by Jeremy Martin
The NBA has always been known in sports betting circles as one of the hardest sports to consistently win money at. Sometimes certain teams choose to take the night off. Fouls and sloppy play towards the end of the game can turn what looks like a sure win into a bad beat. Multi-million dollar 'superstars' don't bring their 'A game' each and every night.
Many professional bettors, however, have found NBA second half betting - when combined with full-game betting - to be a great way to gain an edge over the bookies. The books have a small window of opportunity to post their lines and the seasoned handicapper can find plenty of instances of value with these numbers.
As with full game NBA betting, there are situations where the sportsbooks set the second half line according to public opinion. Savvy bettors (or ones that regularly win) love to go against the public because they know they can usually find extra value in the number.
One example of this would be a game where a big favorite is down at the half. Bookies know that the public is going to jump all over the favorite for the second half because the prevailing opinion will be that the team that is favored (especially at home) has a good chance to make a comeback. But the bookies usually inflate (shade) the number in situations like this because they know what side the money will come in on.
Oddsmakers may also set a line in order to purposely draw bettors away from one side. If they have a large favorite that is up big at the half, they may set the line in order to make the underdog more attractive. If they have lopsided action on the favorite for the full game, they want to prevent a chance to get burned by bettors in both the full game and the second half. A line that might be considered 'weak' by a professional bettor can actually help them balance their books, therefore reducing their exposure on a particular game.
"The only time we try and book halftimes a little tighter is (when) we have a game that has runaway action on the favorite and the favorite is way up at halftime and there is the potential to get buried again in the second half," said Rob Gillespie, president of Bodog, an Internet book based in Costa Rica. "We just try to be a little more aggressive with the line (in order to try to balance the books)."
There are also situations when the book can middle the players, or post a higher than normal hold percentage on both the full game and the second half by setting the line in a fashion where they have lopsided action on two different sides with the option of beating both majority groups of bettors if the number falls in between two set numbers. If a book can put itself in this position with a half time line, they have no monetary risk in the game and they are assured at least the vig if the game does not fall in their favor. If the game does fall somewhere in the desired range of points, they are up for a huge win for that game.
"If we have the opportunity to put ourselves in a win-win situation, we have the vig working for us and that is a luxury the players don't have," commented Gillespie. "If we win the second half but lose the game, well, we still make the vig. That's an option the house has."
Savvy bettors can middle the book as well by taking advantage of some favorable numbers that the oddsmakers may put out there for second half wagers. In certain situations they can do this by taking the opposite side in the second half from the team they wagered on for the full game (of course, if the number allows for a middle opportunity).
For example, lets say that New Orleans was playing in Milwaukee and the Bucks were a nine-point favorite for the full game. If a bettor took the Hornets for the game and they were up by seven at the half, Milwaukee would likely be laying a decent amount of points in the second half as well (remember, the oddsmakers know the public will bet the favorite that is down at home in the second half). If the player takes the other side (Milwaukee) for the second half then they eliminate any risk of losing money (except for the vig) and give themselves a chance to win both sides if the game falls between the two numbers (which in this example would be a very nice chance for a middle). This is an extreme example but smaller middle situations are available nearly every night.
There are ample opportunities for players to middle the books in NBA second half betting. NBA totals numbers tend to be weaker than sides, so there are even more chances to manipulate the numbers in that area. According to Gillespie, there are many NBA bettors out there that make a good living betting NBA second halves. The majority of players, however, don't know how to maximize their profit potential.
"A lot of people don't take into account that they might put themselves in a situation where they can lose their second half bet and lose their bet for the game - where they can't win both," he said. "It's never a situation you want to put yourself in, to buy yourself out of a loss. If you can lose both (bets), it's not a good situation.
Bookies must be extremely sharp when setting their second half lines since there is only a small time frame in which they must calculate their line and release it to the public. The professionals usually attack a bad number within seconds of its release. According to oddsmakers from BetJamaica, moves of two points on NBA second half sides and three points on NBA second half totals are not entirely uncommon.
The books usually keep track of where the competition is at with their numbers and no book wants to get too far away from the rest of the industry, but it is important for the serious bettor to have multiple accounts at several different sportsbooks. One point or even ½ point can make the difference between a push, loss or a win. Successful bettors have a handful of outs where they can shop for the best line.