No matter how trained you aim to be, a punter in you will always have to fight the human in you. Our brains have evolved in a way that can easily trick us. Take optical illusions for example and you’ll quickly get on my page. But there are different kind of illusions. Instinct might be useful in some survival mode situations, but is nothing more than just a nuisance in this business. Today, I’ll take a look at what are the most common betting biases in the NBA, beliefs and a few superstitions for a good measure. Hopefully this will help you avoid some of the bumps on the road.
NBA Superstar bias
Some NBA players have the ability to attract more media attention with their charisma than with their game. It can even translate to be strongly sought after even deep in their careers without the performances to match the call. Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose or Blake Griffin achieved the high profile status without actually playing as one, except for the occasional oohs and aahs.
But even if you are watching enough games not to get sucked into the media whirlpool, you are not immune to the ‘superstar’ bias. People often believe that the NBA team who has the player to do well in the clutch will win them their wagers, and this ability is often closely connected with a player’s status.
While the player awards usually come from the good teams, that doesn’t necessarily project their actual status, nor does it mean that their teams are profitable.
Public tends to overrate all injuries, but especially those to star players. Even with all the twitter reporters and other channels, news can leak out to us in matter of minutes, it’s still incredibly hard to react quickly enough to grab a great value, as the books will remove the odds and return the adjusted lines. This doesn’t mean that there’s never a value after it, but the bets keep on pounding against the NBA team who is suddenly missing a player. The more important the player is, the more the public is aggressive.
Of course, the bookmakers are well aware of such behavior. They often protect themselves by overadjusting immediately, creating an extra value on the opposite side, the one that will play without the injured (or suspended) player.
Make sure that you know how much a player is worth to a team. The best way to do it is to figure out how good the NBA team would be if that player wouldn’t play for a prolonged period.
For instance, if the Warriors won by 13 points with Durant, would they win by 10 sans him, or by 5 points on average. Injuries are slightly more worth than that in the beginning, as teams need to adjust more, and the calculations get more complicated with multiple injuries, so just keep in mind that you shouldn’t immediately jump on the opponent if a star player is out.
There are two sides of this bias. Some people like to go with the tide and wager the longer winning streaks, while the others won’t go against a string of victories until it’s snapped. It’s easy to say that two games outcomes have absolutely nothing to do with each other, but it’s actually not 100 percent true.
Mathematically, those events are completely unrelated, but those who understand the nature of NBA basketball and other team sports know that winning brings more winning. The habits, the mentality and the approach is different, so the teams, even the bad ones, can get on some great runs. Still, the impact of the winning is not very significant.
I’ve studied the last 12 years of data to see whether NBA teams actually play better after a victory, and they do – adjusted to the outcome expectancy, the teams win 1.2 percent more games after a win than after a loss. This translates to roughly one basketball point, or the difference of getting a team at +100 and -110. You can safely try to snap any streaks if the price is right.
A special subtype of this popular bias is manufacturing streak to back up your preference. Don’t back up your reasoning with finding odd trend like ‘Team A is 5-0 when playing their previous game against a sub .500 team on Thursday’. This is nothing more than a frivolity – your planned wager looks much more serious with such backing up.
If the team who is on a roll is also a team that is perceived to be good, the previous bias is compounded by the jolly bias. Not only the public bettors more frequently place wagers on the top NBA teams, but they also rarely bet the underdog. This is expected. Thanks to the energy created by the number of such bettors, not only the bookmakers, but also the pro punters make money.
It’s hard to perceive that the Warriors won’t beat an average (or any) NBA team, and they most likely will. Except, there’s another obstacle to overcome for their backers – the dreaded handicap. Beating the spread wasn’t as easy for the champions – just take a look at their season record against it.
Yes, they were the extreme public team this season, so Vegas offered particularly low odds for them, but the jolly bias can be observed in less obvious examples as well. Also, a note to the moneyline public punters – absolutely the best NBA teams win about 60 games in a season, meaning that they’ll only win three out of four.
Home court bias
Guard yourself against predominantly betting on the hosts as the home court advantage has been on a strong decline over the last decade. Back in 2005, it was worth about 3 basketball points on average, with significantly less total points scored per game. In the previous three NBA seasons, it has declined below 1.5 points per game on average.
Most franchises have stepped up in creating better travel and game preparation conditions and the league has cut down on the number of back-to-back, 4-in-5 and 5-in-7 scheduling sets, most of which were happening on road. There are probably more reasons to why the advantage of playing in front own fans has shrunk in half, but whatever the roots are, you better adjust by treating visiting teams more equally in your betting lists.
Finally, don’t be superstitious. If an NBA team has come back from 19 down in the fourth quarter, setting up their largest turnaround victory in their franchise history, this was not because you have bet against them. People tend to spot and remember unusual outcomes that go against them, but not if they win in similar fashion. There’s no such thing as a bad luck – not over a long term at least.
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