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Ball Don't Lie

Betting odds favor there being no NBA season

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

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In addition to being decent ways to make and quickly lose money, sports betting organizations are useful markets of public opinion. Vegas odds aren't markers of what the books think will happen; they're reactions to how a mass of bettors has (or can be expected to) responded to the events or games at hand. The goal of a sports book is to make a modest profit, because any situation in which one outcome has too much money invested has the potential to produce a major loss.

A whole set of odds, then, can give a general sense of public confidence surrounding a story like the NBA lockout. Consider the odds released Friday by Bodog.eu for the number of games played in the 2011-12 NBA season (via EOB):

No games: 5/4

82 games: 8/5

1-50 games: 3/1

51-81 games: 5/1

These odds are pretty clearly based on bettor confidence and not basic facts of the lockout, because it makes little sense on a factual level that "no games" and "all the games" are almost as likely as each other to occur. On top of that, the idea of a 20, 30, or even 40-game season is unlikely -- if the sides get that deep into the calendar with no resolution, it's likely we'll end up with no season at all.

So while these odds are cool to look at, they don't really tell us anything about the lockout we didn't already know. On one hand, it's possible that the sides are too far apart to ever reach a resolution. Still, no matter how much pessimism flourishes, we can still hope that they reach a deal soon. Then there are the somewhat more practical options, which in reality are just compromises built on our own extreme sense that collective bargaining negotiations are boom-bust propositions.

Please, don't use these odds as markers of real likelihoods. The fact of the matter is that we don't know much, and anyone who visits Bodog to place a bet is likely to do so with their heart as much as their mind.

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