As the self-appointed Commish of the "By the Time I Get to Arizona Presidential Primary Pool," I have developed a set of rules. Pre-Feb. 5th, we'll pick one state at a time (except for Jan. 19, when we'll pick both NV and SC for the Republicans). I've based the scoring system on the principles of horse race betting (which I just read about on Wikipedia, so hopefully I'm using them correctly).
Here's how the scoring system will work:
Before each state's picks we'll determine the number of competitive candidates in that state. For the purposes of these picks, competitive means that they can actually come in first. For example, it looks like Iowa has 3 competitive candidates on our side (HRC-BO-JRE) and 2 on their side (Huck-Mitt). That number will be multiplied by 6 to get the number of points available for correctly picking the first-place finisher in that event. In the case of Iowa, it looks like there will be 18 points on our side and 12 for picking the GOP race. Second place picks will be worth 1/2 of what a first place pick is worth. A third-place pick will be 1/3 of a first-place pick and a fourth-place pick 1/4 of a first-place pick. In Iowa, the Democratic race would be worth a total of 37.5 (18+9+6+4.5) points and the Republican race would be worth a total of 25 (12+6+4+3) points.
When you pick the second-place finisher, you won't really be picking them to finish 2nd, but to finish somewhere in the top 2. The same goes for all picks below first-place. That way no one gets penalized for picking a correct top 4, but in the wrong order.
For example, suppose you pick the following:
and the actual results are:
Rather than receiving zero points, you would still be rewarded for picking Clinton in the top 2 (9 points), Obama in the top 3 (6 points), and Biden in the top 4 (4.5 points). You would receive 19.5 points. It's still very important to get your first-place pick right, but you don't get screwed if you're just one place off all the way down the list.
At least for Iowa and New Hampshire, I think we should pick the top 4 finishers. If the fields narrow considerably after that, we can switch to the top 3. By Feb. 5th, it might make sense to only pick the top 2.
I'll announce the official point totals for Iowa on Christmas Day and picks will be due by Dec. 27. I'll do the same for New Hampshire on Jan. 4th (day after Iowa) and picks will be due by midnight that night.
I'm thinking that we each throw in $20 and the winner (whomever has the most points after both nominations have been decided) will take the pot.