More Ways to Derive Probability and Margin Predictions From Head-to-Head Prices

A couple of weeks ago, in this earlier blog, I described a general framework for deriving probability predictions from a bookmaker's head-to-head prices and then, if required, generating margin predictions from those probability predictions.

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Modelling Miscalibration

If you're making probability assessments one of the things you almost certainly want them to be is well-calibrated, and we know both from first-hand experience and a variety of analyses here on MatterOfStats over the years that the TAB Bookmaker is all of that.

Well he is, at least, well-calibrated as far as I can tell. His actual probability assessments aren't directly available but must, instead, be inferred from his head-to-head prices and I've come up with three ways of making this inference, using an Overround-Equalising, Risk-Equalising or an LPSO-Optimising approach.

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Creating Margin Predictions From Head-to-Head Prices: A Summary

As I was writing up the recent post about the application of the Pythagorean Expectation approach to AFL I realised that it provided yet another method for generating a margin prediction from a probability prediction.

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Game Margins and the Generalised Tukey Lambda Distribution

The Normal Distribution often turns up, like the Spanish Inquisition, in places where you've no a priori reason to expect it. For example, I've shown before that bookmaker handicap-adjusted margins appear to be distributed Normally.
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The Predictability of Game Margins

In a recent blog post I described how the results of games in 2013 have been more predictable than game results from previous seasons in the sense that the final victory margins have been, on average, closer to what you'd have expected them to be based on a reasonably constructed predictive model. In short, teams have this year won by margins closer to what an informed observer, like a Bookmaker, would have expected.
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Using Risk-Equalising Probabilities for the Margin Predictors

With the exception of Combo_NN_2, all of the Margin Predictors rely on an algorithm that takes Bookmaker Implicit Probabilities as an input in some form: 

  • Bookie_3 and Bookie_9 use Bookmaker Implicit Probabilities directly
  • ProPred_3 and ProPred_7 use the outputs of the ProPred algorithm, which uses a log transform of Bookmaker Implicit Probabilities as one input
  • WinPred_3 and WinPred_7 use the outputs of the WinPred algorithm, which also uses a log transform of Bookmaker Implicit Probabilities as one input
  • H2H_U3, H2H_U10, H2H_A3 and H2H_A7 use the outputs of the Head-to-Head algorithm, which uses Bookmaker Implicit Probabilities as one input
  • Combo_7 uses Bookmaker Implicit Probabilities directly as well as via its use of the outputs of the Head-to-Head Algorithm
  • Combo_NN_2 uses Bookmaker Implicit Probabilities directly as well as via its use of the outputs of the ProPred, WinPred and H2H algorithms

For this short blog I've switched, in all of the underlying algorithms, the Implicit Probabilities calculated using the Risk-Equalising Approach as replacements for those calculated using the Overround-Equalising Approach and then compared the resulting MAPEs for seasons 2007 to 2012 for all the Margin Predictors.

Overall, all Margin Predictors except Bookie_3 benefit from the switch, however modestly. Bookie_9, which now will serve as a co-predictor in the MAFL Margin Fund, benefits most, knocking over one quarter of a point per game off its MAPE.

The uniformity of these improvements is made slightly more remarkable by the realisation that the Margin Predictors, built using Eureqa, were optimised for the probability outputs of the underlying algorithms when those algorithms were using Overround-Equalising Implicit Probabilities. So, for example, the equation for Bookie_9, which is:

Predicted Home Team Margin = 2.2205129 + 17.729506 * ln(Home Team Bookmaker Probability/(1-Home Team Bookmaker Probability)) + 2*Home Team Bookmaker Probability

was created by Eureqa to minimise the historical MAPE of this equation when the Home Team Bookmaker Probabilities being used were those calculated assuming Overround-Equalisation. The 0.26 points per game reduction in the MAPE is being achieved without re-optimising this equation but, instead, simply by replacing the Home Team Probabilities with those calculated using a Risk-Equalising Approach.

Bookie_3 is the one Margin Predictor that responds poorly to the switch of probabilities without an accompanying re-optimisation in Eureqa. When I performed such a re-optimisation, Eureqa came up with this remarkably simple equation:

Predicted Home Team Margin = 21 * ln(Home Team Bookmaker Probability/(1-Home Team Bookmaker Probability))

This predictor has an MAPE of 29.22 points per game, which is extraordinarily low for such an easy-to-use predictor.


Virtually every algorithm used in MAFL has now been shown to benefit, however slightly, from using Implicit Probabilities calculated using the Risk-Equalising instead of the Overround-Equalising Approach. Naturallly, this makes me wonder if there's an even better way ...

Maybe next year I'll look for it.

Bookmaker Implicit Probabilities: Empirical Value of the Risk-Equalising Approach

A few blogs back I developed the idea that bookmakers might embed overround in each team's price not equally but instead such that the resulting head-to-head market prices provide insurance for a fixed (in percentage point terms) calibration error of equivalent size for both teams. Since then I've made only passing comment about the empirical superiority of this approach (which I've called the Risk-Equalising Approach) relative to the previous approach (which I've called the Overround-Equalising Approach).
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Measuring Bookmaker Calibration Errors

We've found ample evidence in the past to assert that the TAB Bookmaker is well-calibrated, by which I mean that teams he rates as 40% chances tend to win about 40% of the time, teams he rates as 90% chances tend to win about 90% of the time and, more generally, that teams he rates as X% chances tend to win about X% of the time.
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How Many Quarters Will the Home Team Win?

In this last of a series of posts on creating estimates for teams' chances of winning portions of an AFL game I'll be comparing a statistical model of the Home Team's probability of winning 0, 1, 2, 3 or all 4 quarters with the heuristically-derived model used in the most-recent post.
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How Many Quarters Will the Favourite Win?

Over the past few blogs I've been investigating the relationship between the result of each quarter of an AFL game and the pre-game head-to-head prices set for that same game. In the most recent blog I came up with an equation that allows us to estimate the probability that a team will win a quarter (p) using as input only that team's pre-game Implicit Victory Probability (V), which we can derive from the pre-game head-to-head prices as the ratio of the team's opponent's price divided by the sum of the two teams' prices.
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Deriving the Relationship Between Quarter-by-Quarter and Game Victory Probabilities

In an earlier blog we estimated empirical relationships between Home Teams' success rate in each Quarter of the game and their Implicit Probability of Victory, as reflected in the TAB Bookmaker's pre-game prices. It turned out that this relationship appeared to be quite similar for all four Quarters, with the possible exception of the 3rd. We also showed that there was a near one-to-one relationship between the Home Team's Implicit Probability and its actual Victory Probability - in other words, that the TAB Bookmaker's forecasts were well-calibrated. Together, these results imply an empirical relationship between the Home Team's likelihood of winning a Quarter and its likelihood of winning an entire Game. In this blog I'm going to draw on a little probability theory to see if I can derive that relationship theoretically, largely from first principles.
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The Changing Nature of Home Team Probability

The original motivation for this blog was to provide additional context for the previous blog on victory probabilities for portions of games. That blog looked at the relationship between the TAB Bookmaker's pre-game assessment of the Home team's chances and the subsequent success or otherwise of the Home team in portions - Quarters, Halfs and so on - of the game under review.
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Does An Extra Day's Rest Matter in the Finals?

This week Collingwood faces Sydney having played its Semi-Final only 6 day previously while Adelaide take on Hawthorn a more luxurious 8 days after their Semi-Final encounter. The gap for Sydney has been 13 days while that for the Hawks has been 15 days. In this blog we'll assess what, if any, effect these differential gaps between games for competing finalists might have on game outcome.
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Finding Non-Linear Relationships Between AFL Variables : The MINER Package

It's easy enough to determine whether or not one continuous variable has a linear relationship with another, and how strong that relationship is, by calculating the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient for the two variables. A value near +1 for this coefficient indicates a strong, positive linear relationship between the variables in question, so that high values of one tend to coincide with high values of the other, and vice versa for low values; a value near -1 indicates a strong, negative linear relationship; and a value of 0 indicates a lack of any linear relationship at all. But what if we want to assess more generally if there's a relationship between two variables, linear or otherwise, and we don't know the exact form that this relationship takes? That's the purpose for which the Maximal Information Coefficient (MIC) was created, and recently made available in an R package called MINER.
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Optimising the Wager: Yet More Custom Metrics in Formulize

As the poets Galdston, Waldman & Lind penned for the songstress Vanessa Williams: "sometimes the very thing you're looking for, is the one thing you can't see" (now try to get that song out of your head for the next few hours ...)
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