Betting Strategies for the NHL and NBA Playoffs

With the NHL and NBA playoffs approaching, let’s discuss one of my favorite things to bet: series prices! In both the NHL and NBA playoffs, you have a full menu before the series starts with options not only to win but also the number of games, teams -1.5 or -2.5 games, and series totals (Over/Under number of games played). With so many options to attack, it’s a great opportunity to get exposure. Here are a couple of strategies that I use to play series.

Shop Around

I cannot stress this enough. Make sure you look at the full menu, not just one of the available options. Last year, in the NBA playoffs, you had multiple series where you could get a better price in the series by betting the total number of games instead of teams plus or minus 1.5 games in the series. Taking a series Under 5.5 games is essentially the same bet as taking a team -1.5 games yet sometimes the price will be different in the two situations. Make sure that you get the best number for the outcome that you are betting.


Follow the In-Series Betting

Once the series start, the markets do not come down; they adjust. This gives the bettor ample opportunities to either create middles, add to positions or take advantage of situational spots that the original number does not factor in.

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For example, let’s say you like Colorado over Nashville in the second round and they are a -150 price to win the series. If they are coming off a seven-game series and Nashville is rested, you may want to pass on betting the series or wager a half unit instead of a full unit before Game 1. Since it’s a more difficult spot for the team you like, a loss in Game 1, especially at home, would allow you to capture a much better price in the series.

You can also hedge out or create middles on bets as well. If you like a favorite in a series and lay the -1.5, and they are up 3-0 going into Game 4, you have a good opportunity to middle the game by betting the dog. You also have a hedge opportunity if they are up 3-1 and going home to play the dog and cover some of your wager.

Compare Prices from Series to Series

As teams advance, you get more data about the pricing of series as well. You have comparisons from previous series to be able to create a baseline of how the market sees each team to advance. Generally, a team will not have a massive upgrade or downgrade compared to their next opponent since both teams just advanced. Make sure to take advantage of faulty series lines because of it.

When the Avalanche won the Cup two years ago, they are incorrectly priced in the finals mainly because of a massive upgrade for the Lightning coming out of the East and the relatively easy time the Avs had in the West.

We could see a similar thing in the NBA playoffs this year. If Boston cruises through the Eastern Conference and someone not named Denver comes out of the West, you will see that Western Conference team upgraded due to the opponents they beat, but not much of an adjustment on Boston since they were expected to get there. That will create an opportunity to get the Celtics at a better value in the Finals than one would have projected before the playoffs started.