Can ESPN Make You a Profitable Gambler?

Mike RegisterContributor IOctober 31, 2008

NOTE: This article is not meant to endorse gambling. It is for entertainment and educational purposes only.


When I do my weekly projections for my fantasy football team, I like to take a look at ESPN's weekly intel report on each game. This report provides me with a few valuable stats and gives me an idea of how the game may turn out. One interesting feature is ESPN's AccuScore Game Forecast. AccuScore simulates each game over 10,000 times and gives the probability of each team winning.

While playing poker and calculating pot odds yesterday, it hit me. If these AccuScore game forecasts are accurate, then I need to compare them to the actual Money Line and see if there is an opportunity to make money. Teams that have a positive Expected Value (or EV), should make for good bets in the long run.

EV is fairly easy to calculate, and anyone with basic Excel skills can create a spreadsheet to calculate it very quickly. Here is how it is done:

Lets say Team A and Team B are fairly equal and the AccuScore Game Forecast projects each team as having a 50 percent chance of winning. After looking up the Money Line at your favorite online sportsbook, you see that Team A is an underdog, and getting 2:1 odds. This means that a $100 wager will pay off $200 if Team A wins.

Now for the math. Multiply Team A's win percentage by the amount you gain if they win (50 percent X $200= $100). Multiply Team A's loss percentage by the amount you wagered (50 percent X $100= $50). Subtract the latter from the former to get your EV ($100-$50=$50).

An EV of $50 means that if your forecast is accurate and you could place a lot of bets with 2:1 odds on a team with a 50 percent chance of winning, on average you would win $50 per bet.

So the idea here is to find these situations and exploit them for profit. Don't worry, I have already crunched the numbers here, and have found seven positive EV bets for week 9 of the NFL season.

Team                                   Odds             Win %                 EV

Jaguars (vs Bengals)      100:27.76        81%              $3.49

Raiders (vs Falcons)       100:125          47%              $5.75

Patriots (vs Colts)          100:210          36%             $11.60

Dolphins (vs Broncos)      100:160          43%             $11.80

Texans (vs Vikings)        100:175           41%             $12.75

Packers (vs Titans)         100:170          43%             $16.10

Seahawks (vs Eagles)      100:250          35%             $22.50


For the rest of the season, I am going to run these numbers each week and place hypothetical bets on the teams with the best EVs. I am going to assume a starting "bankroll" of $1000 and equal wagering amounts of $100. I will also only place wagers on games with an EV of at least 10. This represents a 10 percent expected return.

For this week's games, I will be betting on the Seahawks, Packers, Texans, Dolphins, and Patriots. I will wager a total of $500 and expected profit is $74.75.

Check back next week for this week's results and next week's picks.