Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 6, NO. 6 / OCTOBER 1987

Football Predictor

Beat the Vegas spread on NFL winners

by Bill Marquardt and David Cowles

Beat the Las Vegas oddsmakers by picking the winning pro football point spreads with your Atari! Football Predictor had an impressive 59.6% season for 1986. This BASIC program works on Atari 8-bit computers with at least 32K memory and a disk drive.

Is it really possible for your Atari to outguess the Las Vegas pro football oddsmakers? We think so, thanks to Football Predictor. For the National Football League's 1986 regular season, this Atari 8-bit program outguessed the official Las Vegas point spread 53 times versus 36 losses—a winning percentage of 59.6% against the spread.

According to scholars of gambling lore, any method that wins more than 58% is considered successful. In other words, if you managed your cash sensibly you could have made money betting with Football Predictor during the overall 1986 regular NFL season.

(Of course, the past successes of any prediction method don't guarantee future success. The authors and Antic Publishing disclaim all responsibility for whatever betting risks you may choose to take.—ANTIC ED)

Football Predictor's 59.6% success rate for 1986 is particularly impressive because it relies on a single statistical relationship and requires you to make minimal data entry for its predictions. Just enter each NFL game's net passing yardage, net rushing yardage, and points scored both for and against each team.

You can get these required statistics from the sports section of your local newspaper. Allow about 45 minutes each week for data entry.


Type in Listing 1, FPRED.BAS, check it with TYPO II and SAVE a copy before you RUN it. (The program is long, but none of the lines are especially hard to type.) Then join most other Americans in waiting impatiently for the first week of the pro football season.

Football Predictor covers all 28 current teams in the National Football League. But it could easily be modified to include any future expansion teams. Just change the variable T in line 110 to the new number of teams, then add the new team names to the DATA statements at the bottom of the listing.

Keep your working copy of the program on its own disk with only the DOS.SYS and DUP.SYS files for company. Leave the disk in drive 1 when you use it, because the program accesses the drive often. As the season progresses, 18 more files will be added to the disk.


Screenshot The following discussion of the main menu selections will lead you through the operations of Football Predictor.

Choose this after you assemble all the required data from your sports pages. One at a time, Football Predictor will ask you for each item. After you type the last item, the program makes a data file for that week, updating both the season totals and week number files. We strongly suggest backing up your disk each week.

After typing at least one week's statistics, make your predictions with option 2. The screen changes, showing the game number, and displays your choices in the top half of the screen. On the bottom half are lines labeled "Home Team" and "Visitor," with an arrow prompting for the requested information.

To finish your predictions, you'll need your sports pages' schedule of the following week's games and the Las Vegas spread. Press [OPTION] until a home team appears, then press [SELECT]. Do the same for the visitor. The program will quickly predict a winner and a point spread. If you make a mistake, start over by pressing [ESCAPE]. After entering at least one matchup, pressing [START] prints your predicted scores.

To predict each game's outcome relative to the Las Vegas line, compare the program's predictions with the point spread in the newspaper. If the Predictor favors one team above the published spread by at least 4 1/2 points, select that team to beat the spread.

For instance, if the line favors the 49ers over the Redskins by 2 points but the Predictor favors them by 6 1/2 points, pick the 49ers to beat the spread. Likewise, if the line favors the Redskins by 2 but the Predictor favors the 49ers by 2 1/2, go with the 49ers again. This 4 1/2 point "fudge factor" was used to obtain our 59.6% success rate.

Not every game played can be predicted against the spread. Only consider betting on games having a significant edge. One week in 1986, all 14 of the Predictor's predictions were less than 4 1/2 points away from the Las Vegas line.

Follow the prompts to print the statistics—either to the screen or the printer—for any or all teams during a given week. If you choose to revise incorrect statistics entered earlier, the program reads each week's data file for the season and recalculates the file showing the season totals. This tends to take a while.

This item is similar to selection 3 except that it displays or prints totals for the season to date. Also, to revise the statistics directly, you must use selection 3 to correct any faulty data for the appropriate week(s).

  • 5—QUIT
Just what it says: takes you back to the "READY" prompt.


Basically, the program calculates each team's average number of offensive and defensive yards per point and then divides the results by two. Our method differs from standard approaches by matching the two opposing teams directly against each other, instead of comparing each to a standard derived from the totals of all teams in the league.

No other factors are considered—not even home field advantage. So feel free to experiment: the program was written so as to be modified easily by any experienced BASIC programmer. If your modified version has a spectacularly successful 1987 season, send the modification to Antic to he considered for possible publication.


Strategic Simulations, Inc.
1046 N. Rengstorff Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94043
(415) 964-1353
$39.95, Atari 8-bit, 48K disk

Activision Inc.
P.O. Box 7826
Mountain View, CA 94039
(415) 964-0410
$39.95, Atari ST

David Cowles and Bill Marquardt are computer professionals for the U.S. Postal Service in San Francisco. Dave originally wrote the Predictor on his IBM PC in 1984, and Bill converted it for the Atari and Apple II.

Listing 1  FBPRED.BAS Download