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March is here, and all around the country basketball fans are filling out brackets in office pools, hoping that their predictions are the right ones. The phenomenon has grown so big that financial icon Warren Buffett has bought into the excitement. His company is running the office pool to end all office pools: Berkshire Hathaway employees who enter the contest tied to the NCAA basketball tournament have a chance of winning up to $1 million annually for the rest of their lives.
Of course, to win the employee would have to correctly choose every winning team straight up to the Final Four.
Just how hard is it to correctly pick the winner of all 63 games in the NCAA tournament?
Really, really hard.
In fact, it’s such a longshot that there’s actually disagreement among respected mathematicians about what the odds really are. Professor and Director of DePaul University’s Math Education Department Jeff Bergen thinks chances may be around 1 in 128 billion. Forbes reports that they could be as low as 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That’s 1 in 9.2 quintillion, for those who got lost somewhere after the 12th or 13th digit. So any way you look at it, choosing the winner of each of all 63 games correctly is not something to plan your career around. Of course, a lot of sports gamblers don’t care about the odds. They bet on their favorite teams and/or favorite players.
And that leads to big business. Fortune magazine predicts that over $9.2 billion will be bet this year; and that’s including Nevada sports books, office pools, and illegal channels.
Getting every game right in a bracket challenge might be nearly impossible, but what about being right just a little over half of the time? A gambler must win 52.4% of all bets to break even, thanks to the ‘vigorish’, or ‘cut’ charged by the bookie, but any percentage over that could mean big profits if enough dollars were wagered.
In all the madness, some bettors will win, and some more (a lot more) will lose, but the bookies are always guaranteed their ‘winnings’. Assuming a margin of 1% is built in, earning $40 billion a year isn’t out of reach for a bookmaker.
If the surest way to make money in sports gambling is becoming a bookie, the trickiest, and sometimes most profitable, way is to become a professional gambler.
The trickiest job in sports?
Although it seems a lot of luck would be needed for bettors who make a living on gambling year-in and year-out to be so successful (and there are more of them than you might suspect), these gamblers don’t depend much on luck.
Full-time sports gamblers rely on information—lots of information—and on their skill in using that input to make more informed choices than the ordinary bettor.
One of the most well-known professionals is Billy Walters who has earned millions of dollars during his successful, if controversial, 40 year career. He claims his reported 58% win rate is due in large part to his ability to gather and crunch the numbers.
Although Walter’s exact system is a closely guarded secret, a former employee said the statistics-gathering work is extensive, and starts well in advance of any game. Team evaluations, color codes, and letter grades by player are gathered, as well as data from local newspapers, and websites – even Facebook and Twitter – are scoured for nuggets of data that might affect how a team will perform. All that information is entered into a computing system along with additional statistics concerning field conditions, officiating crews, and other factors. Then the whole kit and caboodle is subjected to complex analytics, algorithms, and probability calculations. All of this effort to find the most mispriced teams against the prevailing Las Vegas line can tip the odds of winning in the gambler’s favor.
Sounds like a lot of work? It is. Successful sports bettors collect statistics, analyze them, and try to make informed decisions – not that much different than the work it takes to run a successful business. In both cases, being successful is less about luck and much more about using collected information to anticipate results and make informed decisions.
A larger pool of intelligent data and the systems to use it can build greater success, whether it be in determining the Final Four or choosing the next step in moving forward with your business.
5i Solutions Inc. can help you tip the odds in your favor. We tailor systems to meet your needs: from converting paper into digital ‘smart data’, to Document Management Systems (DMS) that give you instant access to your critical information, to advanced solutions that help you sort and analyze volumes of data intelligently. We can help manage, preserve, and systemize your information for keyword recognition to help calculate the odds and use them to predict the winners in your future. Scans of email, sound, and picture files; automatic uploads for preservation and analysis; and more are in our home court. And all of your valuable data can be stored and super-secure in the 5i Cloud Vault
—with encryption, network security, key management, custom-built identity verification, and access control available 24/7 from anywhere in the world. 5i Solutions.: Innovative Ideas for Intelligent Interaction with Information. When your information is better than your competitor, the odds are in your favor.