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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Random Chance

Some of you sports enthusiasts out there may be aware of the game on ESPN.com called Streak for the Cash. For those of you who haven't heard of it, it's a guessing game in which contestants try to pick results from sporting events throughout the day. If you guess correctly, your streak goes up by one. If you guess correctly five times in a row, your streak climbs to five (W5). If you guess incorrectly, your streak goes to negative one (L1) and you have to start over. At the end of every month, the person who compiles the longest win streak wins $50,000 in cold hard cash. But don't quit your day job just yet. This is no simple task. Habitually, the monthly winner has a preposterous streak of W20 or higher. I've been playing Streak for the Cash (or Streak, as I like to call it) since January 2010 and my best streak ever is a mere W10. But if you think you can win, give it a shot.

Anyway, the point of my blog entry today is to vent frustration and to attempt a new method. The month of April has started out miserably for me on Streak. In only 3 days, I've managed to collect a whopping nine losses in a row!



Normally my monthly rate for correct guesses is between 50 and 60 percent so I'm a far cry from that. I'm not one to give up, but the mathematician in me wondered, "Couldn't you be doing better if you let a pseudorandom number generator pick your choices for you?"

Now I know what you might be thinking. You probably doubt that a computer could come up with a better guess than I could with a little bit of research before making my selections. And you're right. Yet, my thought was, what if I were to take the picks that I would normally pass up because they were too close to make a decision and let the computer take a 50-50 guess at it? Over the course of the month, I ought to get at least close to half correct, right?

So, that's what I'm going to do. From April 4th until the end of this month, a computer will be choosing my picks for me. I'm interested to see what will happen and I hope to have some mediocre numbers to report, thus confirming my hypothesis.

For the mathematicians/programmers out there who might be curious in the code I used to generate my picks, I've included it below. I used Wolfram Mathematica and a simple Module function. If you have any questions about the code, feel free to ask in the comments.


WhichPick[ ] : = Module[{a, b, c, d},
  a = RandomInteger[{0, 1}, 1000000];
  b = Count[a, 0];
  If[b >= 500000, Print["Go with the favorite."],
   Print["Underdog for the win!"]]
  ]

- Isaac M. Comelli (4/3/2013)

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