I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you should only bet underdogs in the NBA. In fact, you would be no better off if you took every underdog over a course of a season than if you took every favorite. On average, both underdogs and favorites will win about 49% of the time, while the other 2% end up pushing.
That’s not to say you can’t have a lot of success betting underdogs. Some NBA handicappers make a lot of money betting mainly all underdogs. The key is being able to spot when it’s the right time to take a dog, and when you need need to wait for a better situation.
I personally play mostly underdogs in all sports. My mind just works in a way where I’m always looking for value, and the value I believe is easier to spot with the underdogs than the favorites. Here are a few factors to look for when trying to find the right underdogs to back with your wagers in the NBA.
The majority of the betting public likes to bet the ‘better’ team, which means they will mostly be betting favorites. This alone creates line value for the underdog bettor. If you see that 70% or more of the public is on the favorite, then there’s a good chance that line is going to be inflated. The oddsmakers’ only way to stop money from flowing in on the favorite is to raise the line, and thus it is higher than it should be, and there’s value in backing the dog.
The line doesn’t always move towards the favorite when 70% of the action or more is on the favorite. When it actually moves the other way, this is referred to as Reverse Line Movement. The reason for the move is that while most the bets are coming in on the favorite, the biggest money is on the underdogs.
Some books trust ‘sharp’ bettors or ‘wiseguy’ opinions, so they are OK with letting the public bet the favorite at a smaller price. They just don’t want to get pounded by the big money from the sharps and wiseguys, so they’ll move the line the other way knowing that there’s something they probably missed. If you spot a reverse line move on a favorite, you definitely want to be backing the underdog more times than not.
If a team is on an extended winning streak, say five games or more, then the betting public is going to be quick to back these teams. They are all over the media and thus they are getting a lot of attention. Teams that get a lot of attention from the media tend to be ‘overvalued’, and it’s going to be a profitable move to fade them going forward until they lose.
Conversely, if a team is on an extended losing streak of five games or more, the only attention they’ll be getting from the media is negative attention. This is when you can find value in backing these teams on extended losing streaks. Oddsmakers, are forced to adjust the numbers so much that there simply has to be value in backing these perceived ‘bad’ teams.
If you see a team that is coming off a blowout win by 15 points or more, they are most likely going to be overvalued in their next game. The public likes to bet what’s fresh in their minds, and if they see a team just won in a blowout, then they are likely to back that team in the next game. Again, there’s value in going against these teams coming off a blowout win.
Conversely, you can find value in teams coming off a blowout loss. If it’s an NBA team and they simply shot poorly, which can happen on any given night, then they are likely to get blown out. The chances of them shooting as poorly for a second consecutive games are not very good. Plus, these teams coming off blowout losses usually come back more motivated the next time they play. The betting public doesn’t factor in the motivational angle, and they will be looking to fade teams coming off blowout losses, creating line value by backing the underdog off the loss.
You want to look for underdogs in favorable rest situations against favorites in poor rest situations. If the favorite is playing the second of a back-to-back and their 4th game in 5 days, then they are likely to be tired and will not play up to their normal level. If the underdog is only playing their 2nd game in 5 days, they are obviously going to be the more energized team. You can sometimes just throw the records out the window in these situations.