Friday, November 25, 2016

21st Century NBA Basketball Prediction Program - Bovada Blues

  The NBA season is underway and so is my basketball prediction program. I made good on last summer’s promise to put my money where my mouth (or predictions) is and use real money to track my progress this year. After some research I settled on as my online bookie of choice based on favorable reviews and the lack of laws in Iowa prohibiting online gambling.

  I signed up for my Bovada account and deposited $500 into my account using paypal. I was not pleased to find that the charge for depositing the $500 was $39.35. I expected some charge but 8% seemed a little excessive. My chagrin was lessened when I received a $250 welcome bonus which was half of my deposit. I scanned over the conditions covering accepting the bonus. I noticed the funds wouldn’t be available for withdrawal until I had made an undiosclosed number of bets. This seemed reasonable to me and I accepted the bonus and was on my way.

  I fed the game statistics into the prediction program and on November 8th the program spit out its first prediction, the Denver Nuggets getting 4 points at Memphis. I went to Bovada to place the bet. I clicked on the game, selected the amount I wanted to wager ($11), confirmed the bet and I was in. Why wager $11? Sports betting with the point spread normally charges a 10% penalty for losing bets. This is called ‘the vigorish’ and allows the gambling house to make money when an equal number of bets are made on both sides. It also means that the gambler must win 11 out of every 21 bets or 52.4% to break even. The notation on the betting sheet is -110 meaning 110 is bet to win 100. In the case of the Nuggets game the notation said -105 which meant that I only had to bet $10.50 to win $10. Some of the games are listed as -115 meaning $11.50 needs to be wagered to bet $10.

  This changing of the odds adds an unwanted level of complexity. I just want to bet $11 to win $10. I would prefer that Bovada change the point spread instead of jacking with the odds to balance the betting. After some thought I decided I would just bet $11 per game and collect more or less than $10 depending on the betting odds. In the case of the Nuggets game my $11 wager would bring me $10.48 for a victory instead of $10. In the succeeding two weeks I’ve seem games listed as high as -120 which is tantamount to keeping an entire dollar on each winning bet.

  I won my Nuggets wager and was $10.48 richer. The next day my prediction program said the Los Angeles Clippers was an easy cover giving 10.5 points at home to the Portland Trailblazers. I went to Bovada, placed the $11 bet, the Clippers easily covered, and I was now $20.48 ahead of the game.

  My program didn’t give a prediction the next day but I noticed my account had been credited an extra.$1.47 which was listed as a ‘rollover’. This has continued for the past 2 weeks – every other day I get credited between $1.30 and $1.50 as a ‘rollover’. I found this confusing so I wrote to the Bovada customer support who replied within 24 hours to tell me the rollover was part of my $250 welcome bonus that I receive after passing ‘milestones’ which are still undefined as far as I’m concerned. I’m not going to complain about getting an extra dollar or two credited to my account so I stopped asking.

  The next day I went to enter the point spreads into my computer at 6 am and there was only 1 game of the 8 on the schedule with a listed point spread. I entered in the point spreads from and ran my prediction program which gave me a possible wager which I couldn’t place until after work when Bovada finally published the point spreads and opened the betting on NBA games. I wrote to Bovada customer support again and again they wrote back within 24 hours to let me know that ‘Lines are put up and taken down at our Book Managers discretion.’ It seems that the basketball lines are normally published in the afternoon with only a few games available in the morning. Since I’m at work when the lines are available this means I have to wait until I get home to run my prediction program and place my wagers. The problem with this is if I have a delay or internet problem I’ll be out of luck to make a pick in the short window of time I have to get a wager in for most games.

  I won my first 5 wagers and 9 of my first 12 but hit a cold streak after that and my record stands at 11-9 as I write this on Sunday night. I have to admit all the little things that bothered me about Bovada bother me a lot more when I’m on a losing streak but ultimately it was winning wager that convinced me to question my commitment to the online gaming idea. Today my prediction program spit out two picks. I ran my program in the morning and made a bet on the 9-3 Hawks giving two points against the 5-7 Knicks in New York. That pick went down in flames when the Knicks not only covered but won by 10. The line on the Bulls-Lakers wasn’t published until the afternoon after the Hawks-Knicks game was over. I reran my prediction program and the computer picked the Bulls to win and they were getting points, I went to the site to make my pick which is as easy as clicking a button and entering the wager amount (in my case $11). I noticed two odd things about the line. The Bulls were getting a half point which is useless since there are no ties in the NBA and the odds were -120 so my $11 wager would only bring in $9.17 if I won. I made the bet and checked the score before I went to bed. The game was at halftime but Bovada had me already winning my bet! Why? Because when I clicked on the button to place the wager the line was only available for the first quarter which ended with a 30-30 score meaning I won by the half point the Bulls were getting!

  This Sunday afternoon misadventure showed me that online gambling requires more of an attention span than I can spare right now. Having to check to see when the lines are up, adjust my thinking for the changing money payouts, and then having to make sure the line is for the entire game instead of the first quarter of first half is way more work than I bargained for. Having too many things to keep track of is sure to cost me money in the long run when I fail to notice an odds change, miss bets, or bet on the first quarter. I’ll finish this season until I either lose my $500 stake or the season ends but next season I’ll be back to making mythical bets only.

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