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Lessons from the NFL Super Bowl XLIX

If you bet on American football, there is a good chance you lost money on this year’s Super Bowl XLIX (if you bet on the Patriots, good for you!).  This year’s game wrapped up with the Patriots 28, Seahawks 24 in a finish that stunned the world.  Most sports analysts declared that this was a pick ‘em game and there was no real favourite.  Betting on this game was a tough call, with two strongly defensive teams that were going to give it their all. 


AI predictions from the popular Predictalator however favoured the Seahawks after running 50,000 simulations of the Super Bowl.  In 57.7 percent of those simulations, the Seattle Seahawks were able to best the New England Patriots.  Not all AI programs agreed with the Predictalator, however; amazingly, both Microsoft’s AI virtual assistant Cortana and EA’s Madden 15 NFL sim game predicted the outcome of this year’s Super Bowl. 


What is most amazing about this game though is how the Patriots won.  In the last two and a half minutes of the game, it should have been a simple matter for the Seahawks to score the winning touchdown.  In that last half yard, though, astounding events took place.  A rookie player named Malcolm Butler leapt in front of Russell Wilson’s pass, intercepting the ball in an astonishing move. 


This is in short the kind of amazing outcome which no one in the final minutes of the game saw coming.  Anyone placing an in-play bet during the latter part of the game could easily have lost money betting against the Patriots.  All told, ESPN Business handicapper Darren Rovell estimates that the last play alone was worth 5 billion dollars.  At least one gambler at the MGM in Las Vegas walked away with more than a million dollars in winnings after betting on the Patriots.


What can we learn from the amazing action and outcome of the Super Bowl XLIX?

•           No matter how well you think you know the odds, the human element can still surprise you.  Even though oddsmakers knew this was going to be a close game, it was still astounding that the Patriots won in the particular way that they did.

•           Even with tight odds, it is not impossible to make the right predictions.  EA’s Madden 15 NFL programmers made astoundingly good predictions about this year’s game.  They not only knew that the Patriots would win, but somehow managed to foresee that impossible last-minute turnaround as well as the final score of 28-24. 

•           With a pick ‘em game, you really need in-depth knowledge of both teams and players to make the right call.  It is not enough to just run simulations.  You have to know how the players themselves will react to certain situations.


Super Bowl 2015 was an incredibly exciting game, and for bettors with money on the line, it was a very tense one too.  The Patriots’ astounding last-minute win is a great reminder of the value of research in betting.  While most odds compilers didn’t see it coming, EA did.  That means they went the extra mile with their research, which took into account the human element, and not just statistics.  Whether you bet on NFL, UK Premiere League football, or any other sport, you too can come out on top when you do the hard work.


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