The Hoops Insider has made 134 units profit overall for the last two seasons of WNBA and NBA handicapping. 56% winners is an exceptional record and here he explains his approach.
In general, I would describe myself as a bit more of an old school handicapper – someone that weighs subjective factors fairly high rather than having a computer model that spits out a number. I am someone that uses “information” to my advantage. I know others have been quite successful using quantitative models, but I’ve been successful in gaining an edge by using the generally efficient NBA market as my starting point – the lines set by bookmakers which are then shaped by market action.
My philosophy is that the bookmakers are pretty darn good at setting lines and that they rarely put out “bad lines”. When they do, these usually move very quickly after open and the perceived edge is lost. I do think books generally want to be efficient and get 50/50 action. Although, in recent years they have begun to set “traps”. In other words, bookmakers will themselves bet on a side to win, hoping to get disproportionate action on the other side. I’ve been fairly successful in also identifying these spots and siding with the books when these opportunities arise.
So, working from the line that’s set and then shaped by the market, my primary edge is through the subjective factors – the pieces of information that books don’t always account for.
Yes, there are some obvious subjective factors that they do account for like fatigue, injuries, obvious motivational spots, etc. Although, when it comes to fatigue, books have not been accounting for this enough in my experience and teams playing 4 games in 6 days versus a motivated team for example usually present excellent fade opportunities.
But it’s in the finer details that an edge can sometimes be found. It’s a lot of work and requires a lot of reading articles, following the beat writers for teams, watching player and coach pre-game and post-game interviews, breaking down games and match-ups, etc.
Important factors that I use when handicapping NBA and WNBA games include defensive / offensive strategy, adjustments from game to game, player motivation, team motivation, team chemistry and coaching. Another important step is taking this information and correctly applying it to a side or total. Knowing the game and the league is crucial. I used to play basketball at a high level up to semi-professionally, know the game really well and have been able to identify the strategy or adjustments teams say they’ll make and whether and how they will actually impact the game.
It’s important to note that in my opinion, this old school edge has always been there and will continue to be there for the foreseeable future. With quantitative models, if an edge is identified, I believe books eventually adjust in an effort to be efficient. However it is more difficult for books to fully adjust to subjective factors, especially with the game-to game-variability of the information.
Coaches and players (some more than others) can be quite transparent when discussing game strategy. One recent example was following Game 1 of this year’s NBA Finals. The Raptors really pushed the pace in Game 1, with Pascal Siakam scoring 32 points, many on the fast break. In watching the game, I thought the Warriors’ transition defense was terrible. In the post-game interviews, the Warriors agreed. Steve Kerr stated exactly that, saying their transition defense, particularly on Siakam, needed to improve. Draymond Green and others echoed those thoughts. I believed that would be a huge point of emphasis for them in practice, shoot-around and video review in between games.
For Game 2, I successfully bet Under for the game and also bet the Raptors team total Under thinking that they would have a tough time adjusting to the Warriors defensive strategy for that one game.
As mentioned, it’s also important to identify what information is useful and what information can be dismissed. For example, a player might say post-game after a loss that their next game is a “must-win”. But in watching their recent games I see that their team chemistry is really off and they don’t seem to be paying attention to the coach. The Washington Wizards last year were a good example of this. In this situation, I would take the “must-win” motivational comment with a grain of salt and not necessarily back this team that seems to be in a downward spiral type of situation.
Now, sometimes the edge that you thought you had does not realize. For example, a team might say pre-game that they need to play at a much faster pace than they did the previous game. They might say that they want to push the ball every time and run and put up a lot of shots. I’ll bet the Over, and in the first quarter they do what they said, push the pace like crazy, but are unsuccessful with it. They put up a ton of shots early but miss shot after shot and turn the ball over a lot. So they start to slow down. The other team, who I thought would reciprocate and also run, adjusts and slows the pace as well. The game ends up going under. Of course, the edge, or pre-game “theory” doesn’t always realize. Bad stretches of incorrect angles do occur and strict money management is a key factor in this business.
However, I have found that information-based angles successfully realize more often than not in NBA handicapping. It is why I consider myself an advantage bettor.
In summary, I obtain as much information as I can, analyze, watch how lines are shaped and why, and make my plays. I have posted my NAB and WNBA picks publicly for two full seasons and both have been successful and profitable. I’m looking forward to working hard and continuing this success with the team at Sports Predictor starting with my WNBA Picks.