The Hilton Consensus
                                                                             “Everything is relative.”  -- Albert Einstein

This past week Minnesota was selected by 145 contestants.  Only 16 contestants picked against Minnesota by selecting Arizona.  Despite the 129-contestant differential between those picking Minnesota and those picking Arizona, Minnesota did not make it into the Top 5 Consensus posted around the net.  Instead, Tennessee was installed in 5th Place in the Consensus with 148 contestants picking Tennessee, and 72 contestants picking against Tennessee, for a differential of only 76 contestants.  The reason Tennessee was installed above Minnesota in the Consensus is that Tennessee has 148 contestants pick the team, while three fewer contestants picked Minnesota.  Which would you say was the stronger true public pick?

The number of contestants picking a team, without consideration of the number of people selecting the opposite side of the game, measures popularity of the game, not consensus of public handicapping opinion.  The line is set in the hope of splitting public opinion.  What those who want to go with or against public opinion are seeking are those games in which the public believes that one team is significantly more likely to cover the spread than the other.  

If the line does it job and splits public opinion, we learn nothing except that the line is accurate for bookmaking purposes.  There are 516 entrants in the Hilton Contest this year.  Of those, 220 made a selection in the Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh game.  Only 161 contestants made a selection in the Minnesota vs. Arizona game.  That tells us that the Tennessee game was more popular than the Minnesota game.  We are NOT, however, seeking the more popular game.  We are seeking the more popular team compared to its opponent.  Tennessee was picked by 67% if those choosing to make a selection on the game.  Minnesota was picked by a huge 90% of those choosing to make a selection on that game.  That tells us that, even though neither line is as accurate in splitting public sentiment as it should be, the Tennessee line is doing a much better job than the Minnesota line.  

If you were a bookmaker, which line would you believe needs a bigger adjustment?  It would be Minnesota, of course.  If you use the consensus for information the games you are looking for are the games in which the line is doing the worst job.  Consensus exists in relation to the teams playing in the individual game, and NOT in relation to all the games on the board.  A game in there is a 90% consensus on a single team should not have been off the Top 5 consensus list, it should have been up at #1 with its 90% consensus to one side of the game.  

The method to be used to calculate the correct and most useful consensus is to subtract the highest number of picks in each game from the lower number of picks on the opposite side.  The greater the differential, the stronger the public consensus is on that team.

Below is the Consensus List as it existed in the 5th Week of the regular season NFL and the true Consensus List calculated correctly:

POSTED CONSENSUS LIST
(the number next to each team is the number of contestants selecting that team)

1.    Philadelphia (174) –2.5 over Buffalo (18)  Consensus: Philadelphia 90.6%
2.    Cincinnati (162)    +2.5 over  Jaguars (46)  Consensus  Cinci 77.9%
3.    Jets (158)  +9 over New England (51)  Consensus: Jets  75.6%
4.    Atlanta (157) +6 over Green Bay (91)  Consensus:  Atlanta 63.3%
5.    Tennessee (148) +3.5 over Pittsburgh (72)  Consensus:  Tenn 67.3%

TRUE CONSENSUS LIST

1.    Philadelphia (174) –2.5 over Buffalo (18)  Consensus:  Philadelphia 90.6%
2.    Minnesota (145)  -2.5 over Arizona (16)  Consensus:  Minnesota 90.1%
3.    Giants (115) –9.5 over Seattle (32)  Consensus:  Giants 78.2%
4.    Cincinnati (162)  +2.5 over Jaguars (46)  Consensus:  Cinci 77.9%
5.    Jets (158) +9 over New England (51)  Consensus:  Jets 75.6%

The result on both lists was 2-2 with a push at the Hilton line or a loss at the line most people got of only +7.5 on the Jets.  The results are not necessarily the same every week.  If you are someone who uses the public consensus to predict line movement, or to make your plays for or against, it is important to use the true consensus.  

It is my belief that the public will neither win nor lose often enough to create an advantage.  The bookmaker earns his profit from the vig, not from beating the bettors.  The bookmaker makes a profit from the vig because the public consistently wins less than the 52.5% rate required to beat the bookmaker’s commission.  You are no better off betting against the public than betting with them.  You will lose the vig on both sides.  

The public consensus from the Hilton Contest is important, however, as a predictor of the direction in which the line is likely to move.  In fact, there is some evidence that one of the purposes of the Contest for the Hilton is the perfection of their line.  Accurately predicting line moves is important to a determination as to whether to bet earlier or wait, and as to the probability of a middling opportunity.  

The lines in the Hilton Contest come out early in the week.  Philadelphia moved from –2.5 up to –3.  Minnesota moved from –2.5 all the way to –3.5, with the all-important #3 in the middle.  The Giants moved from –9.5 up to the key number of –10.  The Bengals moved down to +1, although late information sent it back to +2.5.  The Jets moved from +9 all the way down to the key number of +7 in many places.  The Jets lost by exactly and the move meant the difference between a push and a loss.  The books do not base their line moves on the number of people playing on a game compared with other games, but rather on the imbalance of action within the game itself.  Bookmakers love popular games with action on both sides, but they hate games with extreme one-sided action.    

                                                This Week’s Monday Night Game

The Monday Night game between Chicago and Detroit is the third most accurate line in the Contest as far as public opinion is concerned.  Detroit was picked by 133 Contestants, but Chicago was picked by 91, for a difference of just 42 contestants and a consensus of just 59% toward Detroit.  As if to confirm the closeness of contestant opinion, the entrant currently ranked #1 after Sunday’s selections has picked Detroit –5 ½, while the current #2 in the Contest likes Chicago +5.5.  The line is currently –6 ½ or –7, and will likely be at –7 by game time.  Whether or not the top contestant, Sans Souci still would like Detroit at –6 ½ or –7 is unknown, but the current second place contestant, SamWins must now love Chicago even more.  Public opinion, however, seems to be well split, with a normal bias toward the favorite.