Series prices, specifically how they’re set, remain an enigma to many casual bettors.
The most common questions don’t emanate from where bookmakers develop opening numbers, but rather how they adjust after each game.
This year’s roller-coaster ride, the No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchup between the 76ers and Bulls in the Eastern Conference playoffs, provides a great example for our discussion to illustrate the bookmaker mentality.
Assuming a normal line based on the talent disparity between the top and bottom seeds in the East, Chicago opened up at around -1,350 at the majority of shops both here in Las Vegas and offshore.
Normally, a Game 1 win for such a heavy favorite (depending on how they looked) would take the price up another -400 or so, which given the high opening price doesn’t require a major overhaul. However, this series is a little bit different due to the season-ending knee injury to Bulls superstar Derrick Rose and how his absence affects the series going forward.
As a result of the drastic change in series dynamic, Chicago actually dropped from -1350 down to -650, despite owning a 1-0 series lead. While you don’t judge the strength of a bookmaking decision on the outcome of a game, my linesmaking brethren and I made the right choice adjusting down given the 76ers’ systematic demolition of the Bulls in Game 2.
With the series shifting to Philly, the bookmaking scenario has done a complete 180 because the 76ers now own home court advantage and will be favored in three of the remaining five games. The next logical question becomes if Philly is favored in the majority of remaining games, why is it still a +150 dog for the series itself?
Truth of the matter is that all favorites are not created equally and the short line you’ll see in Philadelphia doesn’t compare to the heavy favorite tag that will accompany the Bulls in Game 5 when they return to the United Center.
I’ve always been of the mindset that Game 3 is pivotal for a series where the home court has shifted and I’ll say with certainty, the Bulls won’t be nearly as lethargic Friday night. When it comes to handicapping, the real key to giving yourself an edge in series betting is by making your move before the balance in power shifts.
The Game 1 win for a home team won’t force us to change the price too much and waiting can actually pay dividends, as bettors saw with the Celtics gaining control of their series despite losing Game 1.
Here are the prices that saw the biggest changes once home court shifted through the first three games of this year’s playoffs:
-- Bulls opened -1,400, dropped to -650 after Rose injury, and now sit at -170 after losing Game 2.
-- Pacers opened -1,000, dropped to -420 after losing Game 1 and will now move back to -700 minimum after regaining home court.
-- Grizzlies opened -200, dropped to +115 after collapsing in Game 1 and relinquishing home court.