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NBA Playoffs Betting Tips: Debunking the Zig-Zag Theory

04.21.2011     11:33 AM     Teddy Covers     Printer Friendly

Submitted by Teddy Covers

SportsMemo.com blog entry.
The zig-zag theory for the NBA Playoffs can be expressed in a single sentence: Bet on the team that lost their last game. Obviously, you can’t bet it in Game 1 of any series, but starting with Game 2, the theory holds a significant influence on the betting marketplace.

The thought process behind the theory is simple as well. A team that just lost is likely to dig deep and produce a strong effort, before they fall into a deeper hole. Meanwhile, the team that just won is likely to make fewer adjustments and be a tad bit complacent heading into the next game.

The betting marketplace respects this theory tremendously. That's why you'll normally see a pointspread adjustment from Game 1 to Game 2, like Denver moving from +6 in Game 1 to +4/4.5 in Game 2 at Oklahoma City, or Portland moving from +5/5.5 in the opener to +3.5 in Game 2 at Dallas.

In addition, you'll often see the weaker of the two teams favored if they return home facing an 0-2 series deficit after losing the first two games on the road. Look no further than the Knicks opening as home favorites over Boston in Game 3 as a prime example.

Wiseguy bettors know that the zig-zag theory is going to influence pointspreads throughout the postseason. They'll understand why and how the books are making adjustments to the spread from game to game as a series progresses. And yet the theory itself hasn’t earned a profit for more than a decade; a classic case of the betting markets adjusting to current realities without bettors themselves realizing what has happened.

The NBA zig-zag theory was a big moneymaker in the 1980’s, when it wasn’t widely known or publicized. By the 1990’s, the increasing sophistication and the constant nature of adjustments within the betting markets led to a period of decreasing returns.

A recent database study showed that in playoff games from 1991-2000, the zig-zag went 311-249-19, producing a 55.5% ATS result with a sample size of nearly 600 games. And we shouldn’t forget that many bettors who didn’t have access to multiple pointspreads from varying sportsbooks did much worse than that – losing on many of the plays graded as a push in the database, and pushing on a handful of plays that were graded as wins.

Over the last decade, from 2001-2010, blindly betting the zig-zag theory went 331-317-9, 51% ATS winners. We all know that at the standard 11-to-10 sportsbook formula (ignoring offshore ‘reduced juice’ shops and betting exchanges), you have to hit 52.4% of your wagers to break even. If you’ve been blindly betting the zig-zag theory for the last decade, you’ve lost money.

And yet the theory still seems to hold a magical sway over many bettors. You can’t read an NBA Playoff betting article without some reference to the zig-zag, much like you can’t find a Monday Night Football discussion without some mention of the home underdog angle – which was debunked in a Sportsmemo blog posted by Tim Trushel last September. Bettors need to know that these theories are completely outdated.

Blindly betting zig-zag won’t make you any money at all. In fact, if you’ve been zig-zag betting the Game 2’s so far this year, you’ve gone 2-6 ATS. The Knicks and Pacers were the only two winners; while these Game 1 losers – the 76ers, Magic, Blazers, Spurs, Nuggets and Lakers – all lost ATS. I wouldn’t count on significantly better returns in the Game 3’s over the next few days.

Tags: NBA Teddy Covers




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Copyright © 2007 SPORTSMEMO, INC, 1-800-575-3069. Sportsmemo.com is the nation’s premier resource for sports betting and handicapping information. Get free football picks, free NFL picks, free college football picks, free baseball picks, free NBA picks, free college basketball picks, free hockey picks, free golf picks, and free soccer picks from the nation’s top handicappers. Sportsmemo's sports betting insight and analysis comes from some of the most respected sports handicappers in the sports gambling industry including Ted Sevransky (Teddy Covers), Brent Crow of Alatex Sports, Rob Veno, Erin Rynning, Otto Sports, Andrew Lange, Ian Cameron, Drew Martin, and Alex B. Smith. Listen to these handicapping experts daily on the Sportsmemo Podcast Monday-Friday at Sportsmemo.com.  Missed the Sportsmemo Podcast?  Past shows are available on Sportsmemo.com's podcast archive page. Looking for daily sports betting tips and sports betting advice on the MLB, NBA, NCAA, NFL, NHL, CFL, and PGA? Check out the interactive sports betting posting forum, power ratings, expert handicapping blogs, and original sports betting articles from the Sportsmemo team that specializes in sports information from a pointspread perspective at Sportsmemo.com.   Jul 29, 2016 04:39 PM.