We've not had a proposition bet for a while, so here's the bet and a spiel to go with it:

*"If the margin at quarter time is a multiple of 6 points I'll pay you $5; if it's not, you pay me a $1. If the two teams are level at quarter-time it's a wash and neither of us pay the other anything.*

*Now quarter-time margins are unpredictable, so the probability of the margin being a multiple of 6 is 1-in-6, so my offering you odds of 5/1 makes it a fair bet, right? Actually, since goals are worth six points, you've probably got the better of the deal, since you'll collect if both teams kick the same number of behinds in the quarter.*

*Deal?"*

At first glance this bet might look reasonable, but it isn't. I'll take you through the mechanics of why, and suggest a few even more lucrative variations.

Firstly, taking out the drawn quarter scenario is important. Since zero is divisible by 6 - actually, it's divisible by everything but itself - this result would otherwise be a loser for the bet proposer. Historically, about 2.4% of games have been locked up at the end of the 1st quarter, so you want those games off the table.

You could take the high moral ground on removing the zero case too, because your probability argument implicitly assumes that you're ignoring zeroes. If you're claiming that the chances of a randomly selected number being divisible by 6 is 1-in-6 then it's as if you're saying something like the following:

*"Consider all the possible margins of 12 goals or less at quarter time. Now twelve of those margins - 6, 12, 18, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 54, 60, 66 and 72 - are divisible by 6, and the other 60, excluding 0, are not. So the chances of the margin being divisible by 6 are 12-in-72 or 1-in-6."*

In running that line, though, I'm making two more implicit assumptions, one fairly obvious and the other more subtle.

The obvious assumption I'm making is that every margin is equally likely. Demonstrably, it's not. Smaller margins are almost universally more frequent than larger margins. Because of this, the proportion of games with margins of 1 to 5 points is more than 5 times larger than the proportion of games with margins of exactly 6 points, the proportion of games with margins of 7 to 11 points is more than 5 times larger than the proportion of games with margins of exactly 12 points, and so on. It's this factor that, primarily, makes the bet profitable.

The tendency for higher margins to be less frequent is strong, but it's not inviolate. For example, historically more games have had a 5-point margin at quarter time than a 4-point margin, and more have had an 11-point margin than a 10-point margin. Nonetheless, overall, the declining tendency has been strong enough for the proposition bet to be profitable as I've described it.

Here is a chart of the frequency distribution of margins at the end of the 1st quarter.