Sucker Bet

While reading an article about sports, I clicked a supporting link and found myself here, at the NBA futures page at a gambling Web site. I’m curious about numbers and things, so I looked at the odds for a bit.

At this moment, there is an anomaly. “Anomaly” in my newly-minted dictionary of gambling terms is a time when a safer bet pays better than a riskier one.

In the NBA more than any other sport, random luck plays a smaller role in the outcome of games, and of seasons. There are no Cinderellas in the NBA. So when the Golden State Warriors managed to abuse the byzantine salary cap rules to land yet another all-star in Boogie Cousins for a season while the closest competitors went downhill, the gambling world said, “Fuck it, the Warriors are going to win the championship again.”

To bet on the Warriors winning the title next year, Las Vegas is giving you 10/17 odds. That is, the payoff is based on a 0.588 probability that they will win. Well over a coin flip.

But then I noticed this: on that same page the odds Golden State has of winning the Western Conference are 4/9, or 0.444 percent. Hence, a better payoff. Here’s the thing: The Warriors will not win the championship without first winning the division final. Yet somehow the bookies are paying less for the championship?

Yep. If you want action on the Warriors, don’t be a chump. Don’t follow the blind money to “Warriors win it all!”; follow the slightly-better-informed money to “Warriors make me money!”

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