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Best of Howard Schwartz

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College hoops workbook has trends; Without a Tour unique

22 November 2007

Just in time for college basketball's upcoming season we see the publication and arrival of RME's 2007 NCAA Basketball Workbook (241 pages, 8x11 plastic spiralbound, $26), and for the handicapper who enjoys tinkering in the baseball off-season we have a nice work titled Without a Tour (How to Pick a Winning Team) by Thomas Miller (130 pages, paperbound, $30).

The RME hoops record keeper is invaluable to those who pay attention to streaks, home court advantage, conference play, the travel factor and rivalries, among other factors. The book has an index in alphabetical order from Air Force to Youngstown State. Many smaller schools are also listed, including Central Michigan; Delaware, Louisiana at Lafayette; Montana and Montana State; UC Davis; Wisconsin at Green Bay plus the Ivy League schools.

You'll be able to see the dates games will be played and where; you get room to list the opening and closing line, the total number (should one be offered), the final score, room to record the final score, the opportunity to check if a team covered or if the total went over or under and finally, what the team's overall record is, game by game.

One page is devoted to each team, with room for post-season play. You'll be able to find each team's internet address and have a quick summarized look at how each team performed overall in 2006. For example: the team's overall record, records against the spread at home or away, how often the team was a home or road favorite or dog and how teams did after a straight up or against the spread win or loss.

Some minor errors mar the book, but not to worry, you'll understand the word opponent is not spelled oppenent and that Niagara is not Niagra; Notre Dame is not Norte Dame and Vanderbilt is not Vandervilt. These are obviously typos overlooked in favor of getting this excellent work into your hands early.

Thomas Miller is trained in measurement theory, statistics and economics. He teaches at the University of Wisconsin.

What his book, Without a Tout (How to Pick a Winning (Baseball) Team does is teach you how to bet rationally -- "betting when it makes sense to" and "when the odds are in our factor" through data-driven models.

Miller's book is fresh stuff -- he completed it near the end of the 2007 pennant race. He's read dozens of books related to the mathematics of the game including the great 1966 (and tough to find) Percentage Baseball by Earnshaw Cook.

Through logic, mathematical models, charts and examples, Miller takes us through a virtual college-level course of baseball betting. Along the way, we learn about how bookmakers operate, about the money line and run line and totals betting and why simulating play between teams is a key factor in picking winners. We learn about Poisson probabilities for runs scored, strengths of teams before and after the All Star Game, distribution of positive differential runs, home, then visiting team earned run average and runs allowed; ways to do research with data and models and how to search for explanatory variables in baseball.

Also should you ask, Miller presents traditional regression models for runs scored and the predictive accuracy of the model.

Guaranteed Bill James, the great statistical guru himself will enjoy Miller's book, as will anyone interested in improving on or experimenting with new ideas on how to selectively choose games to bet on.

This may well be one of the finest resources ever for anyone now betting on or considers himself a pro at betting on baseball. I doubt Miller will leave academia in Wisconsin and open up a sports advisory (investment) service in Nevada, and I do hope his next book focus on football.

On a scale of 10, I give Miller a 9.9. Any baseball bettor worth his salt should have a copy in his hands before the 2008 season begins.

Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com