The Zig-Zag Theory is a betting system many handicappers follow that applies to all NHL and NBA best-of-seven playoff series that use the 2-2-1-1-1 format.
It is named the Zig-Zag Theory for its propensity of momentum shifting between the home and road teams based on how each performed in the previous game. The idea is that each game in a playoff series is affected by the result of the game that preceded it.
NBA Zig-Zag Theory
Due to the much stronger home-court advantage in basketball, the value on a road team that loses Game 1 is not as apparent until Game 3, as road teams that lose the series opener bounce back to win the next game roughly a third of the time.
However, if the road team wins Game 1, typically in an upset as an underdog, the home favorite is a very strong bet to rebound, historically winning around 75 percent of the time in that scenario.
But when the higher-seeded team leads the series 2-0 and must go on the road for Game 3, this is the perfect spot to bet the lower-seeded team that is now playing Agen Judi Online Sbobet at home.
Because no team has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit in NBA history, the desperation that sets in for the team down 2-0 is a huge boost. Despite losing the first two games, the lower-seeded team wins outright in Game 3 more than 60 percent of the time.
NHL Zig-Zag Theory
Home ice is not nearly as much of an edge in the NHL. If the home team wins Game 1, the lower-seeded road team will generally win Game 2 more than one-third of the time.
Considering that Game 2 will feature a higher-seeded team at home coming off a win, the public is sure to love betting the favorite at home to win again, which often provides great value on an upset that happens roughly once in every three games.
With hockey and basketball, like in all sports, there is no greater motivator than the fear of elimination. As desperation sets in, playoff teams often take their performance to the next level, making the team coming off a loss a great bet in both the NBA and NHL.
This is exactly why so many successful handicappers and bettors subscribe to the Zig-Zag Theory and follow it closely every year when wagering from game to game.
Why the Line Moves
In the long run, sportsbooks make their money with the juice or “vig” they charge for betting on each and every sporting event. When you choose a side against the spread and wager 11 to win 10, the book is essentially making a bet of 10 to win 11 on the other side. You can see how that would be a profitable model over time.
But because sportsbooks take action on both sides, they are almost always going against the betting public’s pick in terms of which one will end up being more invested. The exception being more money coming in on a particular side from a few big bettors opposed to more tickets from the public in general. This is sometimes referred to as “sharp” money being wagered on a game that moves the line in one specific direction.
Sportsbooks want Equal Action
Ideally for sportsbooks, each event or game would receive equal betting action on both sides. So if bettors were wagering a total of $11,000 to win $10,000 on the Los Angeles Chargers at -4 and $11,000 to win $10,000 on the Las Vegas Raiders at +4, regardless of which side wins, the sportsbook will still end up making a $1,000 profit.
The risk for sportsbooks occurs if bettors were wagering a total of $16,500 to win $15,000 on Los Angeles -4 and just $5,500 to win $5,000 on Las Vegas +4.0. If the Chargers win and cover the 4 points, the sportsbook stands to lose $9,500.
One-Way Action a Gamble for Books
The more lopsided the betting action is in one direction, the more sportsbooks stand to win or lose depending on the final result. For this reason, sportsbooks will often move lines in football and basketball in an attempt to lower risk and balance action.
For example, if the Philadelphia Eagles open at -6 against the Washington Redskins, and bettors love the favored Eagles and bet them hard at this price, the line will be moved to -6.5 to try to persuade some bettors to take the underdog Redskins. And if action continues to come in heavily on Philly, the line might move again to Washington +7. If bettors now prefer the Redskins at this bigger number, action will start to even out.
Keep in mind, the amount of betting action on an event or game will mostly determine which direction a line moves. How much or how quickly the line moves will vary between sportsbooks and depend on the amount of action a specific book is receiving on each side and how much risk the book is willing to take on a particular game.
Books that want more balance may move lines more quickly, and the most successful ones will always try to stay one step ahead of how they think bettors will react to their numbers.