Zoltar is my NFL football prediction computer program. It uses reinforcement learning and a neural network. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #19 (wildcard playoff games) of the 2022 season.
Zoltar: fortyniners by 10 dog = seahawks Vegas: fortyniners by 10 Zoltar: chargers by 0 dog = jaguars Vegas: chargers by 1.5 Zoltar: bills by 10 dog = dolphins Vegas: bills by 10.5 Zoltar: vikings by 7 dog = giants Vegas: vikings by 3 Zoltar: bengals by 7 dog = ravens Vegas: bengals by 6.5 Zoltar: cowboys by 0 dog = buccaneers Vegas: cowboys by 3
Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is “significantly” different from Zoltar’s prediction. For this season I’ve been using a threshold of 4 points difference but in some previous seasons I used 3 points.
For week #19 Zoltar agrees closely with the Las Vegas point spread. The largest difference between Zoltar and Vegas is the Vikings vs. Giants game where Zoltar thinks the Vikings are 7 points better than the Giants, but Vegas thinks the Vikings are only 3 points better.
So, if Zoltar was forced to make a wager, he would bet on the Vegas favorite Vikings. The wager would win if the Vikings win by more than 3 points (i.e., 4 points or more), but the wager would lose if the Giants win by any score or if the Vikings win by less than 3 points. If the Vikings win by exactly 3 points, the wager is a push.
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.
In week #18, against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar went 2-1 using 4.0 points as the advice threshold.
For the season, against the spread, Zoltar is 58-34 (~63% accuracy).
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. In week #18, just predicting the winning team, Zoltar went 10-6 which is average. Vegas was 11-5 at just predicting the winning team.
My prediction system is named after the Zoltar fortune teller machine you can find in arcades. Fortune telling with a crystal ball has been around for over 2,000 years. It was described by ancient Roman Pliny the Elder as “crystallum orbis”. Almost all cultures have some form of fortune teller. Here are three results of Internet image searches, but I doubt that the costumes are historically accurate Left: “Russian fortune teller”. Center: “Chinese fortune teller”. Right: “Egyptian fortune teller”.