Signs and Wonders

I took a few stabs at a wrapup, but kept coming back to these thoughts:

  • I don’t have a system,
  • my sample is statistically insignificant,
  • this never was a how-to, and
  • fundamentally, the NBA is about flux.

So what could I say that would be valuable going forward?

I can say I stumbled early, adjusted quickly, and spent the last month wagering well.

My 28-13 record is the sum of a 3-8 start (lost $655), a three-day 5-2 turnaround (won $380), and a 20-3 closeout (won $1570). There isn’t a wager I wouldn’t make again in that last group (though there were plenty I wouldn’t repeat from my first 18 bets), so here’s a look at what, if anything, can be gleaned from my final streak:

Being finicky paid.

From March 15 to April 10, the NBA scheduled 204 games. I wagered on 23 across 15 sessions.

Taking the spread into account, I had no idea of what to make of 70% of those 204 contests.

I was tempted by roughly 20% of the games I didn’t wager on, and didn’t guess right even close to half the time in this category.

My successful month came down to finding a bet or two every other night among 18 to 20 games. My best guess tended to be very, very good. My second…dicier. My third wasn’t worth wagering.

I had to get used to the idea of putting money on a loser.

My 20-3 run was comprised of a 10-1 mark when getting points, and a 10-2 mark when giving.

It took a lot of early losses to come around, but now I’m comfortable on either side, and am no longer distracted by which team is going to win. I focus only on whether the line makes sense.

It’s hard to avoid coinflips.

Six of my last 23 bets fell into this category, with the outcomes within 2 points  of the line.

I went a normative 3-3 on those wagers, and was unbeaten in the remaining 17 bets, winning those by a whopping average margin of 11.5 points.

Had I been wildly unlucky and lost all the close ones, I’d still have gone a robust 17-6. Had three more baskets dropped in garbage time, I’d have won 23 consecutive wagers.

Embracing duality, I wagered well, and yet I also couldn’t avoid what turned out to be perfect lines 26% of the time. I don’t have any wisdom on cutting that number to zero; all I can say is, I didn’t enjoy those wagers, because I’d rather be good than lucky.

For me, NBA wagering is inescapably about hunting for the rare nonsensical line.

It matters that my late successes came almost equally from both sides of the spread.

It also matters that I passed on the vast majority of games.

And it says something that, even with flexibility and selectivity, I wound up with a coinflip in every fourth wager.

Because the fact is, on most nights for most games, the oddsmakers nail or come close to nailing the outcomes. Call it expertise, luck, or consensus theory–it can’t be denied, at least not by me, not after having experienced the horror of waiting for a final random shot or dribble to determine a wagering win or a loss.

I jumped in. I chickened out. I gakked. I laughed. I saw the future.

I had a lot of fun writing about every step and misstep. I hope it was fun to read.

If the NFL or NBA ever come back with regular seasons, the odds are good I’ll be back here too.

Thanks for coming by.


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