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How to Beat the Vegas Line in the NBA Playoffs

ThePowerRank_NBA_HomecourtYou’re looking for an edge in betting on NBA playoff games. Preferably, this edge would beat the line at greater than a 52.4% rate, the lowest rate for profitable wagering. Moreover, it should hold over a large number of games, like more than 600.

But conventional wisdom says that it is a difficult time for finding an edge. Every gambler in the world has 82 or more games of statistics and video on each team. These guys have dissected the tendencies of any player that has stepped on an NBA court for more that 5 minutes.

However, there is a simple winning strategy in the NBA playoffs: bet on the home team.

Home Court Advantage in the NBA Playoffs

I stumbled upon this edge by accident.

I was looking at home court advantage in the NBA playoffs versus the regular season. This analysis requires a little finesse in the playoffs since the better team can play more home games. Over the last 10 years, home court advantage has been greater in the playoffs (4.5 points) than in the regular season (3.2 points). The visual above shows these results, and my post over at the Wages of Wins journal has all the details of the analysis.

Mike Beuoy of Betting Market Analytics saw the post and wondered whether the Vegas line adjusted for this larger home court advantage in the playoffs. He found that the line has favored home teams by a half a point more in the playoffs than the regular season over the last 10 seasons. This 0.5 points is much smaller than the actual 1.3 point discrepancy.

How to win 53.5% of the time over 683 games

This suggests that there might be an edge. Sure enough, Mike did a database search over at SportsDataBase.com to show that betting on the home team has won 53.5% of games since the 2004 through April 24, 2013. (Clicking on the link will give you up updated win percentage.)

The uncertainty in this win rate over 683 games is about 2%, so it’s not certain that this strategy wins greater than 52.4% of the time. However, a simple analysis shows there is a 72% likelihood this strategy is profitable.

I have not double checked this calculation myself. And I would not dump my life savings into this betting strategy going forward. But this 53.5% win rate is an interesting curiosity from the increased home court advantage in the NBA playoffs.

If you have additional insight, please leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading.