Zig-Zag Theory In Betting

zigzag spelt with letters in a zigzagThe joy of betting theories is that there’s always a new one around the corner for us to explore. This means that if one theory doesn’t work out for us then we can turn to another one and try that, continuing until we either find a theory that works consistently or else abandon the idea of following betting theories altogether. Some of the theories that are out there will be well known to you, whilst others will be brand new and offer something a bit different.

It’s likely that the zig-zag theory fits into this latter category, or else you’ll know of it but by another name. In short, the zig-zag theory is based around the motivation of a team that has lost a big game heading into another one. Teams are usually desperate to avoid another loss, so they push themselves to perform better next time around, which is something that bookmakers often don’t take into account. In theory, this gives punters something to exploit.

What Is The Zigzag Theory?

zigzag on chalk board

The zig-zag theory is one that was created by a sports handicapper by the name of Tony Salinas. His theory was that games in the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association would be influenced by the game that came before it. He believed that bookmakers didn’t usually account for this, instead looking at factors that weren’t as important, such as home advantage.

He came up with the theory entirely around the NBA play-offs, basing it on the fact that no team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in a seven game series. As a result, teams that were 2-0 down heading into the third game would expend more energy in the match and ended up winning the third game more than 60% of the time, even when they were the lower-seeded side and had poor form.

The idea behind the zig-zag theory was that bookmakers would underestimate a team that had lost two matches, therefore presenting bettors with the opportunity to steal a march on them with regards to the odds. In the NBA, for example, away sides in the second fame that lost the first one only win on 34% of occasions, meaning that bookies will often price them lower than their ability will actually suggest that they should be priced at.

Zig-Zag Theory & American Sports

us sports 2The zig-zag theory is predominantly used in American sports, with basketball and ice hockey being the ones that Tony Salinas originally concentrated on. It uses a combination of both home advantage and where the momentum lies in the series, with certain factors important to look out for. In the National Basketball Association, a home team that wins Game 1 has as much as a 65% chance of going on to win the series.

In the National Hockey League, this increases even further and shoots to 76% chance of a series win for a home side that wins the first game. Because both the NHL and the NBA tends to use the 2-2-1-1-1 system in terms of two games at one venue, two at another and then alternating when playing a seven game series, another win for the home side in game two means that it’s worth betting on the underdog in game three.

The fact that the side that has lost two in a row is now on home turf and that they’re still in with a shout of remaining in the series means that they’re more likely to put everything into winning that third game, with the previously losing side going on to win the third game 60% of the time across the NHL and the NBA. Given that most odds are closer to 50%, being able to bet on one that is 60% is a big shift in your favour.

It’s not just the third game that matters with the zig-zag theory either. If the away team wins the first game of a series then it’s worth betting on the home side to recover in match number two. The odds suggest that the home team wins the second match about 75% of the time across basketball and ice hockey if they lost the first game at home, which means that the statistics are on your side to bet the home team.

Why The Zigzag Theory Is Worth Considering

zigzag definitionTeams that win at home will end the match feeling positive and as though they’re in the ascendancy. The away side, having lost away from home, will sometimes feel that that had a sense of inevitability about it, so they’ll go into the next match in a bad shape mentally. If the same result occurs again, the home team runs the risk of becoming complacent whilst the away side will consider what tweaks and changes need to be made to their performance.

This means that game three has a team smarting off two losses away from home back on their own territory and desperate to prove to their own fans that they’re better than their previous two performances might have suggested. The other side, meanwhile, will be buoyed from their two home wins and feeling as though they’re much the better team, therefore not playing as well as they did in the first two matches when they secured their wins.

The team that had been losing is therefore more likely to put itself in a position that allows it to be successful the third time around, but the winning team will lack motivation to cope with the tactical changes that the side now playing at home will have made. Losing teams will make changes to fix what’s been going wrong, winning sides will keep doing the same thing and be unprepared for what comes next.

It’s Not Always A Winner

winnerJust because historical stats point towards the zig-zag theory having a basis of truth, it doesn’t then stand to reason that every single matchup in the NBA and the NHL will follow the zig-zag pattern. There are numerous different things that you need to consider, including the match up that you’re looking to bet on. If one team is superior to the other in every respect, not even historical statistics will save the weaker side.

The reality is that sometimes a team is just better than the one that it’s playing. Whilst the side that lost the first two games might well redouble their efforts in game number three, this alone might not be enough to earn them a win. All of the usual work that you’d do on investigating a team still needs to happen, including looking at things like form, whether any players are missing and how they usually do at home.

The best thing that you can do when looking to place any sort of bet is as much research as possible. If you haven’t even bothered to check whether or not a key player is out injured, you really only have yourself to blame if you place a bet that doesn’t take their absence into account. The zig-zag theory isn’t going to be saving you on that front, nor will it help if you don’t realise that a key player is suspended for the match you’re betting on.

It’s also important to consider whether or not a team has the right motivation going into a match. Are they playing for the coach, or is there a reason why they lost the first two games? They might not be properly motivated to get the win, meaning that they’re just under-performing and no amount of zig-zag theory statistics are going to help you out on that front. The other team, on the other hand, might be willing to run through brick walls for their coach.

Using The Zig-Zag Theory In Other Sports Betting

shock resultNot everyone bets on the NHL or the NBA, so if you fall into that category then you might be wondering how you can use the zig-zag theory in other aspects of your sports betting. The reality is that the zig-zag theory is associated with the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association because there is a wealth of statistical analysis on how teams respond in those sports that we can turn to.

On top of that, there aren’t many sports in which teams play each other seven times in succession, so knowing how a side is likely to respond to a loss isn’t necessarily possible to identify. That being said, it doesn’t always need to be a matchup against the same side for a team to respond to the adversity that it has faced. A Premier League team losing two matches in succession on the road might be keen to get back to winning ways in a home match that follows, for example.

Home advantage is still a thing, but it also often leads to bookmakers over-estimating the home side and under-valuing the away team. If a Premier League side is in a poor run of form then the fact that they’re at home in the next match might not make any difference. It’s important to do some research about the team in question and how their home form typically is before placing your bet, ensuring that you don’t make a mistake in your betting.

Two-legged ties are also prone to a zig-zag effect in many instances.  Let's say Barcelona are playing FC Porto in the Champions League quarter-finals, the first leg is in Porto and Barcelona win it 3-0.  The return leg is now pretty much a dead rubber but the odds of Barcelona winning at home will still be much higher than Porto.  Porto may go into the match fired up to not get hammered like in the last leg, while Barcelona are less motivated to put the same effort in.  In this case it is common to see a result such as Porto winning 1-0 in the second leg - Barcelona still go through but Porto save some face at the same time.  Odds will factor this in to a degree (e.g. bookies may expect Barca to play a weaker team 3-0 up) but not to the point where they factor in this potential zig-zag effect enough.

Responding To Adversity

responding to adversityThough it’s known as the zig-zag theory, we could just as easily have labelled this article ‘responding to adversity’. That is essentially what we’re talking about, so if you’re looking to place a bet on a team then it’s worth doing a bit of research and finding out how well they respond to adversity. In the Premier League, for example, teams that are at the bottom of the table grow so used to losing that it’s not always easy for them to stop.

Similarly, teams that are at the top of the table can hit such good form that the very idea of them losing a match seems hugely unlikely. On the rare occasion that they do suffer a defeat, the likelihood is that they’ll bounce back strongly the next time around and therefore ‘prove’ the validity of the zig-zag theory in terms of responding well to the adversity that the team in question faced.

With this in mind, then, there’s an argument that there’s a sweet spot in the mid-table teams that don’t win all the time but don’t lose consistently either. Investigating how these teams respond to losses and whether their performances are better away from home or at their own stadium can help you figure out which way the result of their next match is most likely to go. There’s nothing set in stone, of course, but it allows us to read the tea leaves.

As always when it comes to a betting theory, we’d caution you against throwing all of your eggs into one basket. Whether you’re betting on a sport where it’s been shown to work statistically, such as the NBA or the NHL, or you’re considering using aspects of the theory in a sport that doesn’t lend itself to such statistical analysis, like Premier League football, it’s always worth using it in conjunction with other aspects of betting. The key point, as with the majority of betting things, is to do as much research as possible.