How to attack live betting the NBA
With so many markets now available to bettors, there are a lot of different ways to bet a game in any sport, but live betting should never be overlooked — especially in the NBA. With so many possessions in a game, the NBA provides more opportunities to profitably jump in live on a side or total than any other sport. In fact, for many NBA bettors, including myself, in-game bets can account for the majority of bets you make in a season.
Below, I go through some things new bettors should know as they begin to get involved in live betting games…
Rules To Live By
1. If you’re entering a game without a pre-game bet and are looking to solely follow a live betting strategy you have in mind, YOU HAVE TO BE OK WITH IT IF YOU NEVER MAKE A SINGLE BET.
I think people often force in-game bets if they enter games they’re looking to live bet. You should enter each game with a specific strategy in mind and be on the lookout for the opportunities to present themselves that will offer you a good time/price to jump in live. Simply put, those opportunities you wish for will not present themselves in every game. Sometimes games just go a completely different way than you had thought, and that should be fine with you because you don’t have a single dollar invested.
2. If you’re not very familiar with live betting, start off by betting the absolute bare minimum or nothing at all. Track how the spread and total move throughout games.
You’ll want to get a feel for how spreads and totals move based off of scoring and pace. You’ll also get a feel for when the live odds really start to shift away from the pregame numbers. You’ll usually find this takes until at least the second quarter.
3. Wait for breaks in the action to make in-game bets.
Just like any other sport, you really want to wait for a timeout or commercial break to get your bets in. If watching on TV, you’ll always be behind what’s really happening on the court. Even if the game has hit a time/score and the spread/total you were hoping for, you don’t want to risk a bet while the game is still being played. You could be close to a full minute behind the real-time action that’s taking place. That’s a lifetime in the NBA and before you know it, you might be looking down at a very dumb bet you made. Wait for a break, then you can truly evaluate how best to proceed with betting the game.
4. Know who you’re betting against: a computer or a person.
Sportsbooks will often utilize technology and computer algorithms to set live odds throughout a game. For a bettor, this is ideal. Those books will have live odds posted throughout most of the game, whereas a sportsbook that is booking the game by hand will usually only post numbers during commercial breaks, and even that may be inconsistent. Betting against a computer will not only give you more opportunities to bet, but those algos might also miss out on accounting for injuries that take place, ejections, players fouling out, etc. – all things a bettor can take advantage of. Whichever state you bet in, familiarize yourself with your live betting options from book to book.
Alright, now that you have all that boring stuff squared away, let’s talk about some ways to make some damn money. Below, I go through some of the live betting strategies I utilize regularly.
Live Betting Strategies
1. It’s all about shooting percentages
Even if it’s a game you didn’t have plans to bet, some opportunities will present themselves you just can’t pass up. Let’s say Team A is favored by five pre-game and is down 12 middle of the second quarter. You check the box score and see that Team A is shooting 39% from the field and 18% from 3, while Team B is shooting 53% from the field and 47% from 3 (yes, I’m completely making up numbers for this example). Well, basketball is a game of shooting and runs, and teams can often start out very hot or cold from the field before finding their true average. In the example above, you should expect by the end of the game for Team A’s shooting percentages to look much better and Team B’s to look much worse, and in the second quarter you could be betting that pre-game five-point-favorite at a much better number.
2. OK, it’s mostly about three-point shooting percentages
That’s the number you should be focused the most on. With how many 3s are shot in the NBA today (about 40% of FGA), you can often find teams with drastically different 3P percentages at different points in a game. However, these percentages usually regress to near a team’s average by the end of a game. So, if you see a game with outlier shooting percentages on one side, or both, look to capitalize on it with a bet.
3. Guess what? This works for not just sides but totals too!
Let’s say both teams start out shooting poorly from 3, OR both teams start out shooting way too hot from 3. This can lead to easy in-game bets on the over or the under.
4. Timing is crucial
OK, we’ve discussed what you’re looking for when it comes to shooting percentages, but WHEN should you make the bet? A couple of minutes into the game, the odds won’t have shifted enough off the pregame numbers, and if you wait until too late into the game, you’re not going to give the team you’re betting on enough possessions to make up the points you need. If I’m basing my bet mainly just off shooting, I’m usually not getting involved until the second quarter has started, and I’m usually shutting it down by about midway through the third quarter. Again, you have to leave your team enough time.
5. Know when star players take that first break
As a season progresses, get to know when star players usually take their first rest in a game. Is it the end of the first quarter? Beginning of the second quarter? These are good to note as the season goes on and will help you make easier decisions on timing your in-game bets.
6. I like a team tonight, but man, I wish I was getting an extra few points or laying a couple less!
You’ll often say that every week during football season with not much you can do about it. Well, in the NBA that’s what I would call a pre-game lean that I’m looking to bet live. Let’s say you’re leaning team A, and then the game starts off with a flurry of points from team B. You could wait three minutes into the game, a timeout is called, and boom, all of a sudden you have a live number available to you that you were looking for pre-game. Yes, your team has an uphill climb ahead of them, but there are SO many more possessions left in the game.
7. We don’t root for injuries, but they can often lead to betting opportunities
We see bettors capitalize on this often in the NBA. Whether it’s an injury or a day off for a player, you’ll often see big changes in the spread when that afternoon injury report comes out, and you see Kawhi Leonard is taking another game off. The books will look to quickly pull down their numbers or adjust them, and bettors try to beat them to the punch. A similar approach can be taken in-game. If a player is injured, ejected, or fouls out, it might not be reflected in the live odds immediately. This is a major opportunity for bettors.
8. Oh sweet, beautiful middles
These aren’t for everybody, and it’s not even something I dabble in as much as I used to, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of having +points with both teams and the game falling right in the sweet spot. Of course, this is not something you can do with every game, but maybe you bet a big dog pre-game that gets off to an extremely good start that you know they won’t be able to maintain. Then come in with a smaller bet on the other side. You never know; you might win both. Of course, this can be applied to totals as well.
9. Live player props
This is a new frontier for me, and I don’t have a ton of betting advice on it now, but it is something I’m hoping to bet more this season if the Vegas books allow me to. Just like all other live markets, it’s one you should study to see how you might be able to profit from it.