Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Search for a System

NFL football is distractingAm struggling thus far in my NFL pick’em pool. In three weeks I’ve sunk close to the bottom of the 40-plus entrants after a sad stretch of pedstrian prognosticatin’.

We are just picking winners (not versus the spread), and I was correct on 10 of 16 the first week, but then went a measly 8-8 both of the last two weeks.

Have been kidding around on Twitter some about employing various “systems” for picking the games. One was to go by the relative height of the teams’ mascots; e.g., Giants are obviously taller than Panthers, so pick New York over Carolina, etc.

Was just joking, of course. That is to say, I picked those first two weeks “straight” -- i.e., went by what I thought I knew about the 32 teams thus far in the young season and chose those I legitimately thought would win.

Still, got some funny responses, including this one from @AtlantaMJ:

As the weekend rolled around last week, I was looking over the games and realized I had little feel for picking them, other than simply to go with favorites. That’s essentially what I’d done for Week 2, and it didn’t do very well. So I threw out a line on Twitter about my struggles, and the Poker Grump responded with the suggestion to pick teams based on their overall weight.

He was kidding, too, but for fun I found a site that listed each team’s average weight per player, then checked to see how the picks would go. Realizing there was really only a couple of games where I’d probably have chosen differently, I decided to go with the system, which I eventually dubbed “LBS” (the Largest Behinds System).

In all 16 games, I picked the teams that had the higher average weight per player. Like I say, the picks actually came reasonably close to what I’d have done otherwise. In fact, there were only two games on the entire schedule that I know for certain I would have picked differently. I would not have picked Atlanta to beat New Orleans, nor would I have picked Dallas to beat Houston.

As it happened, using LBS helped me get both of those games correct.

After the 1 p.m. games I was 7-2 and feeling pretty smug. But I ended up being on the wrong side of most of those close games during the 4 p.m. slot, then missed both the night games on Sunday and Monday to end up 8-8 again.

This week the PokerGrump was suggesting picking teams according to the relative position of the cities; i.e., going with all of the teams whose cities are north of their opponents, or vice-versa. He determined that during Week 3 the northernmost teams went 10-6, while during Week 2 the southernmost teams went 11-5.

“So clearly the trick is going to be figuring out in advance which weeks are ‘north’ weeks and which are ‘south’ weeks,” the PokerGrump concluded, adding (with tongue still in cheek), “But other than that little glitch, it appears to be a foolproof system.”

My response was that all he needed to do was develop a system for determining that and he’d be set.

I think I’ll go back to trying my best to make “straight” picks this week, and hopefully will make up some ground on my fellow forecasters.

I like watching NFL regardless, and get an extra kick out of having a team to root for in every single game. But as I’ve said before here, I’d hate to have serious money riding on any of these games.

Am much more comfortable looking for good spots to get my money in during a poker hand, where I can know with great certainty whether I’m a favorite or not, than relying on, say, Sebastian Janikowski to make a 32-yard field goal with time running out to win.

The fact is, in poker one can rely on “systems” -- as long as they relate to the game, of course, and are not built upon silly superstitions and other extraneous factors that are not relevant. Simply knowing correct pot odds is a “system,” really, the knowledge of which can give one an edge over an opponent who is less familiar with such.

Sebastian JanikowskiIncidentally, Janikowski, the Oakland kicker who missed that potential game-winner versus Arizona last week, is the highest-paid kicker in the NFL, having just signed a contract in the offseason that netted him $16 million over the next four years. And I picked the Raiders, ’cause, well, they weigh a little more than Arizona.

Hmm... now that I think about it, I believe Janikowski is the heaviest place-kicker in the NFL at 250 lbs.

Oh, man... I wuz doomed!

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