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NBA Betting Strategy

Everyone wants to know The Secret to profitably bet the NBA, the greatest & most exciting basketball league in the world.  Well, I have it.  Are you ready?

Drumroll, please.  The secret to betting the NBA is that there is no secret.  If there were one statistic, trend, or system that a bettor could employ to guarantee a successful wager, then there would NOT be all those  shiny buildings in the middle of the Mojave desert.  Gambling is hard. 97% of folks that bet sports lose money in the long run.

Please keep the following in mind:

The goal of a professional bettor is not to know what’s going to happen. There are no psychics. The goal is to be able to guess what’s going to happen 55% of the time.  That’s right: If you can use your analysis to pick the correct side of a wager 11/20 times, you can quit your job tomorrow.

That said, the best piece single piece of advice on your path to to betting the NBA like a professional bettor comes from the legendary Vegas bookmaker, Jimmy Vaccaro who said

Recreational bettors bet Teams; Professional bettors bet Numbers.

The majority of bettors find teams that they like and bet them to win – regardless of the price, i.e., the odds. Professional bettors consider all 30 teams viable options to select for a wager on any given day – if and only if the price – i.e., the odds – are in their favor.  The worst team in the league is a good bet if it is being underpriced by the market.

Remember, every spread is determined primarily by three general factors: 1.) The Power Rankings of the two teams, 2.) The home-court advantage of the home team, & 3.) Situational factors coming into the game.

Power Rankings

In order to quickly produce lines on daily games, almost all sportsbooks & bettors employ Power Rankings. A Power Ranking is a listing of teams, 1-30 based on overall strength.

Everyone, in my opinion,  who is serious about betting the NBA should keep their own Power Rankings, updating them regularly based on the play of the teams as well as injuries that might affect the future performance of the teams.

Home Court Advantage

Home Court Advantage in the NBA is typically around 3 points. Meaning if two even-strength teams face each other, the home team will typically be favored by 3 points.

How to Bet Based on Power Rankings & Home Court Advantage

If you think a spread is correct, then there is no way to profitably make money betting on the game.  If the spread is correct: that implies that 50% of the time, the favorite will beat the spread, and 50% of the underdog will beat the spread.  In this instance, there is no use betting the game at -110 odds because, at -110, you will have to win 11/21 times just to break even.  If you only win 1/2 times, the -110 price will quickly drain your bankroll.

A good rule of thumb is to not bet any game unless you think the spread is at least 2 points off.  2 points of advantage will generally lead to a 55% proposition that you will win the bet.

The reason to shoot for a 2-point edge is that it provides a margin of error.  Even if you are 1 point off, you are still going to break even or have a slight gain over the long run.

Factoring in Situational Factors

Power Rankings are assessments of a team’s overall strength without regard to specific situational factors.   Important factors to consider when handicapping a game are fatigue – is the team on a long road trip – motivation – does one team need the game more than the other – and matchups – does one team’s style of playwork especially well against another.

Below are a few of the most common situations considered by professional bettors:

Flat Spot: A game where a team is not particularly motivated – either because they don’t respect the opponent or because they have recently played a number of high-intensity games.  Often teams in the middle of a stretch against high-quality teams will not play as hard when faced with a lesser opponent.  Teams in a flat spot will often play significantly below their typical power rankings.

Look Ahead Game: An example of a Flat Spot Game is a game that is just before a very important or challenging game for the team.  The team focusing on the next game will often overlook their current opponent and play below their typical power ranking.

Home Run Spot/Revenge Game: A game where a team has higher motivation than their opponent and play above their typical power ranking.

Home Team Down 0-2 in a Playoffs series: – Historically teams at home that are down 0-2 in the playoffs play as their lives depended on it, especially at home where their fans feel the desperation and the need to encourage their team.  The motivation for them to win – and save their season – is much higher than their opponents, and these teams typically play above their general power ranking.

Gameday Injuries

Late coming information about NBA injuries happens ALL-THE-TIME, and will invariably happen occasionally after you have already placed bet.  Thus, please ensure when you place your bet that you have the most up-to-date information possible.

Because of this phenomenon, some bettors advise that you make your bet as close to the tip as possible.  Others point out that a game-changing injury announcement is as likely to go against the opponent as it does against the team your betting on.  I place myself in this category.

However, if you have waited until the last minute and you do hear about a game-changing injury – often, that is your time to pounce.

TIP: Recreational bettors generally underrate injuries for non-star players missing individual games & overrate injuries to star players missing individual games

A high % of “tickets” typically indicates public money.  A higher % of cash typically indicates sharp money.

To win at NBA, or sports betting for that matter, you have to be two things: 1. Contrary, 2. Right.  If you are right about a team – but everybody else agrees – you will not get value on your bet.  If you are contrary but incorrect about the true merit of a team, you will also be on the wrong side of the wager.

In conclusion, now that you know the basic elements of betting the NBA, I am sure you are wondering where I can get a definitive list of those thousand little secrets I mentioned that lead to being a profitable sports gambler?

The best teacher is trial and error. Ask yourself after each game – win or lose – what happened that I expected?  And what happened that surprised me?  The important thing is to find angles and trends that make sense to you – and then incorporate them with your evaluation of the teams in the leagues to find the best spots to put your money down.  Best of luck and I hope that this article will help you win at sports betting!

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