The inside line from
by Simon Noble
After a grueling 82-game regular season, the NBA playoffs are finally here,
which is one of the busiest betting events every year. During the post season
many sharper players shift their focus from sides and totals to something easier
to beat: playoff series wagers.
Betting on the winner of a series often provides a bigger return on
investment than betting on a straight side. Consider this hypothetical: two
fairly equal teams are playing a best of seven series at a neutral site. One can
bet on any of the seven games at Pick’em, or the winner of the series. From
basic handicapping, every bettor knows that the two teams aren’t equal and
that one of the teams should win each game about 52% of the time. The fair
moneyline for each game is (-52/48 * 100) = -108.3. Taking advantage of the
10-cent reduced juice lines at Pinnacle Sportsbook will usually give bettors a
marginal play, while betting at a traditional sportsbook’s 20-cent lines will
almost always leave players making negative wagers on NBA sides.
Considering the series play, the team handicapped as a favorite will win the
series about 54.3% of the time. This is the danger bookmakers face when
handicapping series – small mistakes in the line compound themselves, giving
the players better opportunities than found just betting the games themselves.
The odds in this example are similar to what one would expect if San Antonio
and Dallas meet in the second round of the playoffs using Sagarin’s power
ratings – the Spurs would most likely be a moderate favorite at home, and a
small dog on the road. Unfortunately, blindly using power ratings doesn’t work
as well in the playoffs. Some teams, especially those that started the season
slow and finished strong, will outperform their power rating. Understanding
situational factors is critical not just to playoff game betting, but mid-series
betting as well. Two examples being that home court advantage increases in a
game 7 and that teams that get blown out usually play better than after losing a
Another helpful tip about mid-series betting is to pass on long-shots down 3
games to 0. There’s been 63 times where a team was up 3-0 and no NBA team down
3-0 has ever comeback to win the series. The great comeback requires more than
just winning 4 evenly matched games as the team up 3-0 is not only superior
team, but will likely play 2 out of the 4 games at home. Consider the current
Detroit-Milwaukee series. Detroit at home is a 13:1 favorite. On the road,
Detroit will be better than a 2:1 favorite. If Milwaukee gets down 3-0 and the
market prices are right, the Bucks chances of completing the first “grand-slam”
series comeback are (1/14)(1/14)(1/3)(1/3), or 1764 to 1 against.
Whenever playing futures, bettors should also know how much juice they’re
paying. How can one figure this out? The Pinnacle Sports Book homepage provides
a calculator where you can type in the moneylines and it will calculate the
juice. Players who aren’t used to higher moneylines often mistakenly believe
they’re paying more juice, since the two moneylines are further apart. If you
see a series priced at -480/+440 at PinnacleSports.com, the house edge is only
1.26% – much less than the 1.92% edge on a MLB game with -104/-104 pricing. If
you want to know how much juice another sportsbook is charging, use the
calculator and compare.
A simple trend to remember with series or mid-series betting is to never
underestimate the result of the first game in the series. The winner of the
first game in a series ultimately takes the series 79% of the time.
Bettors should also be careful with the size of bets to avoid hedging. At
Pinnacle Sports Betting there are regular patterns in futures betting. Usually
players who bet the long shots often bet against their initial future once it
has equity, trying to “lock in a profit”. For example, let’s say a bettor
has the Indiana Pacers to win the series at +320 and the New Jersey Nets
(Indiana’s opponent) are a -240 favorite in game 7. Many players with Indiana
series bets would bet on the Nets in game 7. It’s fine to bet on the Nets if
you think that’s “the right side”, but it’s a mistake to bet New Jersey
just to hedge a future bet on the Pacers. If you’re in a position where you
need to hedge, you may have wagered too much on Indiana initially. Hedging out
half of a play costs the juice on the hedge play; if you had just bet half as
much to start with, you’d avoid that cost.
One thing to remember is that home court advantage becomes monstrous in a
seventh game where home teams have won a whopping 85% of seventh games in NBA
history. While many sharps know this and bet the game, many fail to cash in on
mid-series wagers. If a team is up 3-1 or 3-2, don’t be afraid to lay heavy
chalk on the favorite. The NBA is unique with its game-7 home “locks” – in
baseball, for instance, the home team wins closer to only 50% of seventh games.
With the first round series in full swing, future betting at Pinnacle Sports
has been extremely active. Here’s just a few examples of the futures the
public and pros have expressed definitive opinions.
Detroit to win NBA Championship -127
The Pistons opened at +114, and after being flooded with public money,
Detroit has fallen to a massive -127 favorite to win the NBA Championship. The
Pistons finished the regular season with the best record in the NBA, despite
losing its final 2 games while resting many players. Historically, the public
has always backed the team with the best record to win the league championship.
This year the public has also given support for the Suns, Clippers, Lakers and
Kings to emerge as NBA champions.
Dallas to win the Western Conference +346
After taking multiple hits from sharps, the odds on the Mavericks to win the
Western Conference fell from +405 to where it currently stands at +346. While
the wise guys are backing them to win the conference, no one thinks Dallas can
hang with Detroit. The Mavericks opened at +980 to win the NBA title, but the
influx of Detroit money has elevated Dallas’s price to +1133.
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