Thursday, August 28, 2008

Olympic Pick ‘Em Facebook App

During the Olympics, Facebook users could participate in predicting gold, silver, and bronze medal winners for every event. To play, you picked a country to represent and then you made selections. The game gave you an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface for selecting the medal picks for each event (there were a lot of events). You were awarded 8 points for correct gold medal predictions, 4 points for silver, and 1 for bronze. In the end, there was an individual winner (the most points earned) and a country winner (the most points earned representing the same country).myPicks Beijing screen shotWell, I joined the fray a bit late (sort of like starting a marathon when the leaders were already at mile 8 or 9) and I fumbled about a bit before I figured out a good strategy. (For example, I quickly realized that, just like horse racing, predicting the actual gold-silver-bronze winners in the correct order was a lot harder than just identifying favorites. You get 0 points if you pick the top three in the wrong order.)

A game is meant to be competitive, so I wanted to give it a go. However, I couldn’t afford to spend hours researching the top 20, 10, or even 5 candidates. Well, after a few missteps (my pick rate was a dismal 20%), I developed a system that worked pretty well. I finished 22 overall and my pick rate improved to 31%. My country, Gabon, finished in 26th place. (I was the only player representing Gabon. Why I picked Gabon is a topic for another post.)

First of all, the quickest way to determine the top competitors is to use the online betting sites. Here you can see the odds. Of course, not all events have odds and I used 5 or 6 different sites. Now, here’s my system. If the top candidate was a clear favorite, I put the top pick for gold and the second pick for both silver and bronze. If the top candidate’s odds were only slightly better than the second-best odds, I put the top candidate in all three slots. There’s nothing worse in picking the top 2, but switching their order. So, I easily sacrificed the possibility of getting 12 points (all correct), by assuring I would probably just get 8, maybe only get 4, and possibly just get 1. And, sometimes, I still got 0 points.

For the tournament medals, such as soccer or basketball, you could change your final picks up to an hour before the medal matches. So, for basketball, for example, you already knew the gold medal match was between the U.S. and Argentina, and the bronze was also down to just two teams. In that case, I went ahead a made predictions for each medal. (Even a 50% choice wasn’t always good enough and some of them I chose the same team for both gold and silver.)

All and all, the system worked well and now I’m ready for myPicks London in 2012. The application was build using zembly. Here’s more about the application on zembly. Let the games conclude!

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