Michael Zamora/The Register via USA TODAY NETWORK. Pictured: Elena Delle Donne
- Tuesday the Washington Mystics (-3.5) are favored on the road against the Atlanta Dream (8 p.m. ET) and the Seattle Storm (-4) are chalk at home against the Phoenix Mercury (10 p.m. ET).
- Historical data shows that favorites have been undervalued in the WNBA Playoffs.
There are a pair of winner-take-all Game 5s in the WNBA playoffs Tuesday. The Atlanta Dream are 3.5-point underdogs at home to the Washington Mystics (8 p.m. ET) and the Seattle Storm are favored by four points over the Phoenix Mercury (10 p.m. ET).
While the WNBA is not as popular as the other major sports, tonight’s games will attract casual bettors to the ticket window with no football on the schedule.
If you have limited exposure to the sport, here are a few tips for betting these decisive WNBA playoff games:
Recreational gamblers love betting favorites, but an interesting trend occurs when leagues move from regular-season action to postseason play.
These chalk fans become underdog bettors. In the playoffs, squares seem to believe that teams are evenly matched, so they are increasingly willing to take the points and hope for a competitive game.
However, according to Bet Labs, favorites in the WNBA postseason have gone 127-117-6 (52%) ATS since 2005. We see this same trend in the NBA Playoffs as well.
By comparison, in the regular season, favorites in the NBA cover the spread less than 50% of the time, but in the playoffs the chalk bumps up to 53% ATS since 2005.
It’s not much, but there is an edge targeting favorites. This strategy is increasingly profitable in three situations; when there is a talent gap, when the favorite won the previous head-to-head matchup or when a team is favored on the road.
Tonight, Seattle is favored over Phoenix. The Storm have a 28-10 record, counting the playoffs, while the Mercury are 24-16. This results in a win-percentage difference of 14%, which suggests there is a talent gap between the two squads.
Favorites with a win rate of at least 10% better than their opponent have gone 53-43-3 (55%) ATS in the playoffs since 2005. The larger the difference in the team’s win percentage, the better the favorite has done.
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Favorites that won the previous head-to-head matchup are 75-65-4 (54%) ATS in the playoffs. The larger the margin of victory, the more profitable it has been to bet the favorite.
In Game 4, Washington thumped Atlanta, 97-76, as a 3-point favorite. Favorites that won their previous head-to-head meeting by more than 20 points have gone 12-5-1 ATS in their next game.
Most teams are favored at home. That makes sense in light of home-court advantage, but home favorites are 103-106-5 ATS in the playoffs.
The most profitable situation to bet a favorite is on the road. Teams in this situation are 24-11-1 (69%) ATS in the playoffs. This is a small sample of course, yet the results speak for themselves.
Washington Mystics (-3.5) at Atlanta Dream (8 p.m. ET): Elena Delle Donne (knee) is not a 100%, but the Mystics star posted a double-double in Game 4. The big takeaway is that the Mystics are road favorites, the sweet spot when betting the chalk in the playoffs.
Seattle Storm (-4) vs. Phoenix Mercury (10 p.m. ET): Seattle has been the best team all season and is a -140 favorite to win the WNBA championship. A steam move, indication of sharp money, was triggered on the Storm moving them from -3.5 to -4.
While I wouldn’t recommend betting every favorite, there is an edge going chalk in the WNBA Playoffs. Tuesday’s slate features a pair of favorites that I will be betting.