It’s no secret that the public loves to back favorites, and that is definitely the case in the NBA. It’s a lot easier to back a team to win by a certain number of points than predict when an underdog is going to claw their way to a cover or win the game outright.
Simply betting every favorite on the board over the course of an entire season isn’t going to net you a big profit or any profit at all for that matter. On average both the favorite and the underdog will cover the spread 49% of the time with the other 2% resulting in a push. Even if you have a good year where favorites win more than they lose, there’s a good chance you will still be down after paying all the juice.
The key to making a profit betting favorites is being able to figure out when it’s the right time to pull the trigger and when you need to fight the urge and avoid falling into a trap. Here is a look at some key factors I recommend following if you are going to bet favorites.
While basketball doesn’t have key numbers like you see in football, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay attention to the line. If you simply bet on a favorite because they are clearly the better team, you are going to find yourself betting into a lot of inflated lines. What a lot of people forget when they bet on sports is the teams who are playing don’t care if they cover the spread or not. It all comes down to walking off the floor with a W.
What you have to realize is oddsmakers are extremely good at what they do. They know the public’s first instinct is to bet on the favorite, especially when that favorite is facing a team that you think has no chance of keeping it close. In these games the oddsmakers will likely shade the line 2-3 points off what they think it should be, leaving you absolutely no value on the favorite.
A great way to see if a favorite is overvalued or not is to look at the percentage of people who are betting that side and how much the line has moved based off that number. If 60% or more of the action is coming in on the favorite and the line doesn’t move more than .5-point, there’s a pretty good chance the favorite is overvalued. If oddsmakers truly believed that the favorite is going to win and cover the spread with that much action on one side, they will usually move the line more than .5-point.
This is just as important as making sure you don’t bet into an inflated line. The team who is more motivated to play on a given night is usually the team that ends up covering the spread. Just because you have a game where the favorite should cover 9 out of every 10 times, doesn’t make the favorite an automatic play. Time after time we see favorites who should easily cover the spread barely win the game or lose outright.
What you want to look for are favorites who have something to prove. Some of the best times to jump on a favorite are the times when it seems like they shouldn’t be favored. It can be hard to place a bet on a team that has just lost three straight or just suffered a horrible loss in their last game, but that is when you usually see a team play their best. Why? Because they are motivated to win. On the other hand, if a team has won three straight they tend to play without an edge and a lot of times they will be overvalued because of their recent success.
Not to say big favorites don’t win, but it’s extremely hard to win consistently betting on big favorites in any sport. While double-digit favorites will win the game at a very high percentage, they don’t tend to do all that well against the spread.
Most of the time when you have a huge favorite, you have a really good team going up against a really bad team. This may seem like an easy opportunity to jump on the favorite, but it actually works the other way. While players don’t care if they cover the spread or not, most know going into a game what the spread is. When a team sees they are favored by a huge number they tend to relax and not take the other team seriously. At the same time, the underdog feels disrespected and uses that as motivation to prove everyone wrong.