Bet Heat to Miss Playoffs? Here’s How to Hedge

Bet Heat to Miss Playoffs? Here’s How to Hedge article feature image
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(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) Pictured: Bam Adebayo

If you listen to the Action crew on "Buckets" or follow some of us on X or in the Action App, you’ve probably heard talk of a futures ticket for “Heat to Miss the Playoffs.”

It’s been batted around anywhere from +400 to +800 and here we are, approaching the day of reckoning. The winner of Bulls vs. Heat will get the No. 8 seed and carry the honor of playing the 64-18 Boston Celtics. The loser will miss the playoffs entirely.

The Athletic's Shams Charania has confirmed that Jimmy Butler has a sprained MCL and will likely miss multiple weeks. Terry Rozier (neck) has also been confirmed out and Duncan Robinson missed last game with a mysterious DNP-CD. The chances of us cashing this ticket have never been higher.

So, wouldn’t it be the Bulls-iest thing ever to lose this game after an epic showing against the Hawks? And wouldn’t it be the Heat-iest thing ever to will themselves into the playoffs with Butler out for the foreseeable future? The answer is yes. Yes to both.

With that in mind, I’m not walking away from all this with nothing, but I also don’t want to just hedge my ticket. So, I thought of a way to preserve ROI and create a potential in-game arbitrage situation. We’ve come this far. Let’s take this thing home.

My Proposed Bet: Heat 1H PK (-105)

First off, I really like this bet, regardless of my Heat ticket. If you follow me on X or at Action, you’ve probably heard me talk about the “star player out” theory — the idea that teams over-perform in their first game without a star player.

The Heat are the ultimate team for this theory, in large part because of their “Heat Culture,” next-man-up mentality (gross). But for Miami, that especially bears out in the first half of games without Butler. This season, in their first game without Butler, the Heat are 7-2 against the spread in the first half, but just 4-5 straight up for the full game. That pattern suggests the Heat punch teams in the mouth initially, but can’t sustain it over the entirely of the game.

However, if we look at all 22 games Butler missed, the Heat are even better in the first half (16-6 ATS). They're also a lot better over the full game at 13-9 straight up. That’s good for the Heat first-half bet, but not so good if you bet the Heat to miss the playoffs.

Luckily, we don’t have to go too far back to see the game script play out in our favor. In Tuesday’s Play-In game, the Heat led by 12 at half, but ultimately lost the game outright. I expect a similar game script Friday night.

The beauty of this bet is that if I’m wrong and the Bulls cover the first half, we'll still have options in the live market.

We’re taking a short moneyline for the first half, so we’re almost guaranteed to get a plus-money number on Miami's moneyline, if the Heat are losing at halftime. That means we can arbitrage our original futures ticket, plus whatever we lost on the first-half Heat bet, by live betting Heat moneyline.

I half a half unit on Miami to miss the playoffs at +800, which means that’s all I stand to lose if the Heat win this Play-In game. But, I stand to gain four units if they lose. Because of the value I see in Miami in the first half, and because it could win the first half and still lose the game, which would allow me to hit both bets, I’m making this a full-unit bet on Miami in the first half.

If the Heat cover the first half, I’m up a half unit, regardless of what happens over the rest of the game. If the Bulls win the first half by margin, I’m in a great position to cash the futures ticket and I can let it ride, with a one-unit hit to my ROI if the Bulls win.

Or, I could live bet the Heat moneyline at halftime enough to recoup my losses on both bets and, at the very least, break even. The worst case scenario is the Bulls winning the first half by one and us getting a small minus-number on Heat moneyline for the full game. In that scenario, we’d have the biggest hit to our ROI, but even in that instance, there’s still a lot to play with, assuming you got +575 or better on Heat to miss the playoffs.

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