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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 13, 2009 10:43 PM. The previous post in this blog was What's the 411 on 809?. The next post in this blog is Bush's last week. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The game before the games

The betting lines are out for this Sunday's pro football games, and in the underdog pool in which I have been playing, lo this entire season long, it's time to call a final winning 'dog. Here are the choices -- if you had to pick one of the underdogs (in caps) to win its game outright, which one would it be? If I pick correctly, I get the number of points listed next to that 'dog:

6 BALTIMORE at Pittsburgh
3.5 ARIZONA vs. Philadelphia

Readers, as ever, your predictions are welcome:

Will the underdog teams win in this weekend's pro football playoff games?
Neither underdog will win
Baltimore will win in Pittsburgh, but Arizona will lose at home to Philadelphia
Arizona will win at home over Philadelphia, but Baltimore will lose in Pittsburgh
Both underdogs will win free polls

While the actual games should be fun to guess about and watch, the last week of the underdog pool is as much about gamesmanship in wagering as it is about which underdog team is going to win. To have a shot at moving up in the standings -- top four players get cash shall we say, rewarded -- you have to pick the underdog that the player ahead of you isn't choosing. If both you and the other player pick the same team, your positions in the standings relative to each other won't move. And so one of the first hurdles is choosing the team that the player ahead of you will decide not to go with.

Assuming you get that right, you have two ways to move up:

1. Your 'dog wins, the pick of the person ahead of you loses, and the point earnings on your game are greater than the distance between the two of you in the pool standings.

2. Both 'dogs win, but your point earnings exceed the other player's point earnings by more than the distance between the two of you in the pool standings.

Of course, on the other side of the ball is defense. If one of the games has a smaller point potential than the other, by choosing the game with the larger spread you can insure that the person behind you can earn only the smaller points at most. If the smaller points are less than the distance between you, you thereby insure that the person behind you can't catch up.

If you've got people both in front of you and behind you, there's sometimes a tough choice to be made between offense and defense. By trying to move up, you may risk falling back.

Not to overlook the obvious, in order for either of you to go forward, you or the person behind you has you pick a team that's going to win. But there's a good chance that it won't matter -- that the pool could be decided before kickoff on Sunday. For example, if we all pick the same 'dog, the current standings automatically become final at tailgate time.

With that, I'm sure most readers will have had their fill of the internal drama of the final act of the pool -- if not more. But if you've been following the action over the last 19 weeks and care to hear about how it's all coming out, here's the preview of the final week's throwdown:

I currently stand in third place, and there's enough of a gap between me and second place that there's no chance of me making it to second. But the guy right behind me could sneak into third place if I let him. And so for me, the game is defense. Meanwhile, he's got both sides to think about, because there are two players behind him that could catch him if certain events transpire.

Here are the top six players left in the pool (not their real names), and their point totals. Nobody else can take home a prize:

66 Samantha
64.5 Endora
57.5 Me
54 Mike
49 Chuck
48 Greg
Samantha and Endora will battle it out for first. Samantha finishes first and Endora second in all of these scenarios: (a) neither 'dog wins; (b) they both pick the same 'dog; (c) they pick different 'dogs and only Samantha's 'dog wins; or (d) Samantha takes Baltimore, Endora takes Arizona, and both 'dogs win. Endora prevails only if: (e) they pick different 'dogs and only Endora's 'dog wins, or (f) Endora takes Baltimore, Samantha takes Arizona, and both 'dogs win.

For third place, it's me against Mike. I finish in third ahead of Mike unless we choose different 'dogs, Mike's wins, and mine loses. Interestingly, though, if I choose Baltimore, the most Mike could pick up would be 3½ with Arizona, which would leave us tied for third place. If I select Arizona, and Mike takes Baltimore, then if he's right and I'm wrong, he would pick up 6 points, leaving me in fourth. Hmmmm.

Right behind Mike is Chuck. Chuck needs 5 points to catch up with Mike. The only way Chuck can get there is if Chuck picks Baltimore, Mike picks Arizona, and only Chuck is right. In that case, Chuck is fourth, and Mike is out of the money. If Mike takes Baltimore, Chuck can't catch him.

In sixth place is Greg. The only way Greg could get to fourth place and a prize would be to get ahead of both Mike and Chuck. And the only route to that outcome would be Greg winning with Baltimore, and Mike and Chuck losing with Arizona. In that case Greg and Mike would split fourth prize.

(... I think. Man, somewhere in here is a math term paper for some youngster.)

So what should Mike do? Mike knows that Greg and Chuck are going to take Baltimore. If Mike takes Baltimore, they can't bump him out of the money or even get a piece of fourth. Moreover, if Mike takes Baltimore, there's a chance he could knock me down to fourth and take third himself. So from both a defensive and offensive standpoint, Baltimore looks like the better bet for him. But I know that. He knows I know that. I know that he knows that I know... Oh, the drama.

What would you do if you were Mike?

Which team should Mike pick?
Arizona free polls

Anyway, we'll all be watching the players' selections when they're announced Sunday morning. As mentioned earlier, the pool could become final right then and there. The games will both be fun to watch regardless, but if there are still prizes at stake for us players, they'll take on that little extra edge that the pool has given the league all season.

UPDATE, 1/18, 12:45 p.m.: All the top players took Baltimore, and so we wound up in third place, with $60. Not bad! Couldn'ta done it without the blog commenters. Thanks, everybody.

Comments (7)

Everyone outside of the top 2 spots has to take Baltimore. Because the difference in the reward between 3rd place and 4th place is not worth the risk to Mike of falling into 5th place and getting no reward whatsoever.

Sounds right to me.

FWIW, the bookies say that Arizona has a 35% chance of winning, and Baltimore has a 29% chance. An Arizona win and Baltimore loss together are therefore a 25% shot. Baltimore win and Arizona loss are 19%. Philly and Pittsburgh prevailing are at 46%; Arizona and Baltimore winning, 10%.

And I've just been picking my underdogs the last few weeks based on who has the ugliest quarterback.

The only scenarios you care about are the 25% and the 19%. I presume a 3rd/4th tie pays $47.50? Anyway, since this all depends on who he picks, and it's a solvable problem, let's just do it.

If you pick Arizona, your expected value is $60(p) + $60(0.81)(y) + $35(0.19)(y), with p and y being the probabilities of Mike picking AZ and Bal respectively.

($60 when he picks Arizona, $60 when he picks Baltimore and you both win or he loses, $35 when he picks Baltimore and wins while you lose).

If you pick Baltimore, your expected value is $60(y) +$60(0.75)(p) $47.50(p)(0.25).

(%60 when he picks Baltimore, $60 when he picks Arizona and doesn't gain from it, $47.50 when he picks Arizona and wins while you lose).

p = 1 - y, y = 1 - p, so let's just do the math.

EV if you pick Arizona:
60(1 - y) + 60(0.75)y 35(0.19)(y)
60 - 60y +45y + 6.65y
60 - 8.36y

EV if you pick Baltimore:
60(y) + 60(0.75)(p) + 47.50(p)(0.25).
60(y) + 45(1 - y) + 11.875(1 - y)
60y + 45 -45y + 11.875 - 11.875y
15y +56.875 - 11.875y
56.125 + 3.125y

Again, with y being the chance of him picking Baltimore. Want to find out when you have an advantage? Set them equal to each other.

60 - 8.36y = 56.125 + 3.125y
3.875 = 11.485y
y = 0.3374 = 34.74%.

What this means is if you think there's better than a 34.74% chance he'll pick Baltimore, you also should pick Baltimore. If you think there's worse than a 34.74% chance he'll pick Baltimore, you should pick Arizona. For simple reasons outlined above, that makes your choice pretty clear.

By the way, from his perspective, picking Baltimore is the right move even if you're picking Baltimore 100% of the time (as Chuck and Greg are). His EV from that is $35, whereas by picking Arizona, he has a 25% chance of moving up $12.50 and a 19% chance of moving down $35. Basically he's burning money by picking Arizona no matter what you do. At the least, it's definitely better than 35% that he'll pick Baltimore.

Trivial! Go with the ravens and enjoy the weekend.

Weren't you the guy who told me to take San Diego last weekend?

Weren't you the guy who picked San Diego last weekend?

Math doesn't like results-oriented thinking. San Diego and Arizona were far better plays by the numbers than Baltimore and Philly. You got unlucky, so it goes.

How many weeks are you gonna doubt Kurt and the Cards? Besides, god is on his side.

In Vino Veritas

Lange, Pinot Gris 2015
Kiona, Lemberger 2014
Willamette Valley, Pinot Gris 2015
Aix, Rosé de Provence 2016
Marchigüe, Cabernet 2013
Inazío Irruzola, Getariako Txakolina Rosé 2015
Maso Canali, Pinot Grigio 2015
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Kirkland, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016
Cantele, Salice Salentino Reserva 2013
Whispering Angel, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013
Avissi, Prosecco
Cleto Charli, Lambrusco di Sorbara Secco, Vecchia Modena
Pique Poul, Rosé 2016
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Rosé 2016
Stoller, Pinot Noir Rosé 2016
Chehalem, Inox Chardonnay 2015
The Four Graces, Pinot Gris 2015
Gascón, Colosal Red 2013
Cardwell Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
L'Ecole No. 41, Merlot 2013
Della Terra, Anonymus
Willamette Valley, Dijon Clone Chardonnay 2013
Wraith, Cabernet, Eidolon Estate 2012
Januik, Red 2015
Tomassi, Valpolicella, Rafaél, 2014
Sharecropper's Pinot Noir 2013
Helix, Pomatia Red Blend 2013
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2013
Locations, Spanish Red Wine
Locations, Argentinian Red Wine
La Antigua Clásico, Rioja 2011
Shatter, Grenache, Maury 2012
Argyle, Vintage Brut 2011
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16 Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2014
Benton Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
Primarius, Pinot Gris 2015
Januik, Merlot 2013
Napa Cellars, Cabernet 2013
J. Bookwalter, Protagonist 2012
LAN, Rioja Edicion Limitada 2011
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Rutherford 2009
Denada Cellars, Cabernet, Maipo Valley 2014
Marchigüe, Cabernet, Colchagua Valley 2013
Oberon, Cabernet 2014
Hedges, Red Mountain 2012
Balboa, Rose of Grenache 2015
Ontañón, Rioja Reserva 2015
Three Horse Ranch, Pinot Gris 2014
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
Nelms Road, Merlot 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pinot Gris 2014
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2012
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2013
Villa Maria, Sauvignon Blanc 2015
G3, Cabernet 2013
Chateau Smith, Cabernet, Washington State 2014
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16
Willamette Valley, Rose of Pinot Noir, Whole Clusters 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Ca' del Baio Barbaresco Valgrande 2012
Goodfellow, Reserve Pinot Gris, Clover 2014
Lugana, San Benedetto 2014
Wente, Cabernet, Charles Wetmore 2011
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
King Estate, Pinot Gris 2015
Adelsheim, Pinot Gris 2015
Trader Joe's, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley 2015
La Vite Lucente, Toscana Red 2013
St. Francis, Cabernet, Sonoma 2013
Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, California 2013
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2013
Erath, Pinot Noir, Estate Selection 2012
Abbot's Table, Columbia Valley 2014
Intrinsic, Cabernet 2014
Oyster Bay, Pinot Noir 2010
Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco 2014
Layer Cake, Shiraz 2013
Desert Wind, Ruah 2011
WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris 2014
Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2013
Des Amis, Rose 2014
Dunham, Trautina 2012
RoxyAnn, Claret 2012
Del Ri, Claret 2012
Stoppa, Emilia, Red 2004
Primarius, Pinot Noir 2013
Domaines Bunan, Bandol Rose 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Deer Creek, Pinot Gris 2015
Beaulieu, Rutherford Cabernet 2013
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
King Estate, Pinot Gris, Backbone 2014
Oberon, Napa Cabernet 2013
Apaltagua, Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva 2013
Chateau des Arnauds, Cuvee des Capucins 2012
Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
Januik, Merlot 2012
Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012

The Occasional Book

Marc Maron - Waiting for the Punch
Phil Stanford - Rose City Vice
Kenneth R. Feinberg - What is Life Worth?
Kent Haruf - Our Souls at Night
Peter Carey - True History of the Kelly Gang
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
Amy Stewart - Girl Waits With Gun
Philip Roth - The Plot Against America
Norm Macdonald - Based on a True Story
Christopher Buckley - Boomsday
Ryan Holiday - The Obstacle is the Way
Ruth Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 8
At this date last year: 0
Total run in 2018: 10
In 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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