Playoff Odds and Half-Bets (5/28/12)

By Paul

Monday, May 28 at 9:45 PM ET

Manu Ginobili:

After my wife, who loves watching football and baseball, and I spent last night watching our first ever televised NBA game start-to-finish (until a month ago when a lightning strike knocked out all but one of our TVs - and the subsequent experience dealing with home insurance has been beyond frustrating - we had multiple games and "her" shows on, so we never really focused on watching a specific NBA game), seeing (and hearing) her experience and my reaction to what unfolded, I was all fired up to write on and on about how Manu Ginobili has ruined the NBA. Ultimately, I decided this is probably not the best space for that (especially because I do not expect David Stern to be checking out this blog any time soon) and, instead, will focus on NBA and NHL Playoff odds and a recent change to the Play Value Key. (Cliff's Notes version: I was such a big San Antonio Spurs fan growing up that I duct taped "GO SPURS!" to my roof during the 1999 NBA Playoffs. Since Ginobili entered the league and the Spurs sold their soul to some amalgamation of Stockton and Malone's petty, embarrassing, cheating, deceiving antics and the asinine, over-the-top flopping that has overcome soccer and played a significant role in that sport failing to catch on fully in this country, the Spurs have become something altogether different to me It's not that they lack "stars" or are in a small market that keeps the Spurs from grabbing big ratings, but how they win and that they win in a way that is not respectable and never feels "right." And there are no sour grapes there on a professional level. We didn't have a pick on the side last night, hit the under, have had a good NBA Playoffs and profited during Spurs games this year. I just cannot watch the team.) On to other things...

NBA Championship Odds:
As I Tweeted over the weekend, going into the conference finals, the San Antonio Spurs had a 70.7% to win their series over the Oklahoma City Thunder. With a Game One win, that percentage has climbed to 77.4%, while the most likely scenario is still a six game series win by the Spurs. In the Eastern Conference Finals, Miami is a 66.2% favorite to win over Boston. Assuming Chris Bosh played and was 100% for every game (as opposed to not playing at all), Miami would have been an 80.1% favorite. Losing Bosh essentially turns a five game, "easy" series win into a six game series (the Heat goes from winning four out of five to two out of three). Going into the series, NBA Championship Odds from the rest of the Playoffs simulated 50,000 times looked like this: San Antonio Spurs (44.8%), Miami Heat (29.4%), Oklahoma City Thunder (20.2%) and Boston Celtics (5.6%).

NHL Stanley Cup Finals Odds:
Despite the weakest, by seeds at least, matchup we have ever seen in the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, expect a great series between the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils. Despite the fact that the Devils have a better regular season record, home ice advantage and the more experienced and well-known players, in 50,000 simulations of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Los Angeles Kings win 52.3% of the time. A (close and low-scoring) seven game series is most likely. Unfortunately, sportsbooks have noted the Kings as favorites (-175) as well, which actually gives some value to the New Jersey Devils (+150 with 47.3% confidence). While projecting individual awards is not necessarily our calling card, looking through the various series, team and player props and comparing those to our projections for the series, Martin Brodeur (4:1), who narrowly lost the Conn Smythe Trophy to Jean-Sébastien Giguère in 2003, looks like great value to win the award for this year's playoffs. Only 20% confidence is needed to justify playing 4:1 odds. In that case, using the general assumption (though it was not true with Giguere) that the series winner will produce the Conn Smythe winner, feeling 42.2% confident that Brodeur would win the award if the Devils win the award is all that would be necessary to play it. That seems fair. Goalies have won exactly one third of all Conn Smythe Trophies historically, but, with the two goalies playing so well, I think an expectation that there is at least a 50% chance that either goalie wins the award if his team wins the Stanley Cup Finals is reasonable.

Half-Bet Notation:
We have talked about the Half-Bet MLB strategy at length in the blog. Now, we are tracking it. Plays for which we would recommend between half and full normal wagers ($25 - $49 for a normal $50 player) will be considered "Half Bet Plays" in the Play Value Key. Half-bet plays appear in the picks articles, Play Analyzer and Customizable Predictalator in the same yellow color that used to denote "Weak Plays" (from $1 - $49 for a normal $50 player). Plays for which we recommend from $1 - $24 for a normal $50 player are now labeled as "Light Plays" and are color-coded light red. For all games in all sports before May 18th when the Half-Bet Plays were introduced, the "Weak Play" designation still applies (and is colored the same as current Light Plays). The TrendFinder now includes the ability to search utilizing Half-Bets.

Playing half-bets, particularly in baseball, is designed to provide an appropriate amount of strong confidence games a day that will provide good return while also mitigating risk through diversification. Fortunately, (in an albeit limited, ten day sample tracking this information publicly,) this approach has been both helpful and profitable. Half-Bet Money-Line plays are 13-6 (68.4%), while Half-Bet Over/Under plays are 18-9 (62.1%). While the success of those picks is notable (and, hopefully/likely a sign that we are entering a time in the season from mid-May through the end of August that was very successful for us last season), of greater interest to me is that, while there have only been 29 "normal" or better plays (which were 11-14 from May 18 - 27) in the last ten days (plus tonight, which is looking like a 3-1 day with normal plays), there have been 53 Half-Bet plays in that stretch. As we have discussed before, five to nine plays a day in MLB seems to be the best window for the utilization of our information for profit (keeping in mind risk and bankroll management). We seem to be hitting that window and succeeding in both providing profitable information and having enough options to protect against the large day-to-day swings that can occur from simply playing normal picks.

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