# The Know-Nothing Oscar Pool

You can play here until March 4th!

Backstory: Since 2009, I’ve had an annual Oscars wager with my friend Ryan. From 2009 to 2014, Ryan always won.

Ryan’s advantage? He is much smarter than I am. (Smart friends: I don’t recommend it.) He’d go to BetFair.com and identify the favorite in each category. (For close races, he’d supplement with a little extra research.) While Ryan leveraged the wisdom of the crowds, I’d fall back on my own personal favorites and erratic judgment. I’d lose because I couldn’t keep myself from “clever” (read: stupid) underdog picks.

Then, in 2015 I devised a new scoring system to neutralize Ryan’s advantage. An Oscar pool for know-nothings like me.

Picks would be scored based on their probability of winning. If prediction markets gave a film a 1-in-2 chance of winning, then its victory was worth 2 points. If they gave it a 1-in-15 chance of winning, then its victory was worth 15 points.

This system has a simple mathematical property: it equalizes expected value. So you can follow any probabilistic strategy you like. Pick all favorites. Pick all longshots. Pick the nominees whose names make the most appealing anagrams (“Lady Bird” –> “I Dry Bald”; Phantom Thread” –> “Top Hardhat Men”; “The Post” –> “Hot Step”; “Get Out” –> “Toe Tug”).

In the long run, it will all return the same average total: 24 points a year.

Now, it didn’t matter that Ryan is a neurosurgery resident, busy saving lives by mastering the inner workings of the most complex organ in existence. None of that did him any good. What an idiot!

Anyway, this year, I am excited to open up the game to you, with the KNOW-NOTHING OSCAR POOL.
Here are five compelling reasons why you should participate:

The ultimate visionary will receive a custom-drawn Math with Bad Drawings cartoon!

The lazy visionary will receive a custom-drawn Math with Bad Drawings cartoon that takes me no more than 10 minutes to draw!

And the obscure visionary will receive a custom-drawn Math with Bad Drawings cartoon that is deliberately hard to understand!

NOTE: The probabilities will shift over time, but rest assured that your expected value will always remain 24 points. You can go back and edit your answers as often as you like.

Here’s the link again! Good luck, visionary.

## 11 thoughts on “The Know-Nothing Oscar Pool”

1. Hah, neurosurgeon: the fool!

2. Math yes Kioka Jackson

On Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 9:04 AM Math with Bad Drawings wrote:

> Ben Orlin posted: “You can play here until March 4th! Backstory: Since > 2009, I’ve had an annual Oscars wager with my friend Ryan. From 2009 to > 2014, Ryan always won. (Friends who are smarter than you: I don’t recommend > it.) Ryan’s advantage? He understood prediction market” >

3. Doug M says:

I only saw a handful of movies in the last year — and they lean heavily toward the Superhero genre.

The candidates are

Guardians of the Galaxy
Wonder Woman
Star Wars
Thor
Spider-Man

So from that list

Best Actress — Wonder Woman
Best Actor — Baby Groot
Best Picture — Star Wars

4. I rarely watch movies so I’m out, but I have the same problem with NCAA March Madness: when I pick clever, intelligent, prescient underdogs, mostly favorites make it to the final four, and when I pick all favorites, upsets are a dime-a-dozen. Can you do anything for ME?

p.s. to timewaster Ryan: the world is awash in neurosurgeons, get to work proving the Riemann Hypothesis

1. Doug M says:

Brain Surgery… it’s not like its rocket science.

In my younger days I had some friends working on Ph.D’s in Aero engineering, so I when I wrote that joke it was the other way around.

5. Viktor says:

Maybe it will average the outcome, but there will be inferior picks if you are going to win. If you are going to win, you need to score a lot of points, and since everybody will average on 24 points, you want something with a high variance, so that you sometimes score 48 points, sometimes 0. Its irrelevant whether you lose 25-24 or 25-0, so I guess having a high variance will give you more wins?

6. Really Brain Surgery.. Not much Rocket science specially for OFW 🙂