NBA Gambling Bounceback Angle Puts Playoff Zig Zag Debate to Rest

It’s the evergreen discussion and debate that will not go away: the so-called NBA zig-zag theory which says to bet on a team that loses a playoff game to respond with a cover in their next game.

It sparks emotions among bettors. One tip-sheet writer is borderline obsessive in marginalizing the controversial angle. That being said, 90 percent of his articles have the theme of, “everyone else is a moron, therefore I am not.” The media in particular is a target of his rancorous hindsight.

We always let the facts guide us. For years we’ve stated it is the father of a much more profitable “bounce back” angle, albeit with the criterion less objectively measured, more flexible, and always correspondingly weighted.

Bounce back does say bet on a team off a playoff loss, if leveraged with the following listed in order of importance:

Quality of team off a loss: better the team, the more established ability they have to bounce back.

Margin of loss: the bigger the loss, the more substantial consequence is given. We very much consider whether it was home or away. We do not assign the full 4-to-4.5-point home court advantage, hence 8-to-9-point swing. Generally we put it at about a six-point fluctuation. Consequently a nine-point road defeat equates to about three-points in a home loss.

Competitiveness of the teams: the more evenly matched, the more likely the counter-punch.

Margin of spread loss: in reality it combines all of the above factors, and so is valued less than the above to avoid double inclusion. A case where a team loses straight up, yet covers would be the quintessence of a zig-zag trend that does not translate into a bounce-back angle.

We’ve never been one to hesitate to give props to competitors. We use a fine sports data site Killer Sports to test many theories. First of all, all playoff teams off a straight up loss are 380-344. That is the zig-zag in pure black and white numbers.

After the juice, it’s a scintilla above break-even. Hence both nullifying it as an angle, but also making the few vocal few critics seem a bit petty too.

Clearly our bounce-back angle has fluid and adaptable guidelines, so can’t objectively be quantified. Onward to some angles that measure the accuracy though.  In all the following cases, it’s a playoff team off a straight up loss and also:

Has a winning percentage of .600 or above and also lost against the spread in their previous game is 203-169.

A winning record and off double-digit loss 179-143.

Winning percentage .550 or above and off loss of five or more points 211-175.

All records are against the spread. 

In fact, in playing devil’s advocate and using the scientific principle of coming up with a theory and trying to disprove it, we could not come up with any angle combining the above stipulations that did not turn a profit even after the juice.

True, none of the data is statistically overwhelming, but certainly justify as an advantageous system in the overall preponderance of data.

Some overstate the worth of the zig-zag without substantiation. Others are notoriously vocal when it struggles (usually in the opening round) and conspicuously silent once it picks up steam and covers as the postseason progresses.

We choose to refine and be part of the solution. Bettors are thankful, while the sportsbooks are grateful to the nattering nabobs.


About the Author

Grandmaster Sports Handicapper Joe Duffy got his start in the sports handicapping industry with the Dial Sports (Communications Team) audiotext network. It was owned by sportswriter, broadcaster and handicapping pioneer Mickey Charles. Dial Sports was the sister company of the popular Sports Network Wire Service. Upon graduating California University of PA, where he was a play-by-play announcer on student radio station WVCS (now WCAL) and cable channel 29 (now CUTV), he became a full-time sports announcer and handicapper for the Sportsline scorephone network. He learned from NFL legends coach Hank Stram and broadcasting icon Ray Scott the ins and outs of the sports betting world. His Amazing Cadillac Club became the most successful 900-number in sports betting history. He left to become the first General Manager of the Freescoreboard scorephone network broadcast all over North America. His articles have appeared on several dozen websites and hard copy publications. He is now CEO of, the top sports betting site in the world. Email:

Comments (1)

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  1. Bobby Smith says:

    Obsessive? Who’s obsessive? Anyway, it’s 2016 now. ESPN is putting up blind zig-zag info on their NBA scoreboard. Who knew an outfit could be 4 years behind the times on something that was already dead for 10 years?

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