I enjoy sports. Thus, the intersection of sports and mathematics gives me great enjoyment. Sabermetrics, the application of statistics and other quantitative methods to baseball analysis, was my first introduction to this intersection of sports and mathematics. Sabermetrics has enhanced my learning and knowledge of both baseball and mathematics.
I have also participated in a football pool this year, so I decided to apply some of this mathematical analysis to real games. About the time I decided this, I read the article, “Optimal Strategies for Sports Betting Pools,” by Bryan Clair. The strategy is simple: chose teams which are perceived to be heavy underdogs but, in actuality, are not. For example, nine out of ten people in the pool may pick the Pittsburgh Steelers to beat the Cleveland Browns, whereas the Steelers may only have a six in ten probability of winning. The desired outcome is that the Browns will win and that I will have been the only person in my pool to correctly chose the Browns.
As my readers may also be participants in my pool, I’ll not reveal the details of how I implement the above strategy. I am interested in the variety of methods available for estimating the game probabilities. I have also noticed that, for most games, the fraction of fans that chose a particular team is significantly higher than the probability that the team will actually win. Why this is may have as much to do with psychology as it does with mathematics.
I hope those of you interested in sports will explore this intersection of sports and mathematics: there is a wealth of information on the internet. What is your favorite hobby or pastime on which to practice mathematics?