Betting basketball games at halftime is an intriguing and increasingly popular way to get some action. If you aren’t familiar with halftime betting the name pretty much tells you everything you need to know – sportsbooks set a new line and total for the second half of games at halftime. The line is only available from a couple of minutes after the first half ends to right before the second half starts, so your window is small. You don’t have much time to make your bets, but that means that the books also don’t have much time to set their lines. As a result you can often find halftime lines that offer more value than full lines on the games. Also, because the time frame is so short on these bets there isn’t as much time for sharp bettors to bet the lines and correct them before you get to them so it is easier for you to get a piece of a generous line.
When you are thinking about betting halftime lines – either for the first time or as a regular part of your betting activity – here are seven things to keep in mind:
Think about second half motivation – In my mind this is the single biggest factor involved in second half bets. Generally the betting lines that are set will reflect the opening line and the way the first half turned out. So, if a heavy favorite gets out to a big lead then they will be solidly favored in the second half as well, for example. Often times, though, the team that gets out to a big early lead won’t be nearly as motivated to keep the pace high in the second half – they only have to win the game, not continue to widen the gap. That could create an opportunity. On the other hand, a team that is heavily favored but has a lousy first half will often have a particularly string second half to make up for it, and that can provide an opportunity. To successfully bet the second half in basketball you have to be a psychologist as much as a handicapper.
Look for times when a lot of games are hitting at the same time – On a busy NBA night or especially on a Saturday afternoon in college basketball you can often get a situation in which several games will hit the half at the same time – dozens at times on Saturdays. Oddsmakers have to set lines for all those games, so they can only spend a bit of time on each game. They are obviously going to be more careful with the games in which they are likely to see the most action, so if you follow a more obscure game at a busy time you can often find lines you will really like.
Is there a sustainable reason why the first half turned out like it did? – This is a good reason to ask yourself any time a game turned out even a little bit differently than generally expected in the first half. Was there an injury or foul issues that created a mismatch? Does one team seem incapable to match the other in some key way? If the result is as a result of a mismatch that isn’t likely to be corrected then you have a clear side for the second half, and a potential for value.
Have a number in mind in advance – You only have a few minutes to look at the number that is posted and decide if it works for you, so you don’t have time to carefully consider every aspect of it. The thing I like to do, then, is to set my own line in the last couple of minutes of the first half for games I am interested in. If the posted number is pretty close to what I thought then there might not be any value. If my number is dramatically different from what is posted, though, then I’ll take a closer look to see what’s going on and what it means.
Be careful in games with one-sided action on the full game – If the majority of the bettors and the money were on one side of the game before it started then bookmakers will often try to use the halftime line to attempt to balance their action a bit and limit their liability if they feel that they need to. As a result the lines in these games can be particularly odd at times. If you are playing a game with heavy lopsided action you need to be aware in advance so you can consider what it means and how it affects the line for the team you like.
The public loves the favorite – Some things don’t change, and that’s the case here. The public tends to favor the favorite and the over before the game starts, and they tend to like the over and especially the favorite at the half. Oddsmakers know this, and at times they will look to capitalize on it. I’m not suggesting that betting the underdog blindly at the half is always a good idea, but taking a close look at the underdog often is.
When in doubt, pass – There is so little time and so much to consider when you are betting halves that you really need to be especially sure that you have a lot of value before you make a bet. If you are at all unsure of a number then just pass and wait for the next game. Jumping on lines you don’t love is never a good idea, but it can be particularly costly in these bets.