Anyone who is a serious bettor of any pro sport in North America knows that at some point each year you have to make the transition from the regular season to the playoffs. In a lot of ways betting on the postseason in any sport is the same as the regular season – the game is still the same. Fans know, though, that there are some key differences between the regular season and the playoffs. Smart bettors know that those difference require adjustments to be made in order profitability to be maintained. Here are six possible adjustments for sports handicappers that could be required:
Shift away from looking for mismatches – During the regular season a big part of handicapping is looking for situations in which the two teams don’t belong on the same field, court, or rink. Whether it’s a long term situation – one team is really lousy and the other is really good – or more of a short term one, mismatches are the bread and butter of successful handicapping – especially when you can spot a mismatch that the oddsmakers and the betting public haven’t adequately accounted for. In the playoffs, though, mismatches are much harder to come by. The worst teams are out of action, and every team is playing as hard as they can in each game. Mismatches are the easiest situations to pick, but they are rare in the playoffs – and increasingly so as the playoffs progress. That means that sports bettors need to look deeper in the playoffs.
Consider changing your bet size – For some bettors the start of the playoffs is a good time to re-evaluate the state of your bankroll and adjust it accordingly. If you’ve had a good regular season and banked some profit then this could be a good time to increase your bet size. If the season was less than ideal, though, then you may want to decrease your bet size before you make the rest of your bankroll disappear.
Fewer games mean more patience is needed – When the playoffs start there are fewer games per night to bet than there are during the regular season, and as the playoffs progress there are even fewer. Successful bettors know that you always need to be choosy and pass on any games that don’t offer you any real value. In the regular season that doesn’t mean because a lot of the time you can pass on several games and still find a game or two to bet. In the playoffs, though, being patient can mean that you can find yourself with out any action on a night – or even a few nights in a row. You need to be comfortable with that potential lack of action, and willing to endure it to give yourself the best chance of long term success in making smart bets.
Familiarity with opponents – In the regular season some teams only see each other once a year, and even the most frequent opponents aren’t particularly frequent and games are often separated by weeks or months. That all obviously changes in the playoffs in every sport but football. When teams play each other seven times in a row they don’t have any secrets from each other. Their tendencies are laid bare, and anything that can surprise opponents won’t renovate their playoff opponents after a couple of games. In one sense it’s easier to handicap these games because we have seen fresh evidence of how the teams matchup. On the negative side, though, familiarity for the sports handicapper can make it necessary to get to know a team all over again because it can change what they have to offer for bettors.
Home advantage is significant – Home advantage is never going to be higher than it is in the playoffs. Multiple studies have shown that the biggest factor that gives the home team the edge is the intensity of the crowd and the impact that that can have on officials. Crowds are more intense and often bigger in the playoffs than ever before, so the potential to impact the officials won’t ever be bigger. You need to consider the impact of the location more in the playoffs than you do in most cases in the regular season.
Overtime – In hockey and football the overtime format in the postseason is different than it is in the regular season. You can’t worry too much about overtime in your handicapping – if you think a team is likely to get a tie then you likely shouldn’t be betting on them. There are some situations where it could matter, though. For example, to sports handicappers a NHL team that is particularly good at the shootout could be attractive in the regular season, but that’s not going to help them at all in the playoffs.