The zig-zag betting approach can work in a bubble, too.
The zig-zag theory is simple, time-honored and often a solid strategy for a playoff series. If Team A covers the spread in a playoff game, bet on Team B to cover the next game. Not much math involved there.
That strategy has been around for a long time, but until this year it has always involved changes in venues through the series. In the NBA’s bubble in Orlando, it has still been effective.
Bettors that wagered on the team that failed to cover the previous game have gone 12-8 through Sunday’s games including a 6-2 record in all the Game 2s. Any method that hits 60 percent is a great one. The Los Angeles Clippers-Dallas Mavericks series has been a zig-zag bettor’s dream. The Clippers covered as a 6.5-point favorite in Game 1. Then the Mavericks won straight up in Game 2. The Clippers bounced back to cover in Game 3 as 5-point favorites, and the Mavericks won straight up in Game 4 thanks to Luka Doncic’s buzzer beater.
For those who only follow the zig-zag pattern if the underdog wins straight up, that has been even more profitable. The Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers were upset in Game 1 of their series, and both teams covered in Game 2. The Clippers covered in Game 3 of their series after a loss. The Denver Nuggets did not cover in Game 3 after losing Game 2 as a small favorite, but the Utah Jazz got Mike Conley back between Games 2 and 3. Still, 3-1 isn’t bad. That theory will be tested twice early this week when the Houston Rockets (-3) and Clippers (-6.5) try to rebound after losing straight up as favorites.
There is logic behind zig-zag betting. Teams are a little more motivated after losing or losing big. There is some recency bias involved in shading the line sometimes. There’s a reason veteran bettors follow it.
Going back and forth in a series isn’t a lock because nothing is, but it has worked pretty well so far in the NBA. Make sure you check who has covered the last game before placing a wager this week.
Here are the winners and losers from the week of sports betting:
Dustin Johnson: It’s hard to be better than Johnson was last week.
At the Northern Trust, Johnson was 20-to-1 to win before the tournament. Bettors didn’t have a nervous moment, as Johnson torched the course and won by 11 strokes.
For anyone who was swayed by Johnson’s ridiculous front nine in the second round, when he was minus-9, the positive props for Johnson on the final two days of the tournament were easy money.
Another Huge Day for DJ 🎯— BetMGM (@BetMGM) August 22, 2020
▪ To Birdie any par 3 (-125) ☑️
▪ End of 3rd Rd. Leader (100) ☑️
▪ To make 6+ birdies (100) ☑️
▪ To shoot 65 or lower (+140) ☑️
▪ To make an eagle (+700) ☑️
Dustin Johnson hit 7️⃣ of these Specials yesterday 🧐 pic.twitter.com/Ykd4N8OGrG— BetMGM (@BetMGM) August 23, 2020
Johnson got off to a good start at the PGA Championship earlier this month and faded late. But he’s clearly playing well and is a significant favorite for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot on Sept. 17-20. Johnson is 10-to-1 at BetMGM, and no other golfer is less than 14-to-1.
New blood to win the Stanley Cup: The St. Louis Blues, who never seemed to find their rhythm upon the NHL’s restart, won’t repeat as Stanley Cup champs. They were ousted by the Vancouver Canucks.
Here are the odds on the remaining teams as of Monday morning at BetMGM:
The Lightning might be the best value. They were 6-2 in the NHL’s restart before getting off to a terrible start in Game 1 against the Bruins and losing 3-2. Tampa Bay’s 92 points during the season were tied for third-best in the NHL. The Bruins are perhaps the NHL’s best team but if the Lightning can squeeze out a close series win, a +850 ticket would look pretty good.
Boston Celtics: The Celtics rolled through the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, sweeping them (and covering in three of the four games). One bettor who put $14,500 on the Celtics to win the Eastern Conference could be looking at an $87,000 win if they keep it up. So far, so good.
The Celtics-Toronto Raptors series should be fantastic. The Raptors swept the undermanned Brooklyn Nets and looked very good in doing so. Toronto is -139 on the moneyline for Game 1 at BetMGM and considering there’s no home-court advantage, the series price should be similar. It could be the most competitive of the four second-round series.
That Jamal Murray bad beat: This goes in the winners if you had the Nuggets +3.5. But to paraphrase “Rounders,” few bettors recall the big wins but can recall with remarkable accuracy the bad beats.
And if you had the Jazz, you took a tough one. The Denver Nuggets trailed by 5 in the final seconds and Murray decided to shoot a 3 at the buzzer. You know what happened next.
If you had Jazz -3.5 we are here for you... 😭pic.twitter.com/J8R32Rlswf— Yahoo Sportsbook (@YahooSportsbook) August 24, 2020
And the Chris Duhon Award goes to Murray. With that shot Murray hit 50 points, the Nuggets record for a playoff game. It didn’t mean too much for the Nuggets, who fell behind 3-1 in the series. It was a pretty meaningful final shot for bettors though.
Fading the Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays have been hammered by injuries, with nine pitchers on the injured list including top-end starter Charlie Morton and key reliever Nick Anderson.
It hasn’t mattered.
Only two MLB teams have won at least eight of their last 10. One is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are heavy favorites most nights. The other is the Rays, who have won 12 of their last 15 games and have a 1-game lead in the American League East.
The Rays are tied for fourth-best odds to win the World Series at +1000 and they’re +500 to win the American League, tied with the Oakland A’s for third-best odds. They’re a virtual playoff lock at this point and once they get pitchers off the IL, they look like a pretty good bet to make a nice playoff run. And anyone who bet the Rays to upset the Yankees in the AL East this season has to be confident.