pairLab vs. the Oddsmakers

When pairLab asked football fans to predict this season’s AFC and NFC winners (the teams that would go to Super Bowl LVI), the results were … reasonable. 

Using pairLab, fans said that last year’s AFC winner, the Kansas City Chiefs, would return to the Super Bowl, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, last year’s NFC and Super Bowl winner, would be denied a repeat spot in favor of the Green Bay Packers. Experts at USA Today and Sports Illustrated agreed.

But what about the oddsmakers?

Fans and experts use their personal knowledge to predict outcomes. They are motivated by reputation; the guy in your office who predicted the winner five months before the outcome looks a heck of a lot better than the guy who got it wrong. Intuition and emotion guide this process. 

Oddsmakers have a different interest: money. They need to pay the winners and themselves. Oddsmakers use implied probability to balance the two sides of a bet. Enormous data collection efforts and math guide this process.

How did the fans, driven by intuition and reputation, compare to the oddsmakers, driven by math and money? The ranking results were nearly identical.

Here’s the NFC:

Team

DraftKings

Caesars

Fanduel

MGM

Pointsbet

Playsugarhouse

Unibet

pairLab

(fans 🏈)

Packers

2

4

2

3

2

2

2

1

Buccaneers

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

Seahawks

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

3

Rams

4

2

4

2

4

3

3

4

49ers

2

2

3

4

3

3

3

5

Saints

6

6

7

8

7

6

6

6

Cowboys

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

7

Cardinals

8

8

9

7

7

8

8

8

Vikings

8

8

8

8

7

8

8

9

Bears

11

10

11

11

11

11

11

10

Falcons

11

12

12

12

12

12

12

11

Panthers

11

12

15

12

14

13

13

12

Washington

8

10

10

8

10

10

10

13

Eagles

15

14

14

15

14

15

15

14

Giants

14

14

13

12

13

13

13

15

Lions

16

16

16

16

16

16

16

16

In this table we have the sports book futures rankings on the morning of September 9, 2021 (the raw data was aggregated by thelines.com). The sports book futures rankings are based on the moneyline odds for each sports book the morning before the first game of the season. The pairLab rankings are based on the pair scores as determined by survey participant challenge results.

Why rankings instead of odds? Moneyline odds and pairLab pair scores measure different things (the odds are payoffs for a $100 bet based on probability; pair scores are relative preferences calculated from pairLab survey challenges). However, by sorting each we can come up with a ranking, which is comparable and shown in this and the next table.

Here’s the AFC:

Team

DraftKings

Caesars

Fanduel

MGM

Pointsbet

Playsugarhouse

Unibet

pairLab

(fans 🏈)

Chiefs

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Bills

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

Ravens

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

Titans

5

6

5

5

5

5

5

4

Browns

4

4

3

3

4

4

4

5

Steelers

11

11

10

10

10

10

10

6

Chargers

6

10

7

7

6

6

6

7

Dolphins

7

6

7

9

7

6

6

8

Patriots

7

6

7

7

7

6

6

9

Colts

7

5

7

8

7

6

6

10

Raiders

12

12

12

12

12

12

12

11

Broncos

10

6

11

11

11

11

11

12

Bengals

14

13

13

14

15

14

14

13

Jaguars

13

13

13

13

13

13

13

14

Jets

15

13

13

14

13

14

14

15

Texans

16

16

16

16

16

16

16

16

If we compare the average of all sports books against the average fan-based pairLab ranking for each team, we see that in both conferences, pairLab’s fan-based survey differed from the oddsmakers by an average of 0.3. Oh, that’s so close!

Implications

There are two things we can say about these comparisons:

  • Driven by their love of the game, fans are as likely to predict broad outcomes as oddsmakers, who are driven by economics and have huge resources at their disposal.
  • pairLab’s algorithm accurately captures and calculates the rational and emotional sides of choice in a group of people in order to predict outcomes.

Cool.

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Posted by Christian
on September 11, 2021