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Role of luck in sport
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More options Jun 13 2012, 4:53 am
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: "Peter Webb" <r.peter.webb...@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2012 18:53:02 +1000
Local: Wed, Jun 13 2012 4:53 am
Subject: Role of luck in sport
I am considering starting a small research project on the the subject of
"luck in sport".

It seems clear to me that in some sports, the better team almost always wins
whereas in others a significant amount of luck is involved - particularly
where balls can bounce randomly, and scores are low and subject to
probability rather than statistics.

This can potentially be measured with an arguable amount of accuracy on a
sport-by-sport basis, and sports then compared to see which involve the
most/least luck in who wins the game.

The basic strategy is to use the half time result to break each game into
two half games. Each half is played by the same people, at almost the same
time, and both sides have the same basic strategy in both halves to maximise
their points and minimise the opponent's points. Games with very little luck
should have the side which wins the game winning both halves; conversely
games with lots of luck will see results where a side wins only a single
half but still wins the match. The winners of half games and winners of full
games can be correlated and a numeric index of luck produced on a sport by
sport basis.

Most people believe in the role of luck in sports, but as far as I can see
nobody has tried to quantify this, and there does seem to be this mechanism
to do so. It will involve looking at and data entering (in some manner) lots
of historical sporting results. It will also require some knowledge of the
sports to collect the information in a manner which eliminates systemic
differences. For example in cricket, games where one side "declares"
(voluntarily stops batting to save time) would need to be eliminated.

I don't know where this would go, maybe a web page, could be of interest to
people who like to argue about sports, or people who bet on them.

Does anybody have:

(a) Any thoughts
(b) Any ideas on where to get the statistics (remember we need half time
scores) hopefully as data files
(c) Any wish to become involved ?

Peter Webb

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More options Jun 13 2012, 8:15 am
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: quasi <qu...@null.set>
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2012 07:15:11 -0500
Local: Wed, Jun 13 2012 8:15 am
Subject: Re: Role of luck in sport

I think you need 3 components, not 2 ...

(1) skill
(2) luck
(3) the human element

For teams with approximately equal skill, the human element, not
luck, will often be the key secondary factor.

I'll outline two categories of situations for which the human
element may be the key factor ...

Team A's chosen strategy may take team B by surprise, but
by the second half, the surprise has worn off and team B has

Or, for multi-player team games, perhaps some player on team B
is not playing well in the first half, so that player is
replaced in the second half, and then all is well for team B.

(2) The Emotion Factor

Suppose Team A wins the first half by a large margin. In the
second half, it's hard for team A to psyche themselves up for
maximum output. Thus, team A will tend to "coast", riding their
huge lead. At the same time, provided team A's lead is not too
much to overcome, team B may be psyched to play at absolute
maximum skill and power, thus potentially recovering some or
all of the initial score deficit.

On the other hand, suppose team A gets a huge, essentially
unrecoverable lead in the first half. Then, in the second
half, team B may have lost the heart to fight, so gets crushed
even more.

Alternatively, for the huge, unrecoverable lead scenario, the
coach may make some substitutions to try some untested players.
It's a good time to experiment since the game is lost anyway.
Thus, with team B using their "B team", the second half may be
even worse.

Bottom line -- I think the human element dominates the luck
element, and would be hard, perhaps impossible, to filter out.

quasi

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More options Jun 13 2012, 7:27 am
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: Graham Cooper <grahamcoop...@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2012 04:27:59 -0700 (PDT)
Local: Wed, Jun 13 2012 7:27 am
Subject: Re: Role of luck in sport
On Jun 13, 10:15 pm, quasi <qu...@null.set> wrote:

SKILL:  win 1st half - win 2nd half
STRAT:  lost 1st half - win 2nd half
LUCK:   win 1st half - win 2nd half by greater margin!

Taking into account both Teams lose a little STAMINA by the 2nd half.

Certainly if they widened the soccer goals by 1 meter it would score
more like basketball, perhaps reduce riots a little!

Herc

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More options Jun 13 2012, 8:12 am
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: "Peter Webb" <r.peter.webb...@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2012 22:12:35 +1000
Local: Wed, Jun 13 2012 8:12 am
Subject: Re: Role of luck in sport

"quasi" <qu...@null.set> wrote in message

news:99tgt75j1ncpb4ck9jvdi8a5ksbjrs94on@4ax.com...

Most of those variables you list are in fact just luck. A team is lucky if
it makes a good substitution, or unlucky if it gets an injury. We are trying
to measure luck, the random component; you have mostly just listed where it
shows up.

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More options Jun 13 2012, 10:45 am
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: Frederick Williams <freddywilli...@btinternet.com>
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2012 15:45:53 +0100
Local: Wed, Jun 13 2012 10:45 am
Subject: Re: Role of luck in sport

Peter Webb wrote:

> [...]

> The basic strategy is to use the half time result to break each game into
> two half games. Each half is played by the same people, at almost the same
> time, and both sides have the same basic strategy in both halves to maximise
> their points and minimise the opponent's points. Games with very little luck
> should have the side which wins the game winning both halves; conversely
> games with lots of luck will see results where a side wins only a single
> half but still wins the match.

I should begin by remarking that I know nothing about sport, but it
seems possible to me that:
i) a team doing badly at half time may be motivated to do better in the
second half (and may therefore actually do better); but also
ii) a team doing badly at half time may become disillusioned and
therefore do even worse in the second half.
Sports scientists surely include psychologists among their number who
have looked in to this.

--
The animated figures stand
And seem to breathe in stone, or
Move their marble feet.

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More options Jun 13 2012, 2:36 am
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: quasi <qu...@null.set>
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2012 01:36:58 -0500
Local: Wed, Jun 13 2012 2:36 am
Subject: Re: Role of luck in sport

No, not really.

>A team is lucky if it makes a good substitution,

It's only common sense to replace a pitcher who, on a given
day, can't throw a strike, or to replace a basketball player who,
for some reason (pain, hangover, tiredness, whatever) can't make
a shot.

I wouldn't call the score improvement resulting from such a
substitution luck.

>We are trying to measure luck, the random component; you
>have mostly just listed where it shows up.

The human element allows a team to _adapt_ to the situation.
It's a _function_ of the situation and, unlike luck, is both
controllable and predictable.

quasi

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More options Jun 13 2012, 5:27 pm
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: David Bernier <david...@videotron.ca>
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2012 17:27:23 -0400
Local: Wed, Jun 13 2012 5:27 pm
Subject: Re: Role of luck in sport
On 06/13/2012 10:45 AM, Frederick Williams wrote:

There's a simple model for some sports where for each half-game,
team A is assumed to score a number of points n_A which
follows a Poisson distribution of parameter mu_A (the mean
number of points scored), and team B analogously scores
a number of points n_B ~ Poisson(mu_B) .

Then  n_A - n_B ,  the "point spread", follows a so-called
Skellam distribution.

Assuming mu_A > 0, mu_B > 0 , then for any integer  m,
Prob[n_A - n_B = m] > 0  (any point spread is possible
in this very simple model).

I must add that it's assumed that the random variables
n_A and n_B, both Poisson, are independent r.v.s  .

< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skellam_distribution > .

they refer to the article below on sports and
Poisson distributions:

Karlis, D. and Ntzoufras, I. (2003) "Analysis of sports data using
bivariate Poisson models". Journal of the Royal Statistical Society:
Series D (The Statistician), 52 (3), 381 393. doi:10.1111/1467-9884.00366

In hockey, some players get injured.  But is it just luck?
What if a player gets into fights a lot or skates too fast?

Dave

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More options Jun 13 2012, 5:44 pm
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: Graham Cooper <grahamcoop...@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2012 14:44:12 -0700 (PDT)
Local: Wed, Jun 13 2012 5:44 pm
Subject: Re: Role of luck in sport
On Jun 14, 7:27 am, David Bernier <david...@videotron.ca> wrote:

Luck might be better described as inconsistent over several matches
between the same opponents.

e.g. in BOXING

TYSON beats ROCKY
ROCKY beats ALI

would have a high incidence of consistent results in rematches.

TYSON beats ROCKY

ROCKY beats ALI

TYSON beats ROCKY

ROCKY beats ALI

Maybe there are less variables in a 1 on 1 sport for luck to generate
from.

Whereas in Aussie Rules Football the results flip back and forth more
like tossing a coin.

CARLTON beats SWANS
SWANS beats CARLTON
SWANS beats CARLTON
CARLTON beats SWANS   <<< Luck

Incidentally I went to the fitness shop last week to get some boxing
mitts, but came out with a pair of MMA Gloves..  Put your face in
front of one of those "mitts" and you won't be having much luck for a
long time!

Herc

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More options Jun 13 2012, 6:43 pm
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: David Bernier <david...@videotron.ca>
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2012 18:43:46 -0400
Local: Wed, Jun 13 2012 6:43 pm
Subject: Re: Role of luck in sport
On 06/13/2012 05:44 PM, Graham Cooper wrote:

Yeah, well boxing can break the brain ...

"Modelling Association Football Scores and Inefficiencies in the
Football Betting Market",   by  Mark J. Dixon and Stuart G. Coles.

The abstract can be read here:

Dave

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More options Jun 14 2012, 1:38 pm
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: Michael Press <rub...@pacbell.net>
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2012 10:38:10 -0700
Local: Thurs, Jun 14 2012 1:38 pm
Subject: Re: Role of luck in sport
In article <jra04d\$jv...@news.albasani.net>,
"Peter Webb" <r.peter.webb...@gmail.com> wrote:

> Most of those variables you list are in fact just luck. A team is lucky if
> it makes a good substitution, or unlucky if it gets an injury. We are trying
> to measure luck, the random component; you have mostly just listed where it
> shows up.

Sure, luck means a lot in football.
Not having a good quarterback is bad luck.
--Don Shula

--
Michael Press

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More options Jun 15 2012, 2:47 pm
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: "dilettante" <n...@nonono.no>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2012 13:47:02 -0500
Local: Fri, Jun 15 2012 2:47 pm
Subject: Re: Role of luck in sport

"Peter Webb" <r.peter.webb...@gmail.com> wrote in message

news:jr9ke5\$s70\$1@news.albasani.net...

I think there is a huge problem with this analysis. Teams are not trying to
win half-games, but whole games. If a team has a 30 point lead at the end of
the first half, they will not play a strategy that necessarily maximizes
their chance of winning the second half. They will (try to) play a strategy
that minimizes their chance of losing the second half  by more than 29
points. Similarly, their opponent will be playing not to try to win the
second half, but to try to win the second half by at least 30 points.
Differences in correlation of halves and games won between two sports may
reflect the effects of this kind of strategizing being more pronounced in
one than in the other.

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More options Jun 16 2012, 2:26 am
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: Graham Cooper <grahamcoop...@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2012 23:26:00 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Role of luck in sport
On Jun 16, 4:47 am, "dilettante" <n...@nonono.no> wrote:

if there's a high margin then a strategy towards a low scoring game
for each side might be used by the leading team.

But you might still be able to determine factors like:

does the bounce of an oval shaped ball compared to a round ball
randomize the chances of winning?

does a zero strategy game, eg. 10 pin bowling where a player's game
environment is determined only by his own play increase consistent
winning streaks?

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More options Jun 16 2012, 2:29 am
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: Graham Cooper <grahamcoop...@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2012 23:29:06 -0700 (PDT)
Local: Sat, Jun 16 2012 2:29 am
Subject: Re: Role of luck in sport
On Jun 16, 4:26 pm, Graham Cooper <grahamcoop...@gmail.com> wrote:

> does a zero strategy game, eg. 10 pin bowling where a player's game
> environment is determined only by his own play increase consistent
> winning streaks?

technically you might opt out of going for a difficult split with the
pins if you only needed 1 pin to win a match!

still some strategy in 10 pin bowling!

Herc

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More options Jun 26 2012, 1:24 pm
Newsgroups: alt.math.recreational, alt.sport, alt.sports, sci.math
From: MajorOz <ozma...@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2012 10:24:14 -0700 (PDT)
Local: Tues, Jun 26 2012 1:24 pm
Subject: Re: Role of luck in sport
On Jun 13, 3:53 am, "Peter Webb" <r.peter.webb...@gmail.com> wrote:

Somewhat of a lost cause.

Even if all he variables are accounted for (unlikely), unless they are
quantifiable, the exercise becomes one of mysticism.