Notes on Aggression

Tonight, for no hypothetical money down:

  • Knicks plus 5.5 over the Bulls
  • Grizzlies plus 5.5 over the Blazers
  • Lakers minus 7 over the Spurs

I could make a good argument for the opposite side in each case. So I’m not betting.

Which leaves only a scrambled Wednesday in the NBA regular season, and a wrapup for this tour. In the meantime, the overarching thought from 8 weeks of sussing out NBA games:

Once I learned to wager, I didn’t bet enough.

For me, the watershed appeared two weeks in, when a disastrous 0-3 session dropped my record to 3-8, with $345 remaining from a stake of $1000. Eleven wagers to learn the hard way that what works in the NFL (good teams reliably clobbering bad ones by spread-covering margins) doesn’t transfer to the NBA.

Since then, I’ve gone 25-5 picking games across 18 sessions, making money 14 times and losing more than $20 only twice in that span.

Looking back, I’d make 29 of those 30 wagers again if I had the chance. Three of the five losses were by a point or a half a point, and almost all of the wins were by substantial margins.

After a bruising introduction, I think I’ve picked well. And my stake has grown roughly 560% since the nadir, and if I don’t make another wager, I’ll close out the season up 130% overall. A fine return for eight weeks of entertainment.

On the other hand, if I’d sat down in those last 18 sessions with the idea that once I’d cleared $1000, I should risk up to 50% of my profit each time out, with a hard cap of $500 per night, my profits would have jumped to $3925. Triple what I have now.


I know I’m essentially risk-neutral, because I don’t get much of a psychic payoff from the action itself, but I also know I lean too far towards risk aversion for an activity like wagering–even, comically, in a hypothetical exercise.

Next time around, I’ll tackle that with a rule-based system for pricing my wagers–one like the simple model above–that allows for aggression while still enabling me to bet what I can stand to lose. I like the idea of focusing exclusively on what’s going to happen, and leaving the rest to a model. Just as I would have liked a splashy return rather than a solid one.

Again, ouch. Next time, for sure.

Waiting for Wednesday’s lines…


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