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Burke: Setting up middles in basketball betting

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

February 28, 2022 10:36 PM
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In continuing with the theme of answering some of the Monday Mailbag questions that I’ve gotten, today’s topic will be about middles, with this specific example in college basketball from reader Stewart C.

I took Nevada on the moneyline at -145 vs. UNLV. However, as game time approached the spread was falling, so I grabbed UNLV at + 3, creating a middle possibility. Is this the right thing to do when you have the ML on one side but grabbing the points with the other. Hoping to guarantee a profit either way?

Like most things, this is a topic based on your own personal risk tolerance, philosophy, strategy and bankroll management. Therefore, I cannot say whether it is right or wrong. However, it is a strategy that a lot of bettors can employ for a variety of different reasons.

I do want to clarify that this isn’t an example of “guaranteeing profit either way”. Nevada ML at -145 and UNLV spread at + 3 (I presume -110) won’t guarantee you a profit. It is a way of mitigating loss and risk. If the game lands Nevada by 1 or 2, you win both bets. If the game lands Nevada by 3, you win the ML and push the spread. If Nevada wins by 4 or more or UNLV wins outright, you win one or the other. Basically, you won’t lose it all. You have a chance at a really nice win if the perfect scenario happens, but you’re limiting your risk on the two positions.

Risk mitigation is something we don’t talk about enough. Bettors that are moving big money have no interest in losing it all, which is why they’ll utilize some of these strategies or just play both sides of games (at different books and usually after line moves) and either break even or make a small profit. Most bettors aren’t interested in that because they aren’t betting enough money to really make it worthwhile.

Pregame middling happens a lot more in football where the key numbers are more defined and more important. However, you can do it in college basketball. Personally, I’d rather look for a bigger middle in-game, since the odds of the game falling Nevada by 1 or 2 are probably too slim to make this example worthwhile. If you had Nevada ML at a good price, and then could get UNLV + 7 or + 8 live, then you have a lot more numbers that the game could land on, especially with the expectation of a close game based on the spread.

With the rise of live betting, taking a pregame position that you can build equity in as the game goes along is a very, very popular thing done by astute, sharp bettors. It is also a time-consuming process that requires a good amount of liquidity to your bankroll, so it is a pretty big commitment. But, if you can do it, and do it well, it is something that likely becomes more fruitful than trying to beat tight spread and total markets at -110.

Beating this game straight up is really hard. Consistently having success in efficient markets on sides and totals is difficult. The most successful bettors have diversified portfolios with sides, totals, props, futures, in-game bets, middles, arbitrage plays and so much more. While these are ways to maximize profit, they are also ways to minimize losses. Losing a fraction of a unit instead of a full unit keeps you in the game a lot longer.

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