Aug 14, 2022, 12:56 am
By: Slade Long
If you are trying to win a single game in the PBR's Team format, how do you approach optional rerides? Does it matter? These are deeper questions than you might think, so let's check it out.
The specific situation we are talking about is when a rider stays on, but the bull performs under par. The rider receives a low score and a RR option. Is it best to keep the score or to take the option, and how does the team format affect this decision?
There are other reride situations, including fouls, falls, etc. They don't present the same dilemma of keeping a lower score vs. going for a better one, so we are not concerned with those here.
This issue of keeping a low score vs going for a higher one in standard PBR events is talked about a lot. Many people have opinions about it. In practice it doesn't happen often enough to make much of a difference over the course of a whole season. A rider could make the "wrong" decision 100% of the time and still win a world title. There's also not really a right or wrong decision, and you shouldn't think of it that way. It's varying degrees of risk vs reward.
In it's simplest form, the dilemma looks like this:
The relevant variables in your decision are
In general, when you are the sole decision maker you should ALWAYS take the reride option unless you are certain to win first with your low score or you are competing with a serious chronic injury. Here's why: When you enter a rodeo or bull riding you are betting on your ability to ride whatever bulls they have at that rodeo. You were willing to bet on yourself when you entered, so betting on yourself to stay on the reride should always be acceptable. This will also make you better at the mental game in the long run. Confidence in your ability is valuable in this sport, so there is minimal downside to always rolling the dice. For what it's worth most of the PBR Teams coaches thought this way during their own careers.
Now let's look at another variable that may affect the risk/reward ratio of the decision
Multi-round events introduce variables of their own as well
The biggest relevant variable in this is multi-round events. In a single round event, you are only going to get one score. If you get a score of 70, take the RR and end up with 85 you improved your total score 15 percentage points on a 0-100 scale. In a two-round event the same improvement represents 7.5% of your total score potential. In a three-round event, 5%. In a 5 round event, you made a 3% improvement overall.
In a multi-round event, the reward for improving your score in a single round is less attractive. The risk of not getting a score is amplified. The more the payout is tilted toward the aggregate, the more this applies. Multi-round events inherently favor the guys who stay on the most bulls, and the more rounds, the more of an edge these riders have.
So, multi-round events add a lot to the equation. At most events today you are better off keeping the score rather than taking the reride if you are solely concerned with winning (or placing high in) the aggregate. If they seem to be riding a higher than normal percentage of bulls at the event then you should lean toward taking the reride. Either way you are making a bet. If you keep the low score you are betting on being able to beat most of the field by riding more of your bulls. If it looks like a lot of guys are going to ride an equal number of their bulls as you, then you should opt for the highest score possible.
PBR Teams Competition
For the most part, each game in this format is an extremely condensed multi-round event. You have 5 riders per team, and the aggregate score of all riders on a team count. So team vs team is like a 5 header vs one opponent. You get on 5, they get on 5, and this all happens in a short amount of time.
From the team perspective you have to realize that there is nearly always going to be the opportunity to beat the opposing team by just riding more bulls than they do. Teams will rarely ride all 5 of their bulls. In the first 3 team events the best riding percentages for a single team were
The worst teams at those events:
All the other teams were somewhere in between. 50% is 2.5 out of 5 bulls. So if you want to be the best team in the league, all you have to do is get 3 of 5 ridden in every game.
Back to what to do with reride options... In this format there are a couple of weird rules regarding rerides. You typically aren't going to know what bull is offered and you certainly aren't going to have time to research it before you decide whether to put the guy who earned the RR or one of your alternates on him. That minimizes anything you can do to game the RR pen. For example, you KNOW what bull is coming and you also happen to know 1 of the 3 guys you have available to get on him happens to be 4 for 4 on him. That would greatly reduce the risk involved in taking the RR. It's unlikely you will be able to discover all that in the 30 seconds you have to decide.
Given all that, most teams will consider the no-thought-required approach and either ALWAYS take the RR or NEVER take the RR. Let's look at both.
If you ALWAYS take the RR in a world where riding 3 of 5 in a 5 header is top tier, then you will be disappointed most of the time. However you reserve the right to feel morally superior to teams opting to keep the low score, AND on occasion when the gamble pays off you may be knighted or something.
If you NEVER take the RR, it will work in your favor a lot and your chances of winning the game by riding more bulls than the opposing team goes way up. You will lose some games where you ride the same number of bulls as the opposing team as well. You will not be knighted, but you may be the subject of rules committee meetings you won't be attending.
If you choose not to be an extremist and to do whatever makes the most sense at the time, you need to know some things. You need to study each game beforehand - your own matchups and your opponents matchups. Do you expect to struggle to ride 3 or even 2? Do you think the other team will have an easy time getting to 3 or even 4? You need a realistic expectation of how you expect the game to play out - how many bulls you will ride vs how many the other team will ride. If you feel you have the advantage in any given game, then keep the low score every time. If you feel the other team has the advantage, then roll the dice and take the RR every time. Keep in mind your decision should be based on your team's chances of riding one more bull than the opposing team. Scores don't matter. If you keep a low score you are betting on being able to beat the other team by riding more out of 5 than they do. If you look at the first 44 games (including preseason events) 82% of them ended with one team having more qualified rides than the other - 36 out of 44 - so the strategy of beating the other team by riding more bulls than they do is viable. It is what happens most of the time. If you go this route, everything you know about the RR pen helps. You can have some idea of what bulls are there before decision time even, and if a gift falls into your lap, take advantage of it.
Granted, all of this seems like a lot compared to the ALWAYS or NEVER approaches, but it is nothing compared to the amount of research and recon other team sports do.