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Contest Strategy

Why Do we Have a Strategy Page?

The fundamental idea behind ProbabilityBasketballSM is to determine which players are best at estimating the probabilities that teams will win, not to determine which players best understand our contest. By including a strategy page on the website, we aim to help make the contest a test of basketball knowledge rather than a test of mathematical skill or experience in this new type of contest.

To Pick Boldly or Not to Pick Boldly...

In last year's contest, many players picked 100% or close to 100% for every game. This is a very bold, short-term strategy, which gives a player a good chance to win a round (short-term) prize. However, such a strategy is similar to a half-court shot in a basketball game. While this shot may help you to get a desperation 3-point play every once and a while, it will usually not help you to do well over the long term. Imagine a basketball team taking only half-court shots during a game! In short, it's very important not to pick too boldly for closely-matched games, since the amount of points you can lose greatly outweighs the amount you can gain.

However, it's also important not to pick too conservatively for uneven matchups since you could get left behind the players picking more boldly. For example, a common strategy used in the football contest by many players was to pick a modest percentage for only the games they're sure about, and then pick 50% for the other games. This can work well when many upsets occur in the 50-50 games. But when most of the favorites win, you can be caught moving slowly while everyone else zooms along.

Pick the Probabilities!

The best long-term strategy is to make picks for each game that match, as closely as possible, the probabilities that each team will win. This means that some picks will be bold while others will be more conservative. But how can you estimate the probabilities? One answer is to take into account as many factors as you possibly can. For example, not having to travel as far to a game will increase a team's chances of winning, while an injury or team squabbling would tend to lower their chances. The more of these types of factors you consider, the better you will be able to estimate how likely it is that each team will win, and the better you will be able to do in the contest over the course of the tournament.

ProbabilityBasketballSM is a ProbabilitySports® contest.

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