Category Archives: Games, Sports, Fun

What’s the expected value of your Powerball ticket?

As the Powerball jackpot grows to over $300 million, we start to wonder if maybe buying a ticket is “worth it.” While the lottery is “worth it” in that ticket sales goes to things like state education, buying tickets is typically not worth it for yo because the projected payoff is far less than the ticket price.

The concept of Expected Value is a central idea in probability and statistics and refers to a weighted average outcome. For our Powerball example, the expected value equals the probability of getting each combination of winning numbers, multiplied by the payoff of the combinations.

Spreadsheet Inputs

The Powerball website has a table with the odds and the payouts of each winning combination of numbers, making our job relatively easy.

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We can transcribe these into a spreadsheet:

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Spreadsheet output

There isn’t much logic to this one. First we convert the odds column into probability, by taking one over the odds plus one.

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Then we multiply the probabilities with the respective payouts by using the Sumproduct() Function:

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Since Powerball tickets cost $2, it seems we’re still losing about 65 cents on each ticket even with the jackpot above $300 million.

It looks even worse given the $302 million is the simple sum of annuity payments, while the cash value is much less at $187.3 million.

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That takes us down to 96 cents.

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Taking into account a 35% tax rate would then take us down to 62 cents. And then there’s the chance that there are multiple jackpot winners, resulting in a split (we won’t get into that one here, but check out this fivethirtyeight post for more). Finally, let’s use the Goalseek function in excel to see when it becomes worth it to buy a lottery ticket taking into account a 35% tax bracket.

Pull up Goalseek from the Data Tab –> What-If Analysis –> Goal Seek

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Then we set the after tax expected value cell (D16) to $2, by changing the jackpot cell (B5). Basically Goalseek is Excel’s functionality for “guessing and checking”, for those who are not as algebraically inclined…

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The answer? $806 million! And that isn’t accounting for potential splits which is pretty likely once the jackpot gets that high.

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Play Jeopardy at home with this Mobile Spreadsheet

This is the third in our three-part series of designing spreadsheets entirely on our mobile devices. Part 1 was a New Year’s resolution keeper and Part 2 was a weighted lottery to make a group decision on where to go for lunch. Today we’ll build a spreadsheet on the iPad that allows you and your friends to play along with the Jeopardy TV show, all while keeping score for a friendly competition.

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Track New Year’s Resolutions on Mobile Sheets

This is the first in a series of posts focused on the Google Sheets app on our mobile phone, rather than the typical desktop spreadsheets. We use the mobile Google Sheets app to set our New Year’s Resolutions and track what percentage of days we have fulfilled our promises. Hopefully, having this tracker on our phone and nearby at all times makes it slightly easier to fulfill our resolutions! Continue reading

Build a Secret Santa Spreadsheet

Christmas is here again, and while we at SpreadsheetSolving appreciate the festive spirit, our practical side always wonders “does every single friend need a gift from each of their other friends?”. And… “why can’t we just give cash?”

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The game Secret Santa somewhat lessens this gift giving burden among a large group of people. In this game, each person is secretly assigned one other person in the group to give a gift to. Typically, when the person opens their gift, they try to guess who gave it to them. Great fun is had by all (in theory).

We can create a simple spreadsheet to set up the random assignment of people to others in a group. First we enter in a hypothetical list of names: Continue reading

Monte Carlo Simulation – Fantasy Football playoff predictor

How likely will you make the fantasy football playoffs? It’s week 11 of the Fantasy Football season, which means there’s only three more weeks until the Fantasy Football playoffs. All your hard work up to this point – drafting your team, closely following daily fantasy football podcasts and injury reports, and agonizing over who to play in your Flex spot – rests upon what happens in these next few weeks. Continue reading

Build a sports league power ratings spreadsheet

Need a way to track results and calculate power ratings for your tennis, ping pong, chess, Magic: the Gathering, or video and board game leagues?

As you might guess from much of the content posted over the past couple years, we at Spreadsheetsolving are huge fans of sports and games. There’s something about competition that sharpens the senses and motivates you to do your best. There’s also something satisfying about there being a clear winner and a loser when the game is over.

So what can you do when you’ve organized a group to play tennis, ping pong, magic, etc. and you want a system to track results and assign people ratings based on their match histories?

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How to analyze a nonprofit Form 990 with a spreadsheet

“The more you give, the more you get, that’s being alive” – The Money Song, Avenue Q

Charitable giving serves a valuable purpose  in  our society. It allows organizations in health, education, social services and others to provide benefits to people who otherwise couldn’t afford them. It allows people who have built up wealth to give back and make a difference. The federal government even subsidizes charitable giving by allowing donations to be deducted from income reported for taxes (effectively kicking in up to 39.6% of each donation). It’s a great system that is meant to fund those people and organizations in need. At least that is how it should be. Continue reading

Pick up basketball: Should you shoot more 2 pointers or 3 pointers when you play winners’ take?

The NBA basketball season just started last week, and the three point shot is having its moment. Despite some high profile doubters, the Warriors are the reigning NBA champions due to very impressive three point shooting. Also, the total number of three pointers taken in the NBA has steadily risen over the past 35 years.

Is it better to take a three pointer or a two pointer? The theory behind this is pretty simple, and can be done without a spreadsheet. Because a three pointer is worth 50% more than a two pointer, if a team can hit three pointers with at least 2/3 the percentage that they hit two pointers, then they would be better off taking more three pointers. Continue reading

A Simple Fantasy Football Auction Draft Spreadsheet

Last year, we demonstrated how someone can make a fantasy football draft spreadsheet to help make the best decision in each round of a traditional snake draft.  While most leagues use snake draft, eventually you might be faced with a league where someone suggests an auction draft.  They might cite something like this article to make their case.  At  first you might feel intimidated, but once you remember that every auction round is just a data driven decision, and that spreadsheets are great at solving data driven decisions, you can build something to give yourself the best chance to succeed! Continue reading

How to Steal Baseball Signs with Spreadsheets

Back when I was in 11th grade, I was one of the benchwarmers on the high school baseball team. Aside from needing to be ready to go in for pinch running duties, we also got assigned various tasks like statkeeper, 1st base coach, foul ball retriever and batboy (that one was the worst). Everyone left over got assigned the vague job of sign-stealing. Usually our attempts to steal signs were futile – between the wide array of touches, wipes and tugs, there was just too much going on to really keep track. But what if there were some way of using spreadsheets to enhance our sign-stealing efforts?

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What would the Lakers’ record be if Kobe Bryant was an average shooting guard?

The Lakers are off to a rough start this year – through 9 games they are 1-8, good enough for last place in the Western Conference. In this spreadsheet problem solving example, we’ll use spreadsheets to answer a pertinent question – if the legendary Kobe Bryant played like an average shooting guard, how would the Lakers have fared this year? Continue reading