By Sam Panayotovich
FOX Sports Betting Analyst
Many, many years ago in my early twenties, I was sitting at Caesars Palace during the NCAA Tournament next to an older gentleman who was poring over the betting sheet with the day’s games.
He was circling his favorite bets in pencil, and naturally, I started to sell him on why Butler was catching too many points against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. The Bulldogs were a five-point underdog and I loved that side.
“Play them (to win) outright,” he suggested. “It pays better.”
The gentleman explained his theory that it was more advantageous to lay the points if you like the favorite, but to take the moneyline if you like the smaller underdog. A true exercise of minimizing juice and maximizing profit.
Butler upset Wisconsin 61-54, validating my first-ever experience playing the moneyline instead of taking the points. Rather than betting $55 to win $50 on Butler +5, I wagered $50 to win $80 on the Bulldogs +160.
“Just pick the winner, kid.”
Picking winners is still a challenge, but this “point spread doesn’t matter” logic is holding serve through two games of the 2022 NBA Finals.
The Celtics won Game 1 outright as a +140 road dog and the Warriors clapped right back with an easy cover in Game 2. The Warriors won by 19 as a 4.5-point home favorite.
Obviously, a two-game sample size is hilariously small, but one Las Vegas handicapper uncovered an absolute doozy that dates all the way back to the last game of the 2011 NBA Finals. According to Ralph Michaels, the winner of a Finals game — including the two recent contests between Golden State and Boston — is 64-0-1 ATS over that span when the line is -6 or less.
That’s not a typo. 64-0-1.
Again, the Celtics are a 3.5-point home favorite in Game 3 on Wednesday night, and while you might be eyeing that Boston moneyline (-160) for a straight bet or parlay, the proof is in the mathematical pudding.
You should lay the points at -110 instead of paying the extra 50 cents.
And for you Warriors backers out there, rather than take the 3.5 at -110, Michaels’ system has more than 10 years of data explaining why it’s better in the long haul to play Golden State on the moneyline at +130.
May I drive this point home for you once more?
-110 > -160 and +130 > -110.
So keep my Caesars Palace anecdote in mind as you place your wagers for Game 3 and for the rest of this exciting series.
Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and NESN. He previously worked for WGN Radio, NBC Sports and VSiN. He’ll probably pick against your favorite team. Follow him on Twitter @spshoot.
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