Sports Betting Lessons: Mid-March 2023

Sports gambling is quickly sweeping the nation. Over 30 states have legalized sports betting as of this month, with the conversation brewing amongst the remaining states about entering this domain. A lifelong sports fan, my foray begun with a trip to Las Vegas many years ago – at the time the only place to legally bet on sports in the United States. It grew to New Jersey, anchored around Vegas mini-me Atlantic City and then here and there across the country. I’ve learned many lessons – plenty of bad beats – and wish to make our audience into smarter bettors and have some fun in the process.

One of the first things to learn is that the house always wins. What’s important about learning that is, understanding that it is best to come in with some sort of information handy. I’ve been fiddling around with a few models during basketball season and now the thought of putting a bet down just off ‘gut’ feeling makes me sick. Yes, it is a gamble. Anything can happen. We just watched last night as the Houston Rockets, a 12 point underdog, won outright against the Boston Celtics. But between my model and my NBA tracker, I’ve learned one stat or even a whole model is not a catch-all. But making the best educated guess possible is the way to go.

With that out the way, I introduce this series – and our Prop of the Day series – that will share what I’ve learned. The Twitter page is for plays and engagement, but here is where I can share what is standing out in hopes that it helps you in whatever model, strategy, or painfully even gut feelings you have moving forward when placing your bets.

The Tracker

The tracker began on February 8, 2023 as a way to track a model that spit out spread and over-under (O/U) plays. I switched to a different model and kept the tracker to follow the Vegas spread and O/U and what the actual outcomes were. Then, I started tracking point differentials, spread outcomes for home favorites, home underdogs, away favorites, away underdogs and the actual against the spread (ATS) and O/U record.

I use both, my new model – a Monte Carlo simulator – and this tracker when figuring out plays. These plays end up, in collaboration with a few others at WYE Bets, on the WYE Bets Twitter page. But here, is where there is room to elaborate further.

It is currently 4:30PM on March 14, 2023 so keep this in mind with the information presented below.

What I’ve Learned

It took a while to understand what the point differential was outputting. At least from a betting perspective. But what I’ve come to realize is it does follow the standings closely. Milwaukee is the best team, at +127. San Antonio (-129), Houston (-122) and Portland (-97) are the worst teams. This holds up in understanding who is good and who isn’t. But the in-between does offer a good glimpse that can help you with betting.

The Best

Milwaukee has a nice lead on second-place Philadelphia (+100) and has lived in the 100s for some time. Philadelphia just topped the century mark after a big win versus Washington. And that is important to understand about the 100s, these teams can win big. Point differential favors teams doing the blowing out and punishes teams that lose big. If trying to guess if the Bucks or Sixers can cover a double digit spread against an inferior team, this might help you feel more comfortable with that selection.

The Next Tier – The 80s

New York and Cleveland live in the +80 territory. New York has been HOT! You can see it with the eye test and since my tracker began they lead the league with a 10-4 ATS record. Despite the Lakers being without LeBron, that win on the road against – and I’ll get to them in a second – a really hot Lake Show squad means a lot. They were road underdogs in that contest after all! Cleveland has been consistent. They too were in the 100s before suffering some recent losses but they possess the ability to cover the spread by large quantities when they are healthy and hitting shots. Look for them to make some noise and make it out of the first round come playoff time.

The 60s

Memphis and Phoenix are in the +60s. Memphis will make it to the playoffs but have essentially been ruled out of contention amidst star guard Ja Morant’s indefinite leave of absence. Morant’s last game was March 3, and the team has gone 3-2 outright and 4-1 ATS. It is unknown at the time if Morant will return for the playoffs but this is a team with depth nevertheless. Phoenix recently pulled off the blockbuster trade for perennial All-Star Kevin Durant. Injuries haven’t allowed for him to be a stable fixture in the lineup yet but the Suns hope to have him back in time to make a run in the wide open Western Conference.

Middle of the Pack

This tier features OKC (50s), Boston (49), and Sacramento and Golden State (30s). The Thunder are the 11th seed out West – sharing the same record as the 9th seeded Lakers and 10th seeded Pelicans. One-and-a-half point favorites tonight against the Nets at home, every game counts in securing a spot in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament.

Boston is clearly one of the best teams out East. But they’re notorious for either dropping games as big favorites outright or winning and not covering. If this trend continues come playoff time, it could spell an early exit especially for a head coach that has not been seasoned.

Sacramento is the little engine that could. Most are rooting for a first round win for them in light of their 16 season playoff drought. Last night’s loss to Milwaukee might have proven they aren’t quite ready yet, but the experience should be golden.

And last but certainly not least is Golden State, our home favorite darlings. Injuries and changes to their supporting cast have the Warriors grasping for dear life as contenders. But for a team that does so well at home and still sporting Curry, Klay and Draymond it will definitely be a squad no one wants to draw come playoff time.

Just Hanging On

Lastly we have the teams in the +20s and the rest of the teams with positive point differentials. These are, in order, the Lakers, Nuggets, Bulls, Hawks, Timberwolves and Wizards.

The Lakers have battled injuries yet some shakeups by Pelinka and company have given this team more life outside of LeBron’s play pre-injury and how AD has stepped up in his absence. Pelinka should be given SOME credit for the play of recent acquisitions, I suppose. It may be a little too late but it should make for an entertaining Western Conference Play-In Tournament.

As an active Jokic Is Not My MVP card carrier, there is not much I can say about the Denver Nuggets. Yes, he is carrying them. Yes, he is generational player especially as a center. Outside of this, it is hard to take this team serious come playoff time.

The remaining teams here are heartwarming stories – well besides the Hawks who were supposed to be stamped for the playoffs. Drama inside the building, the ousting of Nate McMillan, questions about Trae’s future have all cast a cloudy shadow over this once promising contender. Honestly, the others are probably best blowing it up. Take it from the Blazers fan, being a good team that stands little to no chance at a title run is one of the worst places to be in the NBA.

The Nitty Gritty

Home favorites cover at a 52.85% clip – since I’ve been tracking. Some of the leaders here are: Golden State (7 of 8), the Knicks (4 of 5), Memphis (3 of 4), the Sixers (5 of 7) and the Suns and Thunder both at 3 of 5.

Home underdogs cover at 42.42% rate. The Pacers and Grizzlies, albeit a small sample, are 2 for 2.

Away favorites may seem like easy bets covering at a 56.06% rate yet only 9 teams have covered 2 or more of these. Of those 9 only Phoenix (3) and Milwaukee (6) have more than 2. Seven teams have goose eggs and four of the seven have yet to be away favorites since tracking began. This is not for the faint of heart, be careful with these bets. The Bucks are 6 of 7, the Suns are 3 of 3, the Knicks are 2 of 2 and the Kings and Bulls are 2 of 3.

Away underdogs can be a bit sneaky. Covering at a 46.42% clip, these are the teams you circle and look to get great value with. Leaders here include the Jazz at 6 of 9, Brooklyn at 5 of 8, Minnesota at 5 of 7 and the Pacers at 4 of 5.

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