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How to Identify When Betting on an Underdog Has Value

Utah Jazz vs New York Knicks - Basketball Player Jeremy Lin

When we bet on the NBA, we do so to make money or to maximize profit. You don’t get both by simply going with the favorites although as such, they are perceived to be the better team in a particular game. But the only reason favorites exist is because, in betting, there has to be one. Sometimes making money and maximizing profits in sports betting comes as a result of putting your wagers on the underdogs.

The underdog is the team or individual that the odds suggest is less likely going to win. Read that sentence carefully and it says “suggest” because we are dealing with probabilities. There is always a probability that an underdog can beat a favorite, no matter how big or small that possibility is. And because the underdog is always priced better than the favorite, there is always the possibility of making more money or maximizing your profit when betting on the underdogs, that is if you can spot a profitable one.

There are 30 professional basketball teams in the NBA and while their records are going to tell us that one team has more wins than the other, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the team with more wins is always better and will always end up victorious in games. The NBA is a very competitive professional sports league and the bottom team can always beat the best team, given the right situations and factors.

Here are a few tips on how to spot betting value in NBA underdogs. Read on:

1 – Inflated Line

Many of the betting public would bet on the favorite right away because after all, favorites are supposed to be the superior NBA teams and thus have a better chance of winning a game. There are instances when more than 50% of the wagers made are on the betting favorites and when the percentage grows higher and higher, there is a chance that the betting sites are going to inflate the line in order to entice betting money on the underdog team. The only logical way to stop the flow of betting money for the favorite is to raise the betting line and the higher the line for the favorites, the better the value becomes for the underdog.

For Example

The Los Angeles Lakers could be just -5 favorites over the Toronto Raptors but the oddsmakers inflate them to a -10.5 to get their desired betting action.

When you spot an inflated line, there’s definitely value in backing the underdog. In this case, you’re getting +5.5 more points if you back Toronto because of the inflated line.

2 – Reverse Line Movement

Reverse line movement happens when the odds move in a direction that contradicts the betting action in the market. When the majority of bets are placed on one team, the logical thing to do is to inflate the line to encourage betting on the other side. But under RLM, the odds are shortened instead. For instance, the Lakers are a -5 favorite on the Raptors but despite having heavy betting action on Los Angeles, the line is moved to say -3. This happens because while the volume is in Los Angeles, the big money is in Toronto. That big money on the Raptors comes from the sharp bettors or wiseguys who know better than average bettors like you and me. In this case, the betting sites allow the general public to bet on the favorite at a better price to balance the equation. When there is a reverse line movement, there is value on the underdog.

3 – Winning Streaks

Although the NBA is a very competitive league, teams can go into winning or losing streaks. The longest winning streak in the 2019-20 NBA season has been 10 games by the Boston Celtics. When a team starts getting on a roll like the Celtics did earlier this season, they get more media mileage. When that happens, these teams tend to get overvalued and are always favorites for as long as they keep winning. But the law of averages always catches up with everybody.

The longer the streak goes, the better it is to fade them and find value in the underdog. The opposite is true for teams on losing streaks. These teams are often undervalued and because of the negative information written about them in media, they are almost written off as underdogs. Because the average bettor would shy away from teams with losing streaks, the betting sites are forced to add value to them. This is where you can come in and make a profit.

4 – Blowout Wins

Aside from winning streaks, blowout wins can overvalue NBA teams. If for example, the Lakers beat the Raptors by 20 points, then they are most likely going to be overvalued in their next game. The betting public likes to wager based on the latest results and because the Lakers are coming off a blowout win, betting money is expected to come for them. In this case, there is value on going against the Lakers. On the other hand, teams coming off blowout losses are often undervalued. No matter how many points a team loses, it is just one game and these are professional basketball teams. There are many reasons why a team loses (or wins). Sometimes, they just have off shooting nights. These teams can light it up the very next game. So when a team is coming off a big loss, there’s potential betting value in them.

5 – Rest Day Situations

The NBA is a very busy league with teams playing 82 games each and a total of 1,320 games happening every season. Teams play almost every day and although the NBA has cut back on back to back games, these situations still exist. On the other hand, there are also teams that play after one, two or even 3+ days of rest. Now there are times when favorites play on back to back games while the underdogs are fresh from rest. When a team plays the second of back to back games, that team is physically compromised, regardless of talent level or skill.

On the Other Hand

A team that is coming off a rest day or days has fresher legs and thus are in better shape, physically. When the underdog is playing from rest and the favorite is playing the 2nd of a back to back schedule, there is betting value in that underdog.

6 – Injuries

Injuries also play an important factor in NBA betting. For example, the Golden State Warriors won three NBA titles in the previous five seasons. But the Warriors lost Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry to injury. The result? Golden State is at the bottom of the standings at the start of the 2019-20 NBA season. When you translate that to a per-game basis, injuries change teams. Injuries are always announced and are posted on the team’s official injury list. But there are instances when an injured player is just labeled as questionable or probable which means they may or may not play. When a favorite has players listed as such, then there is a possibility that they won’t play a particular game. If you keep a close eye, you can spot value in an underdog because key players from the favorite team will not play or will play hurt.