There's just over a week left of the 2019 WNBA regular season, but there are still plenty of games, and that doesn't even include the playoffs. That means there are a number of betting opportunities out there, and that's good news for gamblers, as the WNBA has historically been seen as one of the easiest sports to bet on.
For many fans and gamblers, however, the WNBA is often an afterthought. So ahead of the playoffs, here's a closer look at everything you need to know about betting on the best women's basketball league on the planet.
Why is the WNBA perceived to be easier to bet on?
The WNBA has not reached the same level of popularity as other leagues; that's no secret. Thus, there's less interest from both those placing bets and those setting the lines, which can create an opportunity for those really tuned in to the league.
"Lines for major sports like NFL and NBA are so efficient, but the WNBA seems to receive far less attention from oddsmakers," SportsLine expert Jacob Gibbs said. "You can occasionally catch lines that haven't been adjusted for injury situations, because, quite simply, WNBA lines receive less action from bettors."
Has that been any different this season?
Breanna Stewart, Maya Moore, Sue Bird, Angel McCoughtry and Skylar Diggins-Smith have not played a single minute this season, while Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, A'ja Wilson and Jewell Loyd have missed significant time.
As a result, this has been one of the most competitive WNBA seasons in years; it's also seen plenty of inconsistency. Has that made this season, in particular, a bit harder than usual to bet? For Gibbs, the answer is yes.
"I would agree that the results have been more sporadic this year, but I'm mainly attributing that to variance," Gibbs said. "Taking away star players certainly adds more variance to the equation."
Still, it hasn't been a lost cause for gamblers.
"A case specific to this year is the Storm, who most had left for dead after the injuries to Stewart, Bird and Loyd," Gibbs said. "My projections loved Natasha Howard stepping into a larger role, and I believed in Jordin Canada and Mercedes Russell's talent. They were consistently undervalued early in the year."
How does the lack of information affect WNBA betting?
When it comes to the NBA or NFL, there are multiple, sometimes dozens of reporters covering every single team. If there's an injury, a roster move or an incident at practice or in the locker room, the public will know.
For the WNBA, however, there is a smaller media presence, and less of a demand for constant updates about teams and players. Even as teams and the league get better about timely updates, there are still plenty of occasions where injury updates or small transactions fly under the radar, which can be frustrating for everyone trying to follow and bet on the league.
A less structured and streamlined information flow can also create opportunities for those in tune with the league, however. For example, there's almost zero chance an NBA gambler could see injury news and get a bet in before the lines are adjusted. In the WNBA, at least on occasion, they can.
How does WNBA betting strategy compare to other sports?
The WNBA is still basketball, just like college hoops or NBA. For hardcore bettors, however, there is a bit of a different approach since there are fewer statistics and analytics available, which can make modeling -- a key component to gambling on many sports -- less effective and helpful. As a result, Gibbs says he trusts the eye test more than he would with other sports.
"For WNBA, my model is my baseline, but it's based on the limited available information," Gibbs said. "My decisions have to be based on more anecdotal evidence, which would scare me away from betting it entirely, except I don't think line setters have an information edge either. And I doubt they're grinding out WNBA footage (laughs).
Heading into the playoffs, who are the dark horse contenders?
With the season winding down, the favorite right now is the Washington Mystics, who sit in first place at 22-8, and are in line to earn a bye straight to the semifinals. Over half of their wins -- a whopping 13 games -- have come by 20 points or more, and they boast a historic offense led by one of the MVP favorites, Elene Delle Donne. As of this writing, Westgate SuperBook has them at even money to win the title.
But even as strong as the Mystics have been, this is one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory and they're by no means invincible. Their defense is just average and short five-game series lend themselves to more upsets than their seven-game counterparts.
So are there any long-shot teams worth taking a look at?
"The obvious answer for anyone paying attention is the Chicago Sky," Gibbs said. "They have closed the season strong, even without Jantel Lavender. They have everything you look for in a title contender — veteran leadership and team continuity, dangerous 3-point point shooting, and excellent coaching. Washington is the obvious favorite, but Chicago is a fun long shot at 20-1."
Even with a few recent losses, the Sky have indeed closed the season strong, and have shown an ability to beat the top teams in the league, taking down the Mystics, Aces and Sparks in the past few weeks.
Another team to pay attention to over the next few days is the Phoenix Mercury, who right now sit at 25-1 to win the title. They've been a disappointment all season long but have finally gotten Diana Taurasi back from injury. They'll have to navigate multiple single-elimination rounds, but they have one of the most talented rosters in the league, plenty of championship experience and fell just one game short of the Finals last season. No one is going to want to play them come playoff time.