Can Real-Time Gambling Odds Tell Us Which Games Are Most Exciting?

The best part of the best sports tournament in the world starts in half an hour, as a field of 64 gets pared down to just 16 teams over the course of four days. That's a lot of games, so how do you know which ones you should be watching?

The engineering team at Rap Genius (I know, I know) is here to help. The best games tend to be close throughout or have a large swing from one team to the other; in other words, they're the games that have the most uncertainty in their outcome. Nowadays it's possible to bet on game outcomes in real time as they occur: Could the variance in these gambling odds act as a measure for this uncertainty, and thus as a real-time measure for game "excitement"?

The model they created—somewhat lamely called the Gambletron 2000—scrapes odds from betting markets every 15 seconds and translates this data into updating win probability charts. The variance in this win probability is used to calculate a "hotness" score, the Gambletron's measurement of game excitement. Since it started scraping last October, the highest recorded hotness score was Vikings at Ravens, on Dec. 8, which was bonkers:

Can Real-Time Gambling Odds Tell Us Which Games Are Most Exciting?

In some ways, the Gambletron 2000 is similar to the "excitement index" developed by Brian Burke, but that model used Advanced NFL Stat's proprietary win probability model in place of actual betting odds. Large, active betting markets are a gold standard for prediction, so the Gambletron 2000 has a leg up here (both models are preferable to our proprietary "Watchability Rankings," but you knew that). More importantly, the Gambletron 2000 calculates its excitement stat in real time, so you can check their dashboard and tune in to unexpectedly exciting games before they finish.

[Rap Genius]