As the sporting world gets ready to resume action after things ground to a halt in mid-March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are several things that you – the sports bettor – should be aware of in order to take advantage of these unique circumstances.
The main takeaway will be the lack of home-field (or home-court, home-ice, etc.) advantage in either neutral-site games or games played without spectators.
The NBA announced that their season will resume with 22 of their 30 teams taking part in a brief regular season before the playoffs begin. The main difference is that this will look more like a high school tournament than the NBA playoffs you're used to. Several courts at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida will be used instead of each team's home floor, and fans will not be allowed to attend these games.
Expect a similar scenario for hockey and Major League Baseball, if they are to resume (baseball is talking about using home stadiums, but with no fans). It's too early to say what will happen in the NFL this fall, but if fans are allowed, it will be unlikely to be full, raucous stadiums.
So, how will these new circumstances affect your betting strategy? Here are three things you should consider.
Lines Will Be Adjusted
You've probably heard the adage that home-field advantage is worth three points in the NFL, so if New England is hosting Kansas City and the spread would be a pick 'em at a neutral field, the Patriots would be favored by 3 points at home, and the Chiefs would also be favored by 3 points if the game were taking place at Arrowhead Stadium. Each sport takes the natural advantage that the home team has into account when creating the line, so remember that this will not be a factor in the NBA restart, and potentially all other sports in 2020 as well.
Look for Teams With Lopsided Home vs. Away Records
One of the key things to look at when evaluating a wager is a team's ability to win on the road. Philadelphia, for example, will likely be one of the top four seeds in the NBA playoffs, but during the regular season, their away record was 10-24. In a normal playoff series, that would seriously hurt their chances of winning a series against a team like Milwaukee or Toronto as an underdog, but now on a neutral court, the talent of the 76ers may perform better in "road" games.
Expect fewer Upsets in Playoff Series
Most of the time you see a playoff upset, it's when a lower seeded team wins either Game 1 or 2 on the road, and then wins their home games to win a series. In a series where all games will be played at the same location, however, this takes away intangibles like home-field advantage, and the talent involved in the games become the only factor.
You should keep an eye on news reports, though, as an untimely positive coronavirus test from a superstar like LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo could severely hinder the chances of a favorite in a playoff series.