Friday, February 13, 2015

Skill-based betting, coming to NJ

Very exciting news coming out of Atlantic City today...I know, normally that means there's a serial killer on the loose, but today it's for an entirely legitimate reason.

A casino there is finally opening the door to skill-based wagering...specifically, physical skill-based wagering.

Skill-based wagering is different from your standard casino games. Whereas those games are ones of mathematical certainty and based in no way on a player's ability (e.g., a roulette table where the fall of the ball is random), skill-based wagers come in games where the players can actually control the outcome.

Poker is the most popular example in casino gaming today, but what's interesting is a casino testing out a different, more physical, wagering opportunity:

Executives at The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa told The Associated Press on Friday that they've gotten permission from New Jersey gambling regulators to host a basketball contest next month in which players shoot free throws for money.

"This is a first step, something we've never been able to do until now," said Joe Lupo, the casino's senior vice president. "A year from now, you'll probably see a lot more of these skill-based tournaments or even games on the casino floor."

That's right, free throw shooting contests for money!

Now it's not surprising to see an Atlantic City casino try some new angles to drum up business. Ever since other states realized they could get some quick cash by putting up casinos, and ever since people realized AC is a pit, the city has been bleeding gambling dollars like crazy.

So it's nice to see an experiment, especially one where players actually can control their outcome. Players mostly take each others money, and the casino gets a small rake for its trouble.

Now, while I love the idea of a free throw shooting contest for money, I'd never EVER actually pay to play in one. But I'd certainly watch it...and it got me thinking, what other games of physical skill could we put in casinos???

Skeeball - Yes, just rip the machines straight out of the boardwalk arcades down in Ocean City and haul them into the AC casinos. I would absolutely play against other people in Skeeball. The trick is to forget about the 100 point circles. Avoid their siren song at all costs! Just play nice and easy and bang out 50 point throws. Only downside of this is that my wife would routinely beat me.

Super Chexx Hockey - Again, if this could be played for real money, they'd eventually have to stage an intervention for me. An important caveat, the only true version of this game is the US vs. USSR edition. It's the only one where there feels like real geopolitical consequences. None of this Canada vs. US crap. Americans and Soviets is the only one to play.

Speed Pitch - I'm not sure this is actually a good idea, I'm just putting it out there for my friend who's a sports orthopedist. He could use a pool at his summer house.

There's a whole litany of carnival games which should also be included here. Ring toss, dart throw, milk bottle throw. You could put them all in the casino and have us compete against each other...which means you could finally stop rigging all the games! It would also be extremely easy to replace the shady carnies with shady would just be a new shirt.

But they'd all be fun to bet money on. Finally, I've saved the best for last...

Tell me you wouldn't put $20 down on a best of three...tell me you wouldn't....if you say you wouldn't, you're a liar. I would play this in a casino...hell, I would pay to watch this in a casino.

Atlantic City, you've already gotten us started, just take it a little further. Please?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Are NFL Teams Faking Injuries? - 2013 Follow-up

After I finished looking into NFL injuries during the 2014 regular season, we saw a couple distinct insights:

- Defenses appear to suffer more in-game injuries than offenses
- Injury stoppages occur more as the game goes on, with the fourth quarter having the greatest frequency of injury stoppage
- There is a positive correlation between offenses which run more plays and opposing defenses suffering injuries - but no such correlation between play frequency and injury in any other game situation

To me, this at least suggests the possibility that defensive players fake injuries against high-tempo offenses. It certainly doesn't prove it, but when I finished looking at 2014, I wondered, did this hold across other seasons as well?

I had 16 weeks of play by play data from 2013, so I decided to look at that as well and see if what I saw in 2014 was an anomaly.

You can be the judge.

Below is an image from my last post, the frequency of injury stoppages by offense/defense and quarter:

Now, here's the same chart, but for my 16 weeks of the 2013 regular season

I'd say those are similar! We observe the same pattern, injuries increase as the game goes on, and almost entirely on the defensive side of the ball.

Now, below is the scatter plot that illustrates an offense's plays per game against its opponent's rate of injury. This had by far the most significant correlation of all the game situations we examined - and it's the only situation where teams would benefit from faking injuries.

So we saw a correlation of 0.39 - whereas other game situations didn't have anything close to that high.

How about 2013?

Once again, a pretty interesting positive correlation.

And, as in the 2014 analysis, there was nothing close to a similar correlation in the other game scenarios.

So now we have two years of analysis, both of which show the same patterns in the data.

When teams run more offensive plays, the defenses they face need injury stoppages more frequently.

Either you attribute this to defenses being out of shape/unprepared and thus more likely to get fatigued and hurt...or you're like me and assume on the margins some players fake an injury occasionally to get a breather.

I'm willing to listen to arguments for the former, but I'd say if you think Bill Belichick hasn't thought about it, that seems unlikely