Friday, October 12, 2007

Who Needs Polls When You Have Bettors?

If college football ever gets around to having playoff, it should be run by bookies and bettors. Why? Because they do a better job of ranking teams than any polling system in place.

A week ago, Wisconsin was ranked fifth in the nation and playing at unranked Illinois, yet the Fighting Illini were 2.5-point favorites. And who won? Illinois, 31-26. And what about No. 8 Kentucky at No. 11 South Carolina? The Gamecocks were four-point favorites and won, 38-23.

Economist James Quirk says, "The odds are doing a better job on this stuff than the polls are."

In a season of upsets, Quirk says "sportswriters and coaches and everybody else who participates in these polls uses the information on what teams have been like historically. The betting markets usually do a pretty good job evaluating these things.''

Oddsmakers realize that, according to Jeff Sherman, assistant manager of the Las Vegas Hilton Race & Sports Book.

"A lot of us are amused after a so-called upset,'' he said. "If people were aware of what the spreads were, they might not think it was such an upset.''


Anonymous said...

Yeah, the bookies were right on the mark with Stanford & USC, thinking the Trojans were going to win by more than 5 touchdowns...

Beat Visitor said...

"Anonymous" beat me to the obvious comment about Stanford & USC.
Closer to home, there were also a couple of recent games where my Scarlet Knights were favored by the bettors, but not by the bounce of the football.
It's still a game. And we're all just guessing.

Anonymous said...

This has got to be the dumbest article ever. Just because the bookies had two higher ranked teams as dogs makes them all knowing? Dogs are covering all over this year. I could pull two games to make the exact opposite conclusion.

Anonymous said...

so I suppose the bettors were right in making K-State a 14 point dog to Texas? 41-21. Woops. What a pointless article based on TWO games.

Midwest Correspondent said...

The books set lines on how they think the public will bet. If the public tilts one way, the lines are adjusted accordingly.

The books set the line on USC-Stanford way high, but the bettors drove it up even further.

The books don't care about anything but getting even betting on both sides.

Martin said...

Using one or two data points as "proof" is ridicuolous, but betting lines are obviously much stronger predictors of actual outcomes than polls or sportswriters' opinions. When it doubt, follow the money. Markets work.

With standard juice, you only have to win 52.4% to be a winning sports bettor. The fact that almost no one can do this is evidence of how good the linemakers really are.

Anonymous said...

Also, a lot of AP voters don't rank on how good a team they think they are, but what they've done. Alabama in 2005 is a real good example - not a very good team, but got up to #3 just by barely winning every game, but no sports writer thought they were in the same league as Texas or USC *I'm a Bama fan for reference*.

Mike said...

This is like saying lightning never strikes the earth because it didnt hit farmer John's field last night. the first thing I thought of as well was Stanford-USC. Must be a slow news day to write this crap.

Dylan said...

Las Vegas can not predict every upset. Stanford-USC comes to mind, as people have mentioned. But both the polls and Vegas agreed, that was a huge upset. This post simply points out that the lines in Las Vegas

The voters in the polls are not always lazy, but they are busy, reporters and coaches who can't each sit down and read, much less watch, 30 games each week. So they vote individually, with a glance at the records, the week's scores, and always with a big dose of what they know about the history of the teams.

The flip side of this is the situation with the odds makers. Lines at any bookmaker are set by a collaboration of people who are doing this as their job - crunching the numbers, watching film, keeping up on the teams. They are also specific to the matchup, as the polls can't be - if Team A has a weakness that Team B exploits particularly well, this will show up in the line but not in the polls.

Again, Las Vegas won't predict every upset, but when the line varies significantly from what the polls would indicate, you can expect that there is a good reason.