NBA 1st quarter betting has been steadily growing in popularity. This is also true of 1st period NHL betting, 1st inning MLB betting and to a lesser degree, 1st quarter football betting. The public is attracted to wagers that play and settle quickly. The faster the better and it’s not really about having a strong opinion on a segment of the game most of the time. Bettors just want some instant action. There’s no better example of this than the Super Bowl coin-flip bets. The books slice that one as many ways as possible – heads/tails, who will win the toss, what will the call be before the toss etc. These bets work well for the book too as the quick settle gives bettors a reason to make another bet to stay in action, often on the same game.
For the NBA 1st quarter bet we’re going to look at how to determine the best possible option for the side and how using some highly correlated derivative bets can improve your price, and in certain instances, zero in on the superior time frame.
With 1st Q betting you get offered a point spread as well as a money-line. We’ll use games four and five of the 2019 NBA Finals as an example. In game four it was Toronto @ Golden State with the Warriors being a 1.5 pt fave with a ML of -150. The Warriors were down in the series 2-1 so this was considered a virtual must-win spot. Going down 3-1 with the next game in Toronto would put them in a 6% probability of a series win spot historically. The sense of urgency was clearly greater for the home team and the market often interprets that as an advantage. The lines for the team in the desperate spot are inflated and there’s a decent sample of results to support this reasoning. As a result the lines for the 1Q get hit early and can move significantly. You have to get these bets in quickly or pay the inflated price.
Fortunately, there are other bets that can highly correlate to the 1Q bet and they are lined in a more standardized manner. Often these bets get lined using a formula that takes the game line itself into consideration and not the inflated 1Q. Even if they do shade these at the open these bets don’t catch the same degree of action that the primary bets do so they don’t move in unison. What you’re left with is a variation of a stale line. The most highly correlated of these bets are called Races. You’ll see Race-to-10, Race-to-20 and Race-to-30 as the most common offerings but races are available in other increments. Races to 5, 15, 18, 25 are all available at various books so there’s good variety out there that you can use to fit what you’re looking for and also look for inefficiencies when compared to the 1Q market.
In game four we found Race-to-20 -120 at CG, Race-to-25 -125 at MGM and Race-to-30 -135 offshore on the Warriors. All these are superior bets vs the GST 1Q Money-line of -150. They aren’t 100% correlated but they are as good as it gets and plenty close enough to merit use as an alternative option to betting on a successful start to the game for Golden St.
This bet was fine-tuned by some professionals who had a handicapping angle. It had been noted that the Raptors held a noticeable advantage during the cross-over which is the last couple/few minutes before the end of the 1Q. This is when teams insert some of the second unit players to give the starters a rest. They take advantage of the extra down time at the end of the quarter break that allows for commercials etc. So a starter may come out with 3 minutes to go in the 1Q and then they also sit a minute or two at the start of the 2Q. This affords them the longest stretch to catch a breather while missing as little of the game as possible. The match-ups during these rest minutes change and sometimes one team just has the better of it with the new combination of players on the court. It was pretty obvious the Raptors bench of Ibaka, Van Vleet and Powell were getting the best of the likes of Livingston, Bogut and Cook. They were making good headway during these breaks. This made the shorter races more attractive. A Race-to-20 bet would probably entirely avoid the cross-over time frame making that as attractive as the Race-to-30. The winner of a quarter (which is the 1Q ML we’re trying to improve upon) will usually get right about to 30 by the end of the quarter. The Race-to-30 is more correlated in that respect but the Race-to-20 fits the match-up a bit better. It would be a matter of preference but it made the Race-to-20 a real good option. The discount the Race bets provided when compared and pro-rated to the 1Q money-line were the obvious way to go if GST were the preference. As a market value wager they were auto-bets.
Golden State won all those early race bets in game four but eventually lost the game to go down 3-1 in the series. Game 5 is in Toronto and for the close-out game a percentage believe Toronto comes out with a lot of energy with a wild crowd behind them. The win or go home spot for the Warriors has kept the market more uniform here and no real discrepancy has materialized between the main market and the derivatives. It’s early though and the news on Durants status will cause certain movement when it’s released. The 1Q ML sits at Tor -1 with a ML of -135. The Races are in line with this but that’s with Durants status up in the air. If he can’t go expect Toronto money to flow in and then the Races will probably become value as the 1Q market takes off. These are the spots to look for that allow for buying up value on bets highly correlated to a quick market move. You can get a deep discount on the same general wager by targeting these derivative markets.