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Gillespie: NBA All-Star Game Betting A
"Coin Flip" by Jeremy Martin
Bookies are the moderators. Public 'square' bettors and the professionals are the competitors. This is the formula for regular season NBA betting. For NBA All-Star Game betting, however, the professionals are largely taken out of the equation. For this game and other all-star events like it, it is usually the public alone going against the bookie and his skewed line.
The educated or savvy bettors, for the most part, stay away from this game. This is one of the rare cases in the NBA that bookies can set the line purely based on the public perception of how the game could unfold. During the regular season the books attempt to set a line that will attract equal action on both sides from the professionals and the squares. Not the All-Star Game.
"Typically (the NBA All-Star Game) is a coin flip game and guys who are sharp bettors look for better odds than that," said Rob Gillespie, president of Bodog. "(Setting the line) has a lot to do with public opinion. You look at the standings between the two conferences and you get a sense of what people's opinions will be. The last few years we have seen Western Conference domination but with (Shaquille O'Neal) on the East, we have a bit of an equalizer this year.
"We will try and gauge where the public will be and keep the bets small to start and once the line starts to shape up you can raise the limits a bit. I don't think you are going to see sharp bettors laying the money too often in these things. It could go either way. There is just not a lot of heart and passion in the game."
To most serious NBA bettors, NBA All-Star Game betting and the game itself are considered a complete joke. There is a severe lack of defense played and most of the participants don't seem to play to win. Last year's game reached a staggering 268 total points as the West notched a four-point win. That scoring fest pales in comparison to the 300 points scored in the West's 2003 win (although the game did include two overtime sessions).
Public opinion has once again determined the West as the favorite for this year's All-Star edition. The game has opened at 5 1/2 at most shops (the total has opened at 263). Although the West has won four out of the last five years, Gillespie believes that there is equivalent talent on each squad. The public is right in their admiration of the talent in the West, but the East's starting five - Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Grant Hill, Vince Carter and O'Neal would be any fantasy NBA player's dream lineup.
"I don't think it's the top 10 or 12 players in the conferences that separate (the East and the West), it's players number 13-100 who are more likely the differentiators," commented Gillespie. "It (will) certainly be interesting. We are not handicapping the actual on-the-court performances, we are handicapping the public perception."
Not all serious bettors stay away from the NBA All-Star Game, however. Gillespie said that some of his more savvy players may lay down a small bet on the game just for the entertainment value. And the squares are not laying big money on the game either. Most of the handle that comes in annually for this game is in the form many spread out small wagers. In fact, Gillespie said that the total handle that comes in for the All-Star Game is not much more than the book would take in for a regular marquee game that is on the weekend on national television.
According to Gillespie, there are some situations with totals in all-star games where savvy bettors might find value. There could be certain rule changes that could affect the way the game would be played that the general public would not pick up on. In addition, the 'wise guys' could pick up on some information about how the teams plan to play the game.
The Bodog president believes that the all-star games in the NBA and NHL are the hardest to predict because the games are not taken as seriously as some of the other all-star games in professional sports.
"The (NFL) Pro Bowl is probably one of the better ones," he commented. "The (MLB) All Star Game is pretty good. But the (NHL) All-Star Game and the NBA All-Star Game - neither one is indicative of what you see on a night-to-night basis. No hitting, no contact, no defense. (In) the Pro Bowl on Sunday, there were some pretty good licks laid during the course of the game. Peyton Manning goes down during the first drive and guys aren't even helping him up - they are high fiving and pumping fists. It looked like any other football game played at a high level.
"In basketball and hockey the lack of contact changes the game so much. It makes it wide open. It is really hard to gauge what is going to happen."
Most books offer a variety of proposition bets for the NBA All-Star Game. Gillespie said that educated bettors could find value in some of these props. Not only can you wager on individual player accomplishments during the game, but on other weekend events like the dunk contest and the three-point competition.
"Those are probably more entertaining and even a little more predictable than the All Star Game outcome itself," he said. "You can look and say 'this guy is really good or this guy is a fan favorite' or whatever and you see some value in the line there. Those are very popular."
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