Special Strategies for Picking Bowl Game Contests

By | December 8, 2014

Since the college football bowl season is upon us, and the match-ups are set, it is time to revisit the all important special strategies for bowl game contests.

I like to call this game theory and to brainstorm out special strategies in an attempt to win or score high in these bowl game contests.  While this is not as important as Alvin locating a missing and accidentally dropped nuclear bomb in the Mediterranean, some of the same type of probability strategies and out of the box thinking can be employed.

Whether cash prize money is on the line or you are just playing for pride, these games are serious business.  The one I would really like to nail is the Warren Buffet and Quicken Loans NCAA Basketball Tournament contest on Yahoo.  However, that is later.  The college football bowl season is now and we need to get some game theory going for that.  Some of the theories I have employed in the past have involved stock market strategies and some have mimicked little Alvin above.  Yep, you might have to dive deep to come up with something that works.  Admittedly, I would like to find a winner.

Here are some of my strategies of the past.  When I say strategies, don’t laugh.  It is true that some of these strategies have been less than, uh, strategic and have gotten me blown out in past bowl game contests. I am still looking for that perfect storm.

Making the best pick you can based on the knowledge you have.  This strategy is probably the one most used by everyone.  The problem with it is that no matter how hard you follow college football, you will still have some teams you have not seen this year and some that you will know a lot more about than others.  This strategy can yield good to very good results if you are a hard core follower of college football.  However, bowl games are notoriously hard to predict, and some teams simply don’t show up while others do.  Additionally, teams that have fired coaches, changed coaches, have been in off the field turmoil for one reason or another, and teams that are complaining about their bowl status are all ripe for a tumble and really throw a monkey wrench into things.  If you are a hard core follower, have good luck, and pick smart you can get up into a high percentile with this strategy.  But rest assured, some games you are positive on will not go your way.

Picking the teams you like.  This is a pretty good strategy given the random outcome of bowl games anyway.  On the no-brainers you could pick the team you think will win.  On the close ones or the ones you don’t know much about, you could go with your favorites.  One reason I like this strategy is because of what I call the drooling gambler.  Over the years, I became disenchanted with NCAA Basketball Tournament Bracket games because if I picked whom I really thought would win, it would go against the teams I wanted to win.  It would also have me rooting against upsets which are the heart and soul of and the greatest thing about the NCAA tourney.  The power of the drooling gambler had me rooting against what I really wanted.   So I solved this by starting to pick teams I wanted to win.  And a couple of years ago, however, it had me putting Pacific into the Final Four.  Dream on.  This strategy is weak on results, but strong on personal satisfaction.  If you can live on hope alone, this may be your ticket.  And on the outrageous long-shot that the Pacific Tigers make the Final Four, you will definitely be in the money.  Oh, yeah.

The contrarian and the max-contrarian.  This strategy has you picking against everyone else.  Going against the herd.  This strategy will get you delirious highs and abysmal lows.  If there is a day of massive upsets during a multiple game day in the bowl season, you may rocket to the head of the pack.  Conversely, you may crash and burn the next day.  These things can and do happen and they will happen with the contrarian strategy.  However, if there is ever a year of almost all massive upsets, you might just win it all.  Drool, drool.  This strategy is also compounded and rocket-fueled in the confidence factor bowl game contests as opposed to the straight pick games.   I have been playing the confidence factor game on Yahoo and I have to tell you it is diabolical.  It is a very hard game to do well in because you have to not only pick the games, but also rate them from high to low based on your confidence in the outcome.  I like this because I think this is the hardest game to pick and do well in.  At least, it has been for me.  However, if you ever get a high contrarian pick right in the event of a massive upset you will soar to the heavens.  Two years ago the most lopsided bowl game in the entire Yahoo contest was Louisville vs. Florida in the Orange Bowl.  The distribution of picks favored Florida with 95% of the participants picking the Gators and only 5% picking Louisville.  Therefore, playing a max-contrarian strategy, I made this game my highest confidence pick of the whole game.  Lo and behold, Louisville won.  I got maximum confidence points on this game while virtually everyone else got zilch.  It was hilarious.  I remember people on the message board of the Yahoo bowl game contest asking if anyone picked Louisville.  I did.  Admittedly, the max-contrarian strategy got me blown out in the contest overall, but I still remember the Orange Bowl and the Louisville Cardinals fondly.

The Combo Strategy.  This year I am going with a combination of the three above strategies, as follows.  For the games I am absolutely or very sure of, including the no-brainers and games where I am very familiar with both teams and think I have a lock on who will win, then I am going pick that game under the making the best pick you can based on the knowledge you have strategy.  On games where I don’t know as much about the teams and don’t have a good feel for the outcome, and where the pick distribution, i.e., what percentage of game participants have picked a particular team, is in a narrow range of 45% to 55%, I am going to pick the team I like under the pick the team you like strategy.  On any game which is outside the 45% to 55% pick distribution that I do not have a good feel for and do not know the teams well, I am going for a max-contrarian strategy of picking the most lopsided losers according to the pick distribution as my highest confidence factor game picks.  I think the combo strategy is the best of all three worlds above and gives me the best chance to score high in the bowl game contests.  That’s my strategy and I’m sticking to it.  This year.  And I’m looking for this year’s Louisville, too.

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