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Predictive Analytics and Gaming

By: Andy Cooper

Predictions are everywhere in sports. From fans and pundits to bookmakers, it has been an unavoidable part of sport for decades. Predictive analytics provide a different context to sports, one that is completely data driven without the bias of a fan’s favorite team, a pundit’s ex-teammate or even where people are placing their money. If utilised correctly, it can be extremely valuable to both gamblers and the media alike.

Like the professional game, sports gambling has undergone its own data revolution. Many, if not all, successful sports bettors in the world use objective models to assist them when betting on sporting events, aiming to find value compared to lines set by bookmakers. Their models are proprietary, as advances in statistical analysis by bettors is aimed to provide them with an edge over the market, something that can be sustained over a regular basis rather than with a one-off bet. Some have set up companies on the back of their successes to become an industry resource rather than their own tool to beat the bookie.

But given the huge interest in both gaming and fantasy – and with the ever-growing daily fantasy sports market providing monetary gains for customers – this leads to further media opportunities to also cash in on predictive analytics. Sean Koerner (@The_Oddsmaker), the Director of Predictive Analytics at STATS, highlights the value of content around projections, as his weekly column provides insights to his award-winning fantasy projections, offering weekly targets for the Thursday to Monday NFL slate.

“Just taking the projections at face value isn’t as valuable as when you can have an expert break things down in order to see the different angles needed to figure which players are ideal for certain game types or even certain sites since all sites use different scoring systems, roster configurations, pricing and salary caps.”

Fantasy columns have long been popular in sport, and this continues to grow. ESPN revealed that seven of its top ten stories in September were related to fantasy football, as fantasy sports are becoming a traffic driver like no other. News can be found on various platforms, each with slightly different takes, yet fantasy content providing advice and tips can be unique to every website as players search for the edge on their competition. Yet the nature of the game has to be considered, adding to the value of content, as Koerner describes:

“An expert to guide you through not only how to use projections, but also the lineup-making process is extremely important, as the strategy differs from the type of game played. You can have two players both exactly projected for 30 fantasy points but one may be a better play based on the format you are playing. When you are playing “cash” games (i.e., head-to-heads, 50/50’s, double ups) you are essentially just trying to be above the 50-55% percentile of scores, and experts can advise to take safer plays while minimizing risk in order to raise your floor.

In comparison, the opposite strategy is needed for big tournaments where your main goal is to raise your ceiling to increase the chances of a huge score. If you can find a player that is around the caliber of that highly owned prize pick who ends up being owned by a low percentage of the field and he ends up outscoring the 90 percent-owned player by quite a bit, you are going to get a huge leg up on the field.”

Predictive analytics fuels gaming, but there is a lot more value in this than a lone gambler solely looking to make money on a bet. The interest in the area continues to grow, as content centered on predictive analytics can be a huge traffic driver in the competitive online media space. Nothing engages fans quite like fantasy sports, which has been discussed in greater depth in our ebook “Analyzing Today’s Fantasy Sports Landscape”.