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Favored to win World Series

25 February 2016

It’s spring training time in major-league baseball, and for gamblers that brings talk of odds to win the World Series, who’s favored and what that actually means.

The Chicago Cubs are a hot topic of conversation after their breakthrough season a year ago, when they won 97 regular-season games, beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Divisional Series, then lost to the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series.

One futures book I checked online lists the Cubs with the shortest World Series odds at 15-2, followed by the San Francisco Giants (8-1), Mets (17-2), Boston Red Sox (21-2), Toronto Blue Jays (13-1), Cardinals(14-1), Washington Nationals (14-1), Los Angeles Dodgers (14-1) and Kansas City Royals (29-2), to take in everyone at 15-1 or better among MLB’s 30 teams.

Many sportswriters and broadcasters have taken that to mean the Cubs are favored to win the World Series, or Las Vegas expects the Cubs to be the last team standing.

That’s not quite what it all means. There are a couple of important things to remember when looking at futures book odds:

  • The odds are not necessarily the oddsmaker’s opinion on who is going to win. They reflect bettors’ opinions, too, and are designed to attract wagers in proportions that will guarantee a profit for the house, no matter who wins.

  • Futures books are designed with extremely high house edges. I ran the full table of World Series odds for all teams through the calculator at wizardofodds.com, and came up with a house edge of 57.78%.

What that means is the odds against winning the World Series should be longer for most teams. Winning wagers should pay more. Serious gamblers don’t play the futures books and stick to betting individual games, where they get a much lower house edge.

  • The Cubs are a special case. It’s well known that odds on the Cubs tend to be a little shorter than they should be by objective measures. That stems from a combination of baseball fans in general wanting that historic sportsbook ticket in case the Cubs win it all for the first time since 1908 and Chicago being Las Vegas’ largest fly-in feeder market, leading to Cubs fans betting down the odds.

  • Even if we take the odds at face value, it’s drastically overstating the case to suggest a team listed at 15-2 is favored to win the World Series. Instead, it’s saying there are two chances in 17 the team would win it all – the Cubs have an 11.8% chance of being World Champions.

Another way to look at it is that if the season were run 17 teams with everyone having the same talent they do now, the Cubs would expect to emerge on top in two of those seasons. In 15 seasons, the champion would be someone else.

What if we took the top two teams the Cubs and Giants. At 8-1 odds, the Giants would be expected to win once per each nine times the race was run. Let’s put that and the Cubs’ 15-2 on the same scale by multiplying the Cubs’ 17-season trial by the Giants’ nine-season trial. We get 153 seasons, in which the Cubs would be expected to win 18 times, the Giants 17 times, and someone else 118 times.

No one team could be said to be favored to win the World Series. All teams have a greater chance of not winning than they do of winning. The Cubs are just first in a list of 30 underdogs.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
Related Links
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Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski