Trend-Busters: Betting Every NBA Underdog Moneyline

The Trend

There’s a new trend taking sports betting Twitter by storm. It started here…

…and hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down:

The trend is simple. If you bet $100 on every NBA underdog’s money-line this year, you’d be up $5,133.86. That’s not too shabby! This trend seems fairly reasonable too. The NBA is wonky this year, so underdogs are winning a little more often than usual. But are they actually winning at an unexpectedly high rate? Let’s take a look.

The Investigation

The process here is pretty straight-forward. First, we need to grab the moneyline for both teams in every game this year. I got most of this data from SportsBookReview and manually entered the data since their last update. The second step is to calculate the implied win probabilities for each team based on the moneylines (accounting for the vig), and the return you’d get on a $100 bet for each team’s moneyline.

Once we have all of this information, we’re ready to run some simulations. Each simulation consists of using the win-probabilities for each game to “flip a coin” to see which team wins. Adding up the return for all of the underdog moneyline winners and subtracting away $100 for each favorite moneyline winner gives us the profit.

I ran this process a million times. Here are the results:

 

According to the simulations, a profit of $5,133.86 through this point in the season is about a 1 in 50 occurrence. That’s definitely unusual, but certainly not a once-in-a-lifetime event, especially considering we’re only about a third of the way through the season.

The Conclusion

So is this trend busted or confirmed?

I’d have to plead the Fifth there. On the one hand, this NBA season is weird. There are plenty of unusual things happening and it’s definitely impacting the rate at which underdogs win.

On the other hand, if you were to bet $100 on every underdog moneyline for the next 449 games, should you expect $5,133.86 in profit? Absolutely not, if for no other reason than the books adjusting their lines to account for this. Its hard to be profitable betting on sports, and its even harder to be profitable utilizing such a simple handicap. I would expect that over the rest of the season, underdog moneylines are at best break-even and at worst swing a few thousand dollars into the red.

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