In Praise of Perfect Lines

  • Chicago 102 Orlando 99

The Bulls cover by half a point. The outcome was determined after the clock expired, when a cadre of officials stared at rewinds of split seconds surrounding a Jameer Nelson three, then overruled the basket, chucking the crowd from ecstasy to stupefaction.  I was right there with the fans, except for the ecstasy part, because once again, the game didn’t play out as I thought it might, and I walked straight into a perfect line.

Excluding moneylines, my NBA record for now stands 27-11. Twenty-four times, I’ve wagered on games whose outcomes exceeded the spread by 5 points or more (for better or worse). Let’s call those bets I’ve nailed or blown; I’m 20-4 in them, clearing $1790 in profit.

I’ve also had six picks which I’ve won or lost by 2.5 to 4.5 points. I think of these as B or B+ efforts, because the final margin in this kind of game usually comes down to a few telltale plays in the last six minutes. I’m 3-3 in these contests, and have cleared $180 in profit.

Which leaves the perfect lines–the games the oddsmakers nailed, with wagers won or lost by 2 points or less.

Every one of these has felt like yesterday’s ordeal–it’s a coinflip, I know it, and yet I’m drawn in, because the margin flirts with the line every time down the floor. The payoffs are joyless and the losses sting for the same reason: the oddsmakers were right, and I blew it.

With yesterday’s win–my first success betting north of $200–my record in coinflips is 4-4. I’ve lost $490 wagering on these games.

Which means I’m walking into traps a little over 20% of the time (8 of 38 picks). I don’t know whether that’s a good or bad percentage. I just know I’d rather skip the entire category.

Speaking of which, with only three nights left in the regular season, I may have made my last bet. Only Denver giving 12 at home to a tired, travelling, Monta-less Warriors tempts, along with a proud Phoenix squad giving 9 at home to hapless Minnesota. But that’s a lot of points to concede, it’s a week for the best games in the history of players you’ll never hear from again, and I’m frazzled from surviving another perfect line.

So I’m sitting this one out, and waiting to see what the oddsmakers do with Tuesday.

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