On a scale of one to basketball: How to make the best NBA bets


Happy Opening Day to the 2018-2019 NBA Season! We did it! We didn’t die yet! Give it time!

It’s around this section of yeartime where you’re thinking “Well, I got my fantasy team in order, I’ve successfully dehydrated my favorite cheese dips so that when I need some in a pinch I can just add water and go, and my Andre Drummond jerseys have been thoroughly dry cleaned. I’m ready for all this basketball to envelop existence.”

Well, chill. Alright, man? Chill. What about all the bets you need to make with seedy bookie-types so to cement yourself as a true sports fan of the modern age? If you don’t have skin in the game, can you really say you care? I kind of definitely don’t think so.

Here’s the problem: it’s Tuesday. The games are starting in a small number of hours. Fewer than 10 in many cases. That’s not enough time to do all the work needed to make quality decisions on your over unders and futures. The other option is to just copy what your favorite experts say such as Fastbreak Breakfast, or Dunc’d On, or a third source that presumably exists somewhere.

Well, don’t do that. Doing what other people say makes you a poser. It’s tantamount to plagiarism, and if you bet based on someone else’s picks then you owe them any money you make. (Consequently, you can invoice them for any losses, so that’s pretty neat I guess.)

So doing work is out. Being a fraud is worse. What’s a lazy idiot like you to do?

Well, I’d like to introduce you to my friend randomness.

Randomness is that all-consuming force that pushes the universe forward. We like to think we’re in control, and we try to expand our sphere of influence in any way we can. There are just too many unpredictable factors at play for us to really have much say in what goes on around us. In basketball terms, that means a fluke injury or a player making a sudden leap. In life, it could be a driver being distracted at the wrong second, knocking over a power line, and shutting off your internet right as you’re about to win a game of Fortnite for the first time in your life.

For some, that idea of being caught in the current of choices you don’t get to make is frightening. Well, I was scared once too. Now, instead, I’m awesome. I’ve chosen to embrace this randomness. Kind of. I have with basketball, anyway. Last year I decided to make picks on basketball point spreads based entirely on randomness, and it worked out pretty good once I figured out how I wanted to randomize things.

There’s logic to this, you see. Vegas sets their odds, and lines, and over/unders not to where they think they are most likely to fall. They place them where they think it’s most likely to split the betting public, half take one side and half take the other.

This is dangerous for people because most people think they’re smarter than they are, so they’ll think themselves smarter than the public, and be assured that their bet is the right one. But so will someone else who is making the exact opposite bet. In fact, it’s very difficult to tell what exactly is the median knowledge that would lead one to be exactly split on what side to bet. Where is the threshold? If you’re not at that threshold, how do you tell if you’re being smart or being taken? And how much does that change from bet to bet?

The more bets you make, the less knowledge you can have at your disposal in regards to each individual bet. That means the more you bet the more you leave up to blind chance on whether or not you’re right, and that’s the best possible outcome. The other is that you’re just getting dumber and dumber and are more likely to bet the wrong bet.

So why not skip that whole middle ground of self-doubt and incomplete knowledge and pain? Just make every pick at random and let your money fly. Hooray!

Last year, I used fake money (unless you consider pride a currency) to bet the point spreads on 606 different NBA games. At season’s end, my record was 304-302. Now, before you throw the word “vig” at me let me tell you that over the last 321 games, I was 174-147. Still random, but better random. I got my randomness method all sorted out allowing randomness to realize that I’m a friend. I put work into the relationship, and it rewarded me in kind. We are besties now.

And you can be too! Just pick your games at random, and everything will be okay.

The end.

Or is it? No, in fact. You need to put work into your randomizing otherwise randomness will become bored of you and what you bring to the relationship and break up with you. You see, there are all different sorts of ways to generate random results. You could flip a coin, or use a random number generator, or stop a stopwatch on the fly and see if the last number is odd or even. Just being all “hmmmm, maybe this??? Idk lol.” will only work once. It will work, as my last season shows, but by June the well will run dry. You only get one season like that. Singular. That’s it, bro.

If you didn’t pick randomly last year, you’re fine! Good job! Do whatever, as long as you don’t allow yourself to put any intellectual thought into the bets you make. They must be made purely by chance. Randomness will be happy and give you a nice season of bets.

But if you’re like me and went basic-random last year, you gotta step it up this time around. It’s imperative that you really show randomness you care. In fact, I care so much not only about randomness but all of you that I’ve decided to dedicate this year to figuring out the best method of second-season randomization. My hope is that next year the new crop of randomness-using sophomores can utilize it to determine their bets. Maybe that’s you. In that case, start me a Patreon and then pay me.

Thank you.

Now, I could make this next bit extremely exhaustive, but I don’t think it’s needed. We’re going to keep it simple and use teams’ season over/unders. While betting on MVPs and division winners and who’s most likely to get their foot caught in the net, I want to keep things easily quantifiable for when we revisit these results in May.

So without further ado, let’s introduce you to the ten methods of randomization that I’ve decided to employ.

Spinning a lighter

If it reveals a taco, then it’s an over. Otherwise, it’s an under.

Output of a random number generator between 1 -100

If the number generated is greater than the last number, then it’s an over. Otherwise, it’s an under

The direction of the cars passing on the road outside my apartment

If the car is moving left, then it’s an over. Otherwise, it’s an under.

Pick a Fastbreak Breakfast sticker randomly from a shuffled deck of stickers.

If I see an egg, then it’s an over. Otherwise, it’s an under

Simulate a one stock fight between two level 1 kirbys in Super Smash Bros.

If regular Kirby wins then it’s an over. If blue Kirby wins, it’s an under.

Flip a dead AA battery

If positive end faces more forward, then it’s an over. Otherwise, it’s an under.

Spin around and around in a circle with arm out and my eyes closed

If when I stop I’m pointing more north than south, it’s an over. Otherwise, it’s an under.

Look at the first letter of @dril tweets going backwards from october 13th, 2018

If it starts with an odd letter (ACEGIKMOQSUWY) it’s an over. Otherwise, it’s an under

Gauge a positive or negative slope of a line I draw on piece of sandpaper and spin

If the slope is positive, then it’s an over. Otherwise, it’s an under.

Shoot a nerf gun at this portion of my wall.

If the dart hits a wall covering, it’s an over. Otherwise, it’s an under.

Cool as hell. Notice the two Bobans kissing the only way they know how.

I have it all spreadsheeted out over here if you want to take a look, but if clicking links is too difficult for you (like it is for me) then here it is in picture form.

Randomness seems pretty fond of Cleveland and Chicago overs, which is surprising. San Antonio and Toronto are not getting that kind of love though. Kawhi really knows how to destroy everything he touches. That’ll be worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.

Next. Meet the 2018 NBA 25-under-25. dark

As far as the methods are concerned, I feel pretty good about the slope-of-a-line one. It’s got the Atlanta and Orlando unders with the Detroit and Memphis overs. I don’t think these are the most likely results to happen, but I feel like they’d make me the happiest. If you feel otherwise, feel free to put money on that option. Or any other option. It’ll be fun.

That kind of caps what we can do for the time being. Let’s check in at the end of the season and see what randomness has given us.

Go basketball season go! Yippee!