Some thoughts on the NBA

Written by SportsbookKS
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AP shares a few random thoughts about the NBA
I`m going to make a painful admission. Since I started sportsbetting seriously, my record on bets placed in the NBA is 102-107-2. Yes, you read that correctly. I am running at .483 Against The Spread. It`s definately not something I`m proud of, but it`s the truth. OK, so why am I doing so badly?

Well, first of all, I`m up $2300 on NBA spread bets over this period (nearly three seasons now) so I wouldn`t say I`m doing particularly badly. This is because I make big bets when I spot a good line and my base bet has been growing as I become more competant at handicapping (and my winning percentage has improved as well). But anyway, my record at picking games is slightly worse than tossing a coin (except that a coin isn`t going to get exactly 50% of the games right either, except in the very long run).

Why is this?

My first season, I bet way too many games. I thought that watching three or four games a week at a sports bar made me a basketball expert. I put money on a ridiculous number of games based on little more than gut feel, or a half assed theory. This is just plain stupid. Risking 11 to get 10 is not a winning proposition, unless you are going to win more than half the time. The bookies are very good at setting lines, so a lot of the time you are betting on a coinflip. Obviously, we`re looking for situations where the spread is out of whack with reality (which is another article in itself, or more likely a book). But it brings me to my second point.

The NBA is a tough league to handicap. Thirty teams playing an eighty two game schedule makes for 2460 regular season games. Each team has probably a half dozen or more players who matter to the ATS result. By the way, here`s a secret, unless you`re getting information about the marquee players from your friend who happens to be dating one of the team, the bookies have already factored it into the line. If you see it on SportsCenter, it`s almost worth betting the other way. But anyway, there`s a lot of information to deal with, and the bookies usually get it before you. It`s a lot of chances to throw money away just to have action on a game (and I did that a lot in my first year). You`re also dealing with guys who have egos the size of, well, their massive contracts. Sometimes these guys are sometimes going to go out there and just play half-assed basketball. Who knows why? Maybe they`re tired, maybe the coach didn`t stroke their egos enough in training, maybe they`re just a selfish little cry baby (yes Vince I`m talking about you).

I have a love hate relationship with NBA spread betting. It is very rare to find a situation where my line is more than a couple points out from Vegas. Usually it comes down to "well, I`m pretty sure it`s a 6.5 point game, not a 5.5 pointer." Like I said earlier, the bookies are very good at their job. This means that I`m pushing a lot of small edges, which has made for a lot of chewed up nails and one broken coffee table (don`t slam your fist down in disgust too hard when a heroic desperation three with 0.5seconds left lets the dogs cover a five point spread).

So why bother playing the NBA? Well, it is beatable. Even if you don`t have inside information, you`re playing (mostly) against bookies who want to set a line that will attract roughly even money on both sides (so they can pocket the vig). Everyone will develop their own little systems for evaluating lines, one of mine is to bet that the lines will slightly over-react to injury news about major players. Another is that the lines will slightly under-react to injury news about "minor" players, especially the backups for key players, there aren`t many players who put in four full quarters any more or coaches who will let them.

The other way of beating the NBA (well, all sports, but especially the NBA since your edge is so slim) is to pick your shots and swing for the fences. It`s the Warren Buffet philosophy of sports betting. Sure, I`ll try and push my percieved 1 point edges whenever I can, but you give me a game where I think the line is several points out of whack (or a game where I discover that one of the players just had a massive argument with his girlfriend and broke up) then I will gladly bet the Kelly amount. There`s another article about Kelly criteria, but basically it`s a bit of math that tells you how much you should bet with an X percent edge.

So, yes, beating the NBA is tough. So is just beating about any other sport. But if you`re willing to work, and think, it`s do able. I hope this article helped a little.


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