Hello, folks. Welcome back to Bad Beats, the column you visit for betting advice and sad tales of gambling woe. Read past Bad Beats here. Got any stories for us? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject: Bad Beats.
Well, kids, if you've lost yourselves in NHL playoff mania—worry not, we have too—you have missed some exciting NBA playoff games! The Knickerbockers and the Celtics, the Pacers and the Bulls, and the Mavericks and Blazers all have fought some bloody duels. And, in a pair of Game Ones out West, the Grizz upset the Spurs, just like the Hornets did the Lakers.
Where the NHL playoffs are madness, with hot goalies and nearly absent refereeing, the NBA playoffs show less variance in the results. Yes, even with NBA refs. Smart bettors know this and descend.
We talked to Bodog head oddsmaker Adam Young, who said that bettors have been riding long shots going into the playoffs: the books took "quite a bit of money" on the Nuggets' title odds at 100:1 after Denver sent Carmelo packing, pushing them all the way down to 25:1. More recently, gamblers were backing Portland as a 50:1 longshot, and taking the Blazers over the Mavericks in a series bet. With the Blazers down 2-0 to Dallas, getting ripped up by Peja and Kidd, perhaps bettors would have been better off looking elsewhere in the West.
And one of those West teams folks now ride, the Oklahoma City Thunder, won its first game against the once buzzier Nuggets.
"The Thunder and the Bulls, they both finished very strong," Young says. "Their title odds have fluctuated a bit more throughout the season, depending on how the teams were doing, whereas the Lakers' odds have held steady all season."
The Lakers have been the favorite to win all year. They were at 11:4 going into the playoffs, and their Game 1 loss to Chris Paul's point guard clinic only moved them to 10:3. Then again, that shift might mean something to you, if you're convinced the night one loss means nothing. Now's the time to ride the Lakers, if you plan on riding them at all.
What about the Heatles, that other title favorite? Bookmaker.com's head oddsmaker Tony Harvey says that while the Lakers and the Heat have the biggest followings among bettors, those bettors are rooting against the Heat.
Young says that the Heat have been so streaky and pricy—at 13:4 to win the title, going into the playoffs—that most bettors haven't wanted to ride them. And oddsmakers haven't done much to make the Heat enticing. So Young says "it would be a very desirable situation if the Heat were to win the title."
What about the other East teams? The Hawks and the Magic lull us to sleep, even though 4-5 series tend to draw more betting action than the 1-8s and the 2-7s. But the Knicks and Celtics have energized gamblers, Young says, even though most of the money has come in on one side.
"There's more money on the Knicks," he says. "People are definitely down on the Celtics since the Perkins trade—and you can see why, in their play." Close as they've come, the Knicks haven't quite rewarded the gambling public's faith.
We'll know a lot more after tonight, as the three 1-0 West series—Nuggets-Thunder, Spurs-Grizzlies, Lakers-Hornets—resume, with two big-time dogs up. (The Grizz were +340 to win their series, the Hornets were +1200.)
Tonight's slate, with odds from Bodog, with dubious wisdom attached:
THUNDER (-5) over Nuggets, OVER 205
Grizzlies (+8) over SPURS, UNDER 195
Hornets (+11.5) over LAKERS
Hey, also: we like the Lightning at +185 to defeat the Penguins in that series. Lightning -1.5 (+210) is not a bad bet tonight.