Calculated Bets: Computers, Gambling, and Mathematical Modeling to Win

Steven Skiena of Stony Brook University has a lifelong passion for the sport of Jai Alai, a ball game from the Basque region of Spain. Akin to squash, the game is played with baskets attached to the hand rather than with racquets held by the hand. The book details Steven's building of a model for the game of Jai Alai with which he used for betting. The book explains the rules of Jai Alai and how betting is incorporated into the game. It is important to understand how betting and a sport's rules are related, which can reveal quirks that can be utilised for arbitrage.

In the following chapters Steven builds a Monte Carlo simulation of Jai Alai so that he can test his theories about the likelihood of any one particular player in a matchup winning the event. With 8 players vying to be the best there is an advantage in being one of the first two paired players to play. Steven's simulation proves this hypothesis. Using available player ratings Steven builds a model for each player and for the payoffs for various kinds of Pari-Mutuel bets. He then goes on to build an automated betting system, which was rather sophisticated for its time. Finally, Steven discusses how to approach other sports and gambling games using his methodology.

All-in-all this book is a fascinating read. Some find it hard going but I can appreciate all the hard work that Steven has put into mastering modelling a sport and betting on it. If you want to know what it takes to model a sport and build a bot to place bets then you need this book at hand. You won't learn how to program specifically for your requirements and this book was written before Betfair took off. However, you will learn what it takes to dedicate yourself to a related task.

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