Sports

A Tool for Tracking the NCAA Tournament Games With the Most Madness


The opening tip between the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the Xavier Musketeers during the First Four play-in round of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on March 18 in Dayton

Photograph by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The opening tip between the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the Xavier Musketeers during the First Four play-in round of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on March 18 in Dayton

What do you do now that your March Madness picks are all set? How do you know exactly which game to watch when there are so many being played simultaneously? This is where Todd Schneider’s Gambletron 2000 comes in. Schneider has a quantitative method for telling you in real-time which games are the most interesting to watch right now. The Gambletron website reaches across all major sports, including college basketball.

Schneider, a software developer for Rap Genius, has a heavy background in data and statistics: a double major in applied math and electrical engineering from Yale University, along with several years of experience at a Connecticut hedge fund, where he modeled and priced mortgage-backed securities. Much of the thought process that went into developing his website looks and feels similar to a quant-focused trading operation.

The Gambletron 2000 (yes, the name is a Simpsons reference) first went online in October. Games can be tracked live to see the win probability of both teams, with updates every 15 seconds based on fresh data from betting markets. Schneider makes the point that the “hottest” games to watch are the ones where the win probability is most volatile. The greater the uncertainty about a game’s outcome—and the more that uncertainty changes—the more exciting it will be for a fan to watch.

The core of the website’s data and prediction system is based on real-time gambling data. Schneider’s data suggest that individual gamblers face the highest gross transaction costs on evenly matched games, where each team has about a 50 percent chance of winning. The transaction costs are much more disruptive to profitability, however, at the edges—for example, in a game with a breakdown of 90 percent against 10 percent. If you’re betting on a seemingly “easy” pick with a heavy favorite, you better make sure you’re right because you’ll be paying a lot for the trade.

Schneider is considering ways to expand the site’s service, such as sending text message alerts when win probabilities change or reach specific levels. He’s also looking at the concept of writing computer-generated game recaps. For now, the Gambletron 2000 is fully able to give March Madness viewers instant advice on where the best viewing (and gambling) action is.

Eric-chemi
Chemi is head of research for Businessweek and Bloomberg TV.

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