Counterintuition & Suspect Samples


Thus far, my NBA wagering record is 6-9. I began with a hypothetical stake of $500, lost nearly all of it on five wagers, had to borrow another hypothetical $500, and now stand at $635.

I bet three money lines on road dogs to win and finished 1-2. Unprofitable, but also unsurprising–if you take the underdog and ignore the points, you’re playing hunches.

And I’m 2-7 when I’m betting the favorite and giving points. The utter and horrid opposite of my 2010 NFL wagering experience, where I went 16-0 betting on good teams to cover whopping lines against also-rans.

Then again, I might be turning the corner in the NBA. In the last two days, I’m 3-0 when betting the underdog and taking the points.

It’s an insufficient sample by any measure, but had I done nothing except taken the points in any game attracting my attention, I would have rung up a 10-2 mark and nearly tripled my original hypothetical stake, jumping from $500 to $1480 without any reloading. From the latest to the earliest, the wagers would have been:

  • Sacramento on the road getting 11.5 from San Antonio (won $100…San Antonio 108-103)
  • Charlotte at home getting 4.5 from Portland  (won $100…Charlotte 97-92)
  • Detroit on the road getting 11.5 from San Antonio (won $150…San Antonio 111-104)
  • L.A Clippers on the road getting 9.5 from Boston (won $150…L.A. 108-103)
  • Charlotte on the road getting 12 from L.A. Lakers (won $100…L.A. 92-84)
  • Golden State on the road getting 9.5 from Boston (won $100…Boston 107-103)
  • Utah at home getting 4.5 from Boston (lost $110…Boston 107-102)
  • Houston on the road getting 6 from New Orleans (won $50…Houston 91-89)
  • Washington on the road getting 9 from Dallas (won $100…Dallas 105-99)
  • New Jersey on the road getting 11.5 from San Antonio (won $100…San Antonio 106-96)
  • Detroit on the road getting 10.5 from Philadelphia (lost $110…Philadelphia 110-94)
  • Sacramento on the road getting 14 from Orlando (won $250…Sacramento 111-105)

The two losses? One came within a point of paying off, and the other was a special case (a Detroit team with half its squad staging a walkout versus a rising Philly team at home) that I simply wouldn’t have bet, had I been following a points-taking strategy.

What’s also striking is the names of the winners: Sacramento, Charlotte, Detroit, Washington, New Jersey, Houston, and Utah. Most well below .500, the best of them struggling to win half their games. When the points are taken into account, these are the money teams. When basketball is taken into account, they’re nearly joyless spectacles. The losers in these wagers? All playoff-bound teams, including genuine contenders like San Antonio, Boston, Dallas, and the L.A. Lakers. This just in: excellence doesn’t pay.

And then there’s this item: 10 of the 12 bets were on road dogs. Their 3-7 record in these games masked a sterling 9-1 mark against the spread, with the wagering loss being the Detroit walkout game I likely wouldn’t have touched.

Tonight’s games include the Jazz getting 10.5 in Chicago, the Pistons getting 10 in Denver, the Kings getting 9.5 in New Orleans, and the Grizzlies getting 8 in Miami. Four road dogs, three of whom simply aren’t good, and all facing playoff squads.

I don’t want to bet them, so I won’t. The spreads are attractive, but it’s still hard for me to put money down when I think Denver might run away from Detroit, and the Kings and Heat are so inconsistent when it comes to margins of defeat and victory, respectively.

I need just a little more convincing. If the Loathsome Foursome takes the points and goes 4-0 or 3-1 tonight, I think I’ll be there. We’ll see.


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