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NBA Draft Betting Underscores The Difficulty Of Finding ‘Inside Information’ Online

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • The Orlando Magic selected Duke’s Paolo Banchero with the first overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft.
  • There were some wild swings in the NBA Draft betting markets in the 48 hours leading up to the event.
  • To some extent, this was due to betting by those who erroneously think they have ‘inside information’.

In our previous article, we looked at the dramatic line movement in NBA Draft betting odds in the hours leading up to the event. Much of the credit for at least *some* of the movement is being given to a Tweet from that purports to ‘spill the beans’ about the first three selections of the NBA Draft. Here’s how VSIN reported it:

On Thursday morning, ESPN Insider Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the first three picks were looking “increasingly firm,” with Smith at No. 1, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren at No. 2 and Banchero at No. 3. The tweet caused sportsbooks to take the odds for the No. 1 market completely off the board.

The TL;DR of the previous article: Jabari Smith, Jr. had been the presumptive top pick for a weeks and that was reflected in the betting marketplace all the way up to a couple of days ago. Overnight, money started showing for Paolo Banchero and would push his price to go first overall from +300 to -190 in a matter of hours by early Thursday morning. Later in the day on Thursday–possibly in response to the previously referenced Tweet–the money started to show for Smith and the market started to swing back in the other direction. A few hours before showtime, I saw Smith as a -600 chalk to go first overall at BetOnline.ag with similar prices being reported at other books. Here’s how the first few picks went down:

The 2022 NBA Draft is underway at this hour with Lex Luthor-esque commissioner Adam Silver presiding over the festivities. At this writing, the first few picks are in the books with Duke’s Paolo Banchero going to the Orlando Magic with the first overall selection. The second pick was Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren going to the Oklahoma City Thunder with Auburn forward Jabari Smith going to the Houston Rockets with the third overall selection.

I can only speculate about the late line movement on Smith to go first overall. At some point, markets like this become a ‘self fulfilling prophecy’. The thinking on a market for a proposition that is–for lack of a better term–‘predetermined’ is that eventually it will be shaped by money from bettors that ‘know something’. The public and ‘smarks’ think that this means that a sizable favorite is priced as such for a reason, and they’ll gladly lay a big price thinking they’re getting a ‘lock’. To the extent that it *ever* worked this way, this dynamic hasn’t been in play for a number of years now.

The problem is that while there’s an insane amount of information on the Internet, there’s also an insane amount of *bad* information. I’m not saying this to pick on ESPN’s Wojnarowski, who knows his stuff and generally does a good job. If you’re going to make strong speculative calls, you’re going to be wrong sometimes. It comes with the gig. More than likely, Wojnarowski got some bad information–another occupational hazard.

This is based on my experience as an expert at doing odds for reality TV, big event series like Game of Thrones, awards shows, pro wrestling, etc. You name the event, and there will be at least a dozen sources of varying degrees of credibility claiming that they’ve got ‘inside information’ and the definitive outcome. The bigger the event, the more sources claiming that they’ve got the real deal on what happens. The most recent event that I did odds on was the 2022 Tony Awards, at the request of a writer from Forbes.com. Even for the Tony Awards, there were at least a half dozen sources I’d never heard of before claiming ‘inside information’ on the outcome.

I can’t count how many competing versions of the denouement of Game of Thrones that were making the rounds based on ‘inside information’. Going back a bit, I was fortunate to actually have ‘inside information’ on the final season of The Sopranos. We’re going back to 2006 here, and even then there were at least a dozen different narratives based on ‘inside information’. To give you some idea of their accuracy, one guy who claimed to have ‘inside information’ had this crazy storyline that involved Tony’s son AJ being in control of the ‘family business’ at the end of the season. Suffice to say, it didn’t work out this way. None of the ‘inside sources’ had the correct identity on the ‘first character to die’ in Season 6–it was Eugene Pontecorvo, and it happened just like I was told it would.

One huge difference between *my* inside information on Season 6 of The Sopranos and the dozen other competing theories should be readily apparent–I was betting based on my information, not posting it online trying to get attention. The last thing I wanted would be for a sportsbook to cancel betting on the various Sopranos markets due to information being made ‘public knowledge’. If someone legitimately has inside information on a ‘bettable’ proposition and are posting it online instead of trying to profit from it you seriously have to question a) their motives and b) the veracity of their statements.

I’ve had ‘inside information’ that made a bet or bets on an event more or less a ‘lock’ maybe a dozen times in my life. The majority of these were in the early days of the offshore betting industry when there was significantly less expertise in booking novelty and/or entertainment props. This isn’t to say that I don’t look for information online–if I’m setting odds and particularly if I’m trying to handicap a non-traditional betting event I research it extensively. One of my strengths as a handicapper and/or oddsmaker has always been my ability to ascertain relevant information. I can read a hundred previews and analyses of a football game, for example, and isolate the two or three that offer actionable information.

This is particularly important with ‘non sports’ propositions, as there are plenty of sources who go beyond claiming analytical insight to insist that they have the ‘inside scoop’ on the outcome. They very rarely do. I can’t explain the motivations of someone to go into a fan community or Reddit group and make a big deal about having ‘inside information’. There’s a small percentage that *think* they really do have the information but don’t. A larger percentage just likes to screw with hardcore fans and an even larger percentage just like the attention it invariably draws. At some point, I’ll recount some of the ‘inside information locks’ I’ve had throughout my career but suffice to say that I didn’t find any of them randomly searching the Internet. Betting on something based on a ‘tip’ from a random Internet ‘insider’ is a really bad idea.

This isn’t to say that these type of hyperfocused fan groups don’t have value. To the contrary, they are extremely valuable but only if you’re skilled at evaluating countless theories, predictions and (mostly dubious) claims of information. The best thing is to find the members of the group who clearly do extensive research and come up with cogent analysis and viable theories. In other words, you’re not looking for the attention seekers claiming they’ve got ‘locks’, but the good ‘handicappers’ of a reality TV show, TV series, awards show or whatever. A source that offers strong opinions based on knowledge of a subject combined with extensive research is extremely valuable for a non-sports betting enthusiast.

The beautiful thing about the Internet is that there is a passionate enthusiast community for absolutely everything imaginable. Every TV series, movie, rock band, music genre, sport, team, hobby and anything else you can come up with. The size of these enthusiast communities vary–you’ll find more hardcore fans of electronic dance music (EDM) than you will of the 1950’s TV sitcom Love That Bob–and not all have any relevance for betting purposes. That said, the most valuable ones are those that don’t *think* in terms of bets. Reality TV show communities, for example, haven’t reached the point where they view the subject of their fandom in a wagering context. That makes them significantly more valuable than a community where everyone throws out ‘picks’ of dubious quality.

On another note, I should probably set up a category just for ‘betting theory’. That would be the best place for this article.

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