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Projection systems and oddsmakers have a lot more in common than you might think.

Picture a veteran oddsmaker grinding away in a smoke-filled backroom, sweating over stacks of scribbled notes between puffs from a cigar. He knows all and trusts his gut feeling to come up with the casino’s lines for each day. That’s a romantic notion we’ve all seen portrayed in movies and on television, but it’s very far from reality these days. If there is a backroom, it’s more likely to be smoke-free and filled with computer monitors and advanced degrees. Analytics, not guts, drive sports-betting lines.

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Seven bets where PECOTA could beat the oddsmakers.

In retrospect, it was actually pretty easy to take PECOTA with me to Las Vegas over the weekend. When I heard that its guardian, our own Colin Wyers, seemed to have acute grade III avian sniffles on the Cubs season preview podcast Friday, I figured he’d be an easy target for burglary. And when I went to lift PECOTA, he’d already passed out, presumably from fake and/or real outrage over Tony Campana and/or Luis Valbuena. You can’t be sure.

Anyway, once the not-so-brazen heist was complete, PECOTA and I were off to Vegas, and let me tell you: best travel companion in the history of ever. It—actually “he” if it’s named after Bill Pecota, right?—doesn’t hog the armrest on the flight, quietly whirrs instead of snoring across the hotel room, and doubles as a tip calculator. Really, you couldn’t ask for much more.

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