chargers at Broncos minus-10.5 (Thursday): The line was re-opened Sunday afternoon at the LVH and the CRIS offshore book at 10.5. Both books were bet down to 10, which was where the Wynn opened it, though they were bet up to 10.5. So, it looks like this line will settle at 10 early in the week, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the public push it back higher toward game day.

Closed at 10 at LVH, was 10.5 at Bodog all week. Good start!

Redskins at Falcons minus-4.5: By the close of betting Sunday night, this had steamed to 5.5 at just about every book that posts early lines, as no one is looking to bet the Redskins. Betting hasn't slowed yet, but I'm guessing it won't get to 7 (or at least not without some heavy juice).

Closed at -5.5/6, but Washington was +7 -110 at LVH for most of Wednesday afternoon, and Bodog had that same price for almost 48 hours during the week.

49ers minus-5.5 at Buccaneers: This was at minus-6 last week and even though the 49ers gutted out a win over the Seahawks (though they didn't cover the 2.5-point spread), this line was re-opened at minus-5.5. Part of that is due to the Buccaneers covering four of their last five and being more competitive. Still, the 49ers are more of a public team, so this will probably go back to 6.

You know, if you could predict line movement just based on which team is "more of a public team," it'd probably be a lot easier. This never got to 6 at LVH, although Bodog did have that price for most of the week.

Cardinals minus-3 at Titans: This opened Cardinals minus-1.5 but was reposted at 3 after Arizona's rout of the Rams while the Titans were blown out by the Broncos. It was bet down to 2.5 at the LVH, so I expect this to waver between 2.5 and 3 most of the week.

This is exactly what happened.

Seahawks minus-7 at Giants: The Wynn went with minus-7 (even money) -- and that's where the LVH moved the line after early bettering -- while William Hill went with 6.5. This will probably hover between 6.5 and 7.

This is...not. See, this is the problem. These posts consistently underestimate how much these lines can move between Monday and Sunday. If you say a line will probably "hover between 6.5 and 7" and it closes at 9 (at both LVH and Bodog)...what's the point?

Texans at Colts minus-6: Earlier in the year, I would have predicted that the public would push this line to 7, but now it looks like we'll see it settle at 6 or 6.5.

Settled at about 6.5. So, correct on this one. However, it seems concerning that the only time these line "predictions" are right is when the line is stagnant throughout the week.

Bills minus-1.5 at Jaguars: This was Bills minus-2.5 last week but the Jags beat the Texans and the Bills were blown out by the Buccaneers, so it was reopened at 1.5 though other books opted for 2. The initial move at the LVH was up to 2, though I wouldn't be surprised if it got bet back toward pick 'em.

Would you be surprised if it closed at Bills -4? Because that is what happened.

Patriots minus-2.5 at Dolphins: This was Patriots minus-4 but they struggled to beat the Browns and lost Gronkowski, plus the Dolphins kept their playoff hoped alive, so this dropped to 2.5. I can't see how this doesn't get bet back to the key number of 3.

Miami ended up being the favorite here, by 2.5 at the LVH and slightly less at Bodog. So I guess it didn't quite get back to the key number of 3?

Eagles minus-4 at Vikings: This has jumped from Eagles minus-3 last week to reopening minus-4 at the LVH. It was then bet up to 4.5 before snapping back to 4, so that looks like the right number at least for now.

No mention of AP injury because #whocares, line closed at PHI -6.5/7.

Chiefs minus-3.5 at Raiders: This looks like the most solid line of the week at minus-3.5. Some books have heavier juice on those taking the Raiders plus-3.5, but they'll probably be reluctant to move to 3, and if they do it won't last long.

The "most solid line of the week" ended up moving from -3.5 to -6.5. We're really struggling to the finish line now.

Bengals minus-3 (even money) at Steelers: This was only Bengals minus-1 last week, but it reopened at 3 (with added juice on the Steelers plus-3) after Cincinnati's convincing win over the Colts and the Steelers' loss to the Dolphins. Some offshores went with 2.5, so it should hover between 2.5 and 3 until the market picks a side.

Closed at -2 at LVH and -3 EV at Bodog.

Ravens at Lions minus-6 (Monday): The advance line was Lions minus-4 but went up Sunday afternoon at Lions minus-6. CRIS went with 5.5 and got bet up to 6, so it's looking like a pretty solid number.

Closed at -5 at LVH and -6 EV at Bodog, so cool I guess.

The  line moves portion of Tuley's column is described as:

Here are the openers from the LVH. We'll look at how we got to those numbers, including where the offshore openers might have differed, how they moved in early betting Sunday afternoon and night [...]

This seems accurate enough.

[...]and how they might move during the week. While the biggest part of winning at football is picking winners, it's just as important to be able to read the market and know when to place your wagers to get the best number.

I realize this is the goal, but seriously, come on. I think at this point we have sufficient evidence that Dave Tuley has absolutely no clue how NFL lines are going to move during the week. Not that we really needed much in the first place, considering he's a rec gambler who happens to live in Vegas and have an ESPN column. Even if you did know that the Bills would move from -1.5 to -4, why in the world would you ever publish it on the internet?

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Problem with R.J.

Yes, this article about the LVH's "massive liability" on Auburn futures has "a much more TMZ feel than actual news". Sure, it's absolutely hilarious that R.J. ends up tweeting stuff like this in response.

But the real issue here, as pointed out by @jbxx, goes back a bit further. Let's look at R.J.'s post from (and the date is important here) July 26:
Who are the Wiseguys betting? Thirty-five-year bookmaker Jay Vaccaro is one of many pointing to Mississippi (from 500/1 to 100/1). LVH also reports significantly sharp action on Auburn (1,000/1 to 300/1) and Florida State (40/1 to 18/1).
Getting past how the phrase "significantly sharp action" is either a typo or makes no sense, this in itself is fine. At 1000-1, a wager wouldn't even have to be that large ($100? $500?) to be considered "sharp" and give the LVH a bit of risk.

Always annoying, though, when somebody comes through with those pesky "facts". Here's generally respected, non-tout Vegas reporter David Purdum on December 10:
The LVH Superbook took 14 ham-sandwich bets on Auburn to win the national championship at 1,000-to-1. All the bets were for $5 and $10 and placed between January and June. The bet the Superbook took in August was much larger. 
As we head into bowl season, a $100,000 futures ticket is in play on the last BCS National Championship Game. 
In August, a bettor placed $500 on three SEC longshots to win the national title. He took Tennessee at 500/1, Ole Miss at 100/1 and …. Auburn at 200/1.
Uh oh. Let's take a look at the timeline of events here:
January through June: Fourteen "ham-sandwich bets" (between $5 and $10) placed on Auburn at 1000-1. 
July 26: R.J. reports that there has been "significantly sharp action on Auburn" at the LVH; odds have moved from 1000-1 to 300-1. 
Sometime in August: Someone bets $500 on Auburn at 200-1. 
December 7: Auburn 59, Mizzou 42. Massive liability, etc.
There's really only one way to interpret this, right? That the LVH got more random tourists than they expected betting $5 or $10 on their Auburn price, and in response moved the Tigers from 1000-1 to 300-1, because why wouldn't you?

And then somehow -- either because noted #makingshitup enthusiast Jay Kornegay misrepresented the facts, or because R.J. has no clue how line movement and #SHRAP action and risk work, or maybe some other reason -- these tiny bets were reported as "significantly sharp action". Which, really, is not acceptable.

Obviously, R.J. the Analyst is pretty much a joke. And anyway, if you think you're going to make money on widely available NFL lines by listening to anybody on the internet, well, probably not.

However, simply reporting facts just shouldn't be that hard. If you were making a legitimate effort, that is. But R.J. is such a fraud that he can't even reach that relatively low bar. When you're so eager to please and so obsessed with people retweeting you (as often as possible), when you have no clue how these markets actually work, and then on top of that you're so loose with the facts themselves...even if you WERE reporting something which was pertinent and interesting, why would anyone believe you?