Jason’s 2018-19 NBA picks record through Apr. 30: 28-29-1 ATS, 0-6 ML (minus-12.63 units), 37-23-1 Totals
Milwaukee (5-1 SU and ATS) at Boston (5-1 SU, 4-1-1 ATS)
Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Free NBA Pick: Bucks ATS
Recommended Sportsbook: Matchbook
God bless the NBA playoffs. This is when lapsed basketball fans – and casual bettors – start coming back to the game, more so with each passing round. Maybe you’re one of those fans. Or you’re just curious about this whole “sports betting’ thing. Either way, you’ve come to the right place. We’re recommending the Milwaukee Bucks for Friday’s Game 3 against the Boston Celtics; as quickly and painlessly as possible, we’ll show you why this NBA pick makes sense, and how you can go about making sharp picks in the future.
Dead Money Goes Around The World
If there’s one thing we want you to take from this, here it is: Betting on sports isn’t about you versus the bookie, any more than buying stocks is about you versus the stockbroker. In both of these investment pursuits, you can get a good deal on commission if you shop around – which is where the NBA odds board at Sportsbook Review comes in very handy. But most of your profit comes from the “dead money’ that so-called recreational bettors pump into the marketplace, throwing a few dollars down here and there on their favorite teams without much thought. The more of these bettors there are, the more dead money they provide, distorting the market and creating that profit margin we need.
In order to realize that profit in the long run, the margin has to be large enough to overcome the commission you pay on every bet you make. With a typical ATS bet, you pay –110 juice, meaning you bet $110 to win $100, or $11 to win $10, or whatever multiple you want. That means you need to get 52.4 percent of your picks right to break even. Or to put it in more granular terms, you should have greater than 52.4-percent confidence in each of your picks to make a long-term profit. This is assuming you make the same bet size every time – which isn’t the sharp way to do business, but that’s another story for another day.
Mason and David and Jeff
How do you measure your confidence in a pick? We recommend consulting the best (freely available) computer projections on the web; if you want to set up your own algorithm, even better, but make sure you know what you’re doing. In the meantime, we’ll trust Jeff Sagarin’s projections at The USA Today. Using something called an eigenvector analysis, Sagarin has the Bucks pegged as favorites of 1.61 points for Friday’s game, even though they’re 2-point road dogs on the NBA odds board at press time.
There’s the profit margin we’re looking for. Once upon a time, Mason Malmuth and David Sklansky recommended looking for at least a 2-point gap between the projections and the actual odds before betting. It’s a dusty rule of thumb, but it’s a starting point. And in this case, the Bucks are being undervalued by 3.61 points according to Sagarin’s projections. Delicious.
Because we’re journalists here at the home office, we recommend using a second reliable source where available. Nate Silver’s crew of hoop nerds at FiveThirtyEight have Game 3 as a pick’em using their algorithm, which is based on a version of the Elo ratings used in chess tournaments and the like. That’s not as bullish on the Bucks as Sagarin’s projections, but it still shows that 2-point gap we crave so desperately.
Why does this gap exist? Mainly, it’s because people like the Celtics more than the Bucks. There are several reasons behind that: population base, market size, branding, Kyrie Irving having won a championship alongside LeBron James, the Bucks having won jack-squat since 1971 – we could go on. Then you have the reasons not to bet on Boston that so many bettors overlook, like the absence of combo guard Marcus Smart, who’s out with a torn oblique.
We’ll be focussing more on these factors as the series progresses, since that’s what matters once you understand the way the betting market works and how to exploit it. In the meantime, bet the Bucks in Game 3 with more than 52.4-percent confidence, and may the sphere be with you.