Zoltar is my NFL football prediction computer program. It uses reinforcement learning and a neural network. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #1 of the 2021 season. These predictions are tentative, in the sense that it usually takes Zoltar about three weeks to hit his stride.
Zoltar: buccaneers by 6 dog = cowboys Vegas: buccaneers by 7.5 Zoltar: falcons by 2 dog = eagles Vegas: falcons by 3.5 Zoltar: bills by 4 dog = steelers Vegas: bills by 6.5 Zoltar: panthers by 6 dog = jets Vegas: panthers by 5 Zoltar: vikings by 0 dog = bengals Vegas: vikings by 3 Zoltar: colts by 2 dog = seahawks Vegas: seahawks by 2.5 Zoltar: lions by 2 dog = fortyniners Vegas: fortyniners by 7.5 Zoltar: texans by 6 dog = jaguars Vegas: jaguars by 3 Zoltar: titans by 6 dog = cardinals Vegas: titans by 23 Zoltar: redskins by 3 dog = chargers Vegas: chargers by 1 Zoltar: chiefs by 6 dog = browns Vegas: chiefs by 6 Zoltar: saints by 2 dog = packers Vegas: saints by 4.5 Zoltar: dolphins by 0 dog = patriots Vegas: patriots by 3 Zoltar: giants by 4 dog = broncos Vegas: broncos by 2.5 Zoltar: rams by 5 dog = bears Vegas: rams by 7.5 Zoltar: ravens by 0 dog = raiders Vegas: ravens by 4.5
Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is “significantly” different from Zoltar’s prediction. In mid-season I use 3.0 points difference. For this first week of the season, I went a bit more conservative and used 4.0 points difference or more as the advice criterion.
At the beginning of the season, because of Zoltar’s initialization and other algorithms, Zoltar is strongly biased towards Vegas underdogs.
1. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Colts against the Seahawks.
2. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Lions against the 49ers.
3. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Texans against the Jaguars.
4. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Cardinals against the Titans.
5. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Giants against the Broncos.
6. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Raiders against the Ravens.
For example, a bet on the Vegas underdog Colts against the Seahawks will pay off if the Colts win by any score, or if the favored Seahawks win but by less than 2.5 points (in other words, win by 2 points or fewer, in other words, win by 1 point or 2 points).
Theoretically, if you must bet $110 to win $100 (typical in Vegas) then you’ll make money if you predict at 53% accuracy or better. But realistically, you need to predict at 60% accuracy or better.
Just for fun, I track how well Zoltar does when just trying to predict just which team will win a game. This isn’t useful except for parlay betting. I’ll post results next week.
Zoltar sometimes predicts a 0-point margin of victory. There are three such games in week #1 (Vikings-Bengals, Dolphins-Patriots, Ravens-Raiders). In those situations, to pick a winner (only so I can track raw number of correct predictions) in the first few weeks of the season, Zoltar picks the home team to win (Bengals, Patriots, Raiders). After that, Zoltar uses his algorithms to pick a winner.
My system is named after the Zoltar fortune teller machine that you can find in arcades. Arcade Zoltar is named after the Zoltar machine that appeared in the 1988 movie “Big”. I suspect that movie Zoltar was named after the 1960s arcade fortune teller machine Zoltan.