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The Best Sports Gambling Tales: The Science Behind NBA First Basket Betting

NBA First Basket betting markets have become one of the most popular bet types among sports bettors, with low-stake wagers returning huge dividends.

In a market where the favorites are listed at no less than odds of around +500, you would be forgiven for thinking that some of the big NBA First Basket wins you've seen on social media are simply bettors throwing darts through the air.

But for one man and his legion of followers, data analysis has been behind some of the most outrageous NBA First Basket cashes we've seen across social media.

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Ryan, from Indiana, created the @NBAFirstBasket account on Twitter in January 2021 after taking an interest in NBA First Basket stats following a two-decade long love of gambling on sports.

"I started sports betting around 20 years ago. Over the past 5 years, the market has become more data driven, with more data available to the consumer," he told Dimers.com this week. 

"I started putting together [data] models for the NBA (sides and totals) about 6 years ago. As the US movement to legalize sports gambling across the states has expanded, more prop markets are available than ever before. This got me interested in exploring models around the prop markets."

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The explosion of props betting during the pandemic-riddled 2020/21 NBA season led Ryan to develop a model on a particular prop that he and his friends enjoyed betting on when attending Pacers games together in his hometown: who will score the first field goal of the game. 

"I started to gather the data on first baskets to see what story the data would tell me," the self-described finance geek said.

From there, the idea to explore the model for NBA First Basket predictions further snowballed, with a friend suggesting that he create a Twitter handle to share the data with those in the online gambling community.

"My major goal was to get bettors information so they could make more knowledgeable bets on this specific prop."

That analysis and data attracted attention immediately, with bettors identifying that they now had a possible edge in one of the most potentially lucrative betting markets in basketball. And things have gotten crazy since.

Just through the first 6 weeks of the season alone, followers of the NBAFirstBasket account have used his model data to create bets that have returned obscene amounts of money from outlays of as little as 38 cents, and wins as big as $40,000.

Reflecting on the mind-boggling tickets over the past week of some of his followers, the 44-year-old remained humble and realistic.

"I love when I help others make a lot of money, but at the same time, my goal is to win some units each week and help everyone steadily grow their bankroll," he told us.

"[Personally] I'm posting single plays for the most part. Some followers take the information and play round robins, either based on my specific picks or specific info provided,

"I have received a ton more interest since then, but I have been very clear that a 25% win rate, while successful, is going to have its ups and downs."

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So what exactly is the secret of developing a data model that is seeing results as crazy as this? Ryan says a lot of it comes down to analyzing who is going to win the all-important tip.

"About 75% of my model is math related, focusing on who will win the tip, how often a specific team scores first, how often specific players score first and defensive field goals allowed on 1st possessions," he explained.

"It's definitely a bit of a science. The most important thing to note is that the team that wins the tip is traditionally scoring the first points in the game about 65% of the time. So I rarely bet on a team if I don't think they can win the tip."

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With the First Basket account exploding to almost 15,000 followers, plus the added time and costs he was putting into refining the profitable data model, Ryan made the decision earlier this season to provide a paid VIP service to subscribers – a decision he didn't make lightly.

"For the amount of work I was putting in, as well as added development costs related to the model, I determined I had two options – team up with another service or start my own," he said.

"On my own, I figured I could make it affordable and have more control over the direction of it,

"There are a lot of VIP services popping up, and I know and subscribe to a few as I have less time to research other props on some days. I think the biggest key is transparency. I post all of my plays and summarize them daily (note: I did this prior to the paid service as well). If I'm on a cold streak or don't feel great about the matchups on a given day, I state it so bettors can make their own decision on following,

"I don't really feel much extra stress having a service, I want to win just as much as I did with the free picks I was providing."

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As for the future in this ever-mutating online gambling landscape, Ryan isn't sure where the account or new business will lead him, but he's enjoying the process.

"It's very unlikely that I could make enough to leave my current work position, but it's nice to have a little extra income. I also enjoy the start-up aspect of the business, something I've had good experience with in my professional life."

Whatever the future does hold, one thing we know for sure is that even more big wins for the community are still to come.

NBAFirstBasket's First Basket Hall of Fame

Players who have cashed the most NBA First Baskets for bettors so far in the 2021/22 season:

  • Bam Adebayo (6 times)
  • Karl Anthony Towns (6)
  • Will Barton (5)
  • Jusuf Nurkic (5)
  • Anthony Davis (5)
  • Devin Booker (5)
  • Trae Young (5)

You can follow Ryan's NBA First Basket account on Twitter @NBAFirstBasket.

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