Should you hedge your bet?

Here is a question I get asked quite often from people who have a pending parlay or future bet: “Should I hedge my bet?”

In order to make sure you understand clearly what I’m talking about, here is a concrete example. On May 23rd when the Pittsburgh Penguins were up 3-2 in their semifinals series against Ottawa I made a post about how I believed the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup at -105 (decimal: 1.95) was providing value. Since then they have proceeded to eliminate the Sens (it wasn’t easy!!) and are now up 2-0 in the finals against Nashville. The series price at William Hill is Pittsburgh -600 Nashville +400.

Should I hedge my bet by betting Nashville at +400 (decimal 5.0) to guarantee myself a profit? My short answer is: NO. The only exception would be if I truly believe the +400 line on the Predators is inflated and therefore provides value. Otherwise, why would you waste your money on a bad bet?

Those who hedge such bets do it for one common reason: they want to lock in a profit so they can sleep better. They want to avoid the situation where their bet eventually loses and they curse themselves for not hedging. I’m a statistician, so based on the numbers only my advice is to avoid hedging because in the long run you will maximize your bankroll that way. Otherwise you will leave money on the table.

Sure, the Penguins might end up losing the series and I could tell myself “what an idiot, I could have secured a profit by betting Nashville at +400 earlier!!” But if you follow my recommendation to avoid hedging many times (say, on 500 occasions) I’m sure your bankroll will be bigger than if you had done it every single time.

Think of it this way. Suppose that you have made the following bet: risking 100$ for a potential profit of 110$ that the next coin flip will land on “heads”. It’s pretty unlikely that you will be able to find a guy who is crazy enough to accept such a deal, but that’s not the point here. Let’s just assume we do have such a pending bet.

Suppose a second guy comes up and makes the following proposition to you: “If you’re interested, you could risk 106$ on “tails” for a potential profit of 104$ with me. So if “tails” comes up you will win 104$ with me but lose 100$ with the first guy for a net profit of 4$. And if “heads” comes up, you’ll win 110$ with the first guy but lose 106$ with me, still for a net profit of 4$. So basically, you are guaranteed to be 4$ richer!! Do we have a deal?”

You should decline his proposition. He is asking you to risk 106$ to win 104$ on a bet that clearly has a 50% chance of winning. You should never accept odds below 2.0 when you have a 50% win probability, and in this case we are getting 1.98 odds (210 / 106).

My Penguins example above concerned a future bet. The same concept applies to parlays (also called “accumulators”). Suppose you made a 5-team parlay and the first four teams have won. You might be tempted to hedge the last bet to make sure you will win some money, but you shouldn’t (unless you are convinced the line you are considering betting provides value, which would be surprising since you originally bet AGAINST that team when you made the parlay bet!).

The sports betting book that I am writing will answer many more questions like these. It will start by covering the basics about odds and probabilities, before explaining “arbitrage betting” and “value betting” which are two great ways to increase your bankroll. I’ll also cover money management and present several winning strategies on different sports. If you would like to suggest topics (or specific questions that you would like answered, like the one from this article) to include in my future book, I will be very happy to hear (professormj@hotmail.com)!

Professor MJ

Professor MJ: NHL PLAYOFF SERIES PREDICTIONS – THE FINALS (finally there!!)

This is why the NHL playoffs are fun: you never know what’s going to happen. Upsets are more frequent compared to other major sports like the NBA. We are now set for the Finals, which features the team with the fewest points among those that qualified for the postseason: the Nashville Predators. Prior to this year, the franchise had won only three series, while losing nine. They had never reached the Conference Finals, but they are now that close to winning their first Stanley Cup ever. Their fans are going crazy and they deserve it. They’ve been waiting patiently for such a long time and they never let their team down.

Meanwhile, the Penguins are the usual suspects when it comes to the NHL Finals. This year will mark their fourth appearance over the past 10 postseasons. They have won four championships in their franchised history: 2016, 2009, 1992 and 1991.

I came close to perfection with my Conference Finals’ picks (Nashville in six games and Pittsburgh in six games). Let’s see if I can hit the bullseye this time.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS VERSUS PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Series price: Predators +144 vs Penguins -160 (decimal: Predators 2.44 vs Penguins 1.625)

Previous round results:
-Nashville eliminated Chicago in four games, St. Louis in six games and Anaheim in six games.
-Pittsburgh eliminated Columbus in five games, Washington in seven games and Ottawa in seven games.

Let’s start the series analysis with the injury report. Nashville will be missing its regular season leading scorer, Ryan Johansen, throughout the series. Forward Kevin Fiala will also miss the entire series with a fractured femur. As for the Pens, they are still without their best offensive defenceman, Kris Letang, but should get forward Patric Hornqvist back for either Game 1 or 2. Mike Fisher should be back in the lineup in time for Game 1.

These teams played twice in the regular season: Nashville won 5-1 at home back in October, while the Pens got revenge with a 4-2 win at PPG Paints Arena in January.

The Penguins have four of the top seven postseason scorers in the NHL: Malkin leads the league with 24 points, while Crosby has 20, Kessel 19 and Guentzel 16. Did you know that Crosby has a very surprising -1 rating in the playoffs? Speaking of plus/minus ratings, Nashville has five of the top 10 players in this category! Filip Forsberg leads the pack with +17. He’s been great thus far and he is riding a seven-game point streak.

Pittsburgh started off the postseason by eliminating two of the top four teams in the entire league (in terms of points). They went on to beat Ottawa which finished 12th overall and they are now facing the team that occupied the 16th spot. That’s a pretty odd route they had to take.

During the first three rounds, the Predators have allowed only 29 goals in 16 games (which equals 1.8 goals allowed per game). Goalie Pekka Rinne leads the league both in goals against average (GAA) and save percentage so far. After suffering an injury in warm-ups before the very first game of the playoffs which cost him to miss more than the first couple of rounds, Matt Murray came in to relieve Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 3 against Ottawa and he hasn’t been benched since then. His numbers have been impressive: he has not allowed more than two goals in any of his four starts, while posting a 1.35 GAA and a 0.946 save percentage.

Experience is definitely on Pittsburgh’s side. From the 2008 to the 2016 playoffs, Nashville played nine series compared to 22 for the Pens.

You have to wonder how much the Johansen injury will affect a Predators’ offense that already had much less firepower than Pittsburgh’s. I’ve got major concerns after watching the clinching series Game 6 in Nashville, where the Ducks clearly outplayed the Preds with 41 shots versus only 18. However, I do favor Nashville’s group of defencemen and their goalie, but not by a very wide margin.

You’ve got to feel bad for Shea Weber. He played his heart out during his first 11 seasons in the NHL with Nashville, going through some tough times. He got dealt to Montreal prior to this year and he now sees his former team reach the Finals. He must be feeling mixed emotions: happy for his former teammates, but disappointed he can’t be part of the dance.

FINAL PICK: I picked the Ottawa Senators to upset their rivals in the first two rounds, but I felt like I had to go with Pittsburgh to end their fairy tale ride. A similar situation is occurring here as I went with the Preds to eliminate the Blues and the Ducks, but I am predicting the feel-good story to end right here. My heart would prefer witnessing a team hoisting its first Stanley Cup ever, but it’s my head that makes the final call: Pittsburgh in seven games.

From a betting perspective, I am staying away from the series price. I’d love to provide a strong recommendation because it’s more fun than just saying “don’t bet”, but it wouldn’t be fair to you. My goal is always to try to maximize my reader’s winnings and in this case it means staying away.

Enjoy the Finals, guys!

Potentiel value bet on a NHL Future?

Several bookies have the Pittsburgh Penguins at -105 (decimal 1.95) to win the Stanley Cup, which means this bet has value if its probability is greater than 51.2% (1 / 1.95). Let’s see if it appears to be the case.

To me, that’s a good bet. Based on the current odds (“series price”), the Pens have at least an 83% chance of winning their series against Ottawa.

Now, if they do get past the Senators, they will face Nashville in the Finals. My best-guess is the series price would be at least Pitt -200 vs Nashville +180. Why? 1) The Pens were around -260 to win the series versus Ottawa before it began. 2) Ottawa and Nashville had similar records during the regular season (Ottawa actually finished with more points, but their goal differential was worse than Nashville’s). If you agree with this reasoning, then odds of -200 +180 indicate that Pittsburgh would have at least a 64% chance of beating the Predators.

For Pittsburgh to win the Stanley Cup, they need to eliminate Ottawa then Nashville. Overall probability = 83% * 64% = 53%. Recall earlier how I mentioned we need Pittsburgh to have at least a 51.2% chance of winning the Cup for this bet to be valuable. Well, we are above that figure, and I feel like I was fairly conservative with my numbers.

I’d love to hear your feedback, feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree with my estimates! Have a nice day all!

Professor MJ

Professor MJ: NBA PLAYOFFS PROJECTIONS MAY 20

This story made me chuckle: a Spurs fan has filed a lawsuit against Zaza Pachulia for the Kawhi Leonard injury. As if it wasn’t ridiculous enough, the fan also went on to ask for a restraining order against the Warriors to prevent them from going to San Antonio. What is more likely to happen: this fan winning his case, or me becoming the next president of the United States? Hard to tell.

WARRIORS-SPURS (Pinnacle = Warriors by 6, Prof MJ = Warriors by 5.6)

I’m staying away from this game, but I read an interesting story on Covers.com about the first half line. It goes like this: during the 2017 postseason, teams that have lost the first two games of the series have covered the first-half pointspread 9 times out of 9! The reasoning behind the trend makes sense: the team that is up 2-0 in the series might take its foot off the pedal, hoping to win Game 3 without having to work too hard, whereas the other team plays very desperately. Adjustments are made at halftime, where the team up 2-0 in the series may wake up and realize they will have to put more effort in order to win the game.

That being said, I’m not necessarily advocating betting your house on the Spurs for the first half (even though they do meet the criterion). The main reason is Golden State is a 6-point favorite for the entire game, but the first-half line is Warriors -2. In normal circumstances, they should be favorites by 3 or 3.5 points. Did the general public catch on with this angle? I figured I would let you know about that trend and leave it up to you to make your own decision.

In injury news, Kawhi Leonard is questionable to play Game 3. He basically sat out the entire practice on Thursday. We’ll see how he progresses on Friday (I wrote this report Friday morning), but I don’t believe we’ll get more details until Saturday.

On the Warriors’ side, Zaza Pachulia has a bruised heel and previously had trouble with his right Achilles. Considering he’s enemy number one in San Antonio and Golden State is up 2-0 in the series, it might be wise to sit him out unless he’s 100%. Andre Iguodala is also questionable, but he looks more likely to play after going through practice Thursday.

Let me end this write up by mentioning that 77% of the spread bets have gone on the Warriors.

I’m anxious to see if the Spurs can get back in this series!

Professor MJ

Professor MJ: NBA PLAYOFFS PROJECTIONS MAY 19

The Cavaliers are still unbeaten in the playoffs (9-0): they have been very impressive thus far. Can they keep it up tonight in Game 2 at the TD Garden?

CAVALIERS-CELTICS (Pinnacle = Cavaliers by 5.5, Prof MJ = Cavaliers by 4.3)

“PROCEED WITH CAUTION” BET (1 star / 5):

I’m betting the Celtics +5.5 against the Cavaliers. I am fully aware how much Cleveland has been playing at a high level (including LeBron James who has looked unstoppable!). But let’s step back a little bit. In Game 1 the line closed at 4 points in most books. In other words, the line has now increased by 1.5 points simply because of the outcome of Game 1. As far as I know, there aren’t any new injuries. So basically we had the opportunity to watch both teams play around 90 games this season, but just a single game was enough to make the line shift by 1.5 points? It may not look that big of a move on the surface, but it’s a big one. It is telling us that instead of having a 37% chance of winning the game, Boston now has a 32% chance (approximately). Quite a difference.

To put things in perspective, I went back to find regular season games in March where the road team was a 5, 5.5 or 6-point favorite. Here are four that I found:

– Boston Celtics -5 at Philadelphia 76ers (March 19)
– Milwaukee Bucks -5.5 at Sacramento Kings (March 22)
– Oklahoma City Thunder -5 at Orlando Magic (March 29)
– Cleveland Cavaliers -5.5 at Chicago Bulls without Dwayne Wade (March 30)

Think about the difference in team strength between today’s Cavaliers and the Celtics. Is it really as big as the difference in team strength between, say, the Bucks and the Kings? No way! Or simply look at the last example above where those same Cavaliers were playing the Bulls without Wade. Sure, I agree that Cleveland is now playing at a higher level, but Boston is much better than the Wade-less Chicago Bulls (they finished 12 games ahead of them, and it would have been worse had Wade been out for the entire season).

The Cavaliers have now won 12 straight playoff games. Wow! In the 2016-17 playoffs, they are 6-2-1 against the spread as their only two losses occurred in Games 1 and 2 of the first-round series versus Indiana (Cleveland was a 9-point favorite in both games, but won by 1 and 6 points). Meanwhile, after dropping their first two home playoff games against Chicago, the Celtics had won five consecutive games at the TD Garden before Game 1’s loss versus the Cavaliers.

We might see a lot more from rookie Jaylen Brown who played amazingly well defensively against King James. Coach Brad Stevens obviously needs to make changes, and this could be one. Why not give it a try?

Good Friday all!

Professor MJ

FREE MLB PREDICTION CONTEST – WIN 100$ USD!

Hello all!

After the great popularity of the NHL survivor pool several weeks ago, I have decided to launch a brand new contest in baseball. Totally free and the winner gets 100$ USD.

I have set up a webpage with all the details. Please have a careful look if you intend to participate, it takes less than a minute to read the rules.

Contest begins next Tuesday (May 23rd). I hope you will join the fun!!

Click here for the full details.

Professor MJ

Professor MJ: NBA PLAYOFFS PROJECTIONS MAY 17

After sweeping Indiana and Toronto, the Cavaliers travel to Boston for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Can LeBron James reach the NBA Finals for a record-high seventh time in a row?

CAVALIERS-CELTICS (Pinnacle = Cavaliers by 4, Prof MJ = Cavaliers by 4.1)

I’m going to stay away from that game, despite being tempted to bet Cleveland. Over the past 9 playoffs, teams coming off a sweep are 8-3 against the spread (ATS) in Game 1 of their next series when facing an opponent that needed seven games to move on. That includes the Warriors not being able to beat the 13-point spread in Game 1 against the Jazz this postseason after winning by 12 points (they were close from doing it, though!). However, a sample size of 11 is small and I’m not convinced the line is still offering value after opening at 3 before jumping to 4 following heavy action on Cleveland (80% of the bets are going their way). But there is no doubt the Cavaliers have flipped the playoff switch.

The season series went 3-1 in favor of Cleveland; their only loss occurred in Boston by a 4-point margin. The Cavs are 5-3-1 ATS against the Celtics over the last 9 matchups.

Have a nice Wednesday!

Professor MJ

Professor MJ: NBA PLAYOFFS PROJECTIONS MAY 16

After squandering a 25-point lead in Game 1 and losing their star player to an injury, the Spurs must try to find a way to bounce back tonight. Will they be able to do it? Let’s have a look at today’s projections:

SPURS-WARRIORS (Pinnacle = Warriors by 14, Prof MJ = Warriors by 12.8)

“PROCEED WITH CAUTION” BET (1 star / 5):

I’m betting the Spurs +14 at the Warriors. For those of you who have been following me for a while, you know I prefer to go against the grain. So I wondered “if I asked someone on the street what he thinks of the Spurs-Warriors game, what is he most likely to respond?” I believe that person would mainly talk about Kawhi Leonard being injured and the nice Golden State comeback. That makes me lean towards San Antonio; it feels uncomfortable to bet them.

It is also interesting to note that the Spurs were 6-2 against the spread this season with Leonard on the sidelines. Sure, they were badly outplayed when he left Game 1. But San Antonio did not have time to gameplan for his absence; now they do and who better than coach Gregg Popovich to do it? Plus he is very mad about how the injury occurred (“…makes me very, very angry.”, he said) so he will figure out a way to motivate his players.

It’s unclear whether Andre Iguodala can play tonight for the Warriors. He is dealing with a left knee injury and is considered a 50/50 call.

Enjoy the game!

Professor MJ

Professor MJ: NBA PLAYOFFS PROJECTIONS MAY 15

Nothing beats a Game 7, especially when the two teams hate each other. This game should be a lot of fun to watch. From a betting perspective, we’ve got a 1-star play:

| Bookie | PROF MJ | Bookie | PROF MJ
———-|——–|———|———|———
Wizards | +191 | +254 | 2.91 | 3.54
Celtics | -213 | -254 | 1.47 | 1.39
| Bookie | PROF MJ | |
Wizards | +5 | +6.3 | |
Celtics | -5 | -6.3 | |

Tip: Bet the Celtics.

“PROCEED WITH CAUTION” BET (1 star / 5):

I’m betting the Celtics -5 against the Wizards. One of the arguments in favor of Boston is pretty unusual and I don’t think I’ve ever used that kind of justification since posting my picks online several months ago: referees. It could be the X factor. First of all, the league admitted the Celtics should have benefited from an additional second towards the end of the 92-91 loss in Game 6 so they might consciously/unconsciously try to make up for that call. Secondly, the league definitely wants the Celtics to win tonight’s match: bigger market, franchised history, the unfortunate death of Isaiah Thomas’ sister, you name it. I’m not saying the game is rigged, but I would expect Boston to get more favorable calls.

The home team has won all 10 meetings in 2016-17. All five home wins by the Celtics against Washington this year were by more than 5 points (though three of them came by a margin lying between 8 and 10 points).

Over the past 9 seasons, the home team is 18-12 against the spread (ATS) in Game 7s, which also suggests taking Boston. However, the team that lost Game 6 ATS is 19-11 ATS in Game 7. Since Washington lost Game 6 ATS (they were favored by 5 but only won by a single point), that points in the Wizards’ direction, so we have conflicting arguments when looking at the above Game 7 numbers. Be aware that are discussing trends with small sample sizes so you may not want to put too much emphasis on them (but still good to know).

Enjoy the game!

Professor MJ

Professor MJ: NHL PLAYOFF SERIES PREDICTIONS – CONFERENCE FINALS

I feel bad for Washington Capitals fans. Their team could not reach the Conference Finals for the sixth time in as many tries (0-6 in second round series) since Alex Ovechkin joined the team, despite three editions where the team had won the Presidents’ Trophy (awarded to the team with the most regular season points). They were eliminated, yet again, by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

We are all set for exciting Conference Finals series; let’s preview each of them and as usual I will provide my predictions.

OTTAWA SENATORS VERSUS PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Series price: Senators +266 vs Penguins -302 (decimal: Senators 3.66 vs Penguins 1.33)

Previous round results:

– Ottawa eliminated Boston in six games and the New York Rangers in six games.
– Pittsburgh eliminated Columbus in five games and Washington in seven games.

In the first two rounds of the postseason, the Senators held home-ice advantage and yet were established as underdogs by bookmakers. Both times I picked them to upset their rivals. This time they don’t have home-ice advantage, and I just can’t go with them again. It is interesting to note that all eight wins by Ottawa in the postseason have been by a one-goal margin (except the last game where they scored an empty-net goal).

I take my hat off to Marc-Andre Fleury. He was the main reason I picked Washington as I felt Holtby was the much superior goalie between the two. Fleury was amazing against one of the best offenses in the NHL. He posted a 0.921 save percentage in the second round versus 0.887 for Holtby. He made some key saves throughout the series.

I was really impressed by the Penguins’ collective play in Game 7 against the Caps. I thought they protected their 2-0 lead extremely well. Several teams would have dumped the puck repeatedly while getting badly outshot in such circumstances. Not Pittsburgh. They kept playing their game and held the Capitals in check most of the time. Fleury did have to make some tougher saves, but he didn’t need to be spectacular either.

On paper, this is supposed to be the easiest series for the Penguins. They first beat the team with the fourth most points in the regular season (Columbus) before eliminating Washington which racked up the most points. They now face Ottawa, which recorded the 12th most points in the regular season.

The home team won all three games of the season series. Pittsburgh won 8-5 at home before dropping the two matchups played in Ottawa (4-1 and 2-1 in extra time). The Penguins showed a +48 goal differential this season in spite of a rash of injuries, while the Sens finished at -2. Experience is also on Pittsburgh’s side: since the 2008 playoffs, Ottawa has only won one playoff series compared to 15 for the Pens (excluding this year). The last time the Senators made it that far was 2007 where they lost in the Stanley Cup Final against the Ducks in five matches.

Each team has to be at least a little concerned about the health of one of their star players. Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion in Game 3 of the previous series but was back on the ice for Game 5. He has a history of concussions so Pens fans must be holding their breath each time he gets hit. On Ottawa’s side, Erik Karlsson is playing despite a fracture in his left heel. He still managed to record 13 points in 12 playoff games. He is truly showing how much of a leader he is.

FINAL PICK: As mentioned above, I can’t pick Ottawa for a third consecutive series: I’m taking Pittsburgh to win the series in six games.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS VERSUS ANAHEIM DUCKS

Series price: Predators -119 vs Ducks +108 (decimal: Predators 1.84 vs Ducks 2.08)

Previous round results:

– Nashville eliminated Chicago in four games and St. Louis in six games.
– Anaheim eliminated Calgary in four games and Edmonton in seven games.

The Ducks were finally able to get rid of the young guns from Edmonton. It was an awesome series featuring an epic (and controversial) comeback in Game 5, where Anaheim erased a three-goal deficit with less than four minutes left in the third period to win 4-3 in overtime.

Meanwhile, after allowing just three goals in four games in the Chicago series, Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators held the Blues to just 11 goals in six games. Overall, that’s an average of 1.4 goals allowed per game in postseason play. Rinne’s save percentage is astounding: 0.951. The group of defencemen in front of him also deserves credit as they have been very solid thus far.

Anaheim goalie John Gibson was far from stellar in the second round against the Oilers. He posted a 0.895 save percentage and he did not look good on several goals.

These teams met three times this year. The Ducks won both home games (6-1 and 4-3 in extra time), but were shutout 5-0 at Bridgestone Arena. Among all teams that qualified for the playoffs, the Predators were the team that finished the regular season the lowest (16th). Don’t count them out though, as they have been playing at a very high level.

Nashville lost Kevin Fiala for the rest of the playoffs after he fractured his left femur when crashing into the boards. Ducks D-man Kevin Bieksa hasn’t played since the first game of the previous series; he may be back in time for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

FINAL PICK: I’m picking the Predators to beat the Ducks in six games. John Gibson has looked pretty shaky of late, which is the complete opposite of Pekka Rinne who seems in total control.

Thanks a lot for reading and good luck with your plays!

Professor MJ