In sports betting, the zig zag theory is exactly what the name implies. If an outcome went one way in the previous game, bet on it going the opposite direction in the next game.
This theory is best applied in certain circumstances during best-of-seven playoff series such as in the NHL’s Stanley Cup and the NBA postseason.
Popular elements of the theory include betting a home favorite coming off a loss and wagering on a home team that’s down 2-0 in a postseason series.
Zig Zag Betting Strategy Explained
To explain this process in simple terms, let’s look back at the 2020 NBA playoffs. Take the opening-round set between the Portland Trail Blazers and the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers were heavily-favored in the series, but Portland decisively took Game 1 by a 100-83 count. This is where a bettor would employ the zig zag theory. It only makes sense that the better team – the Lakers – would be fired up and would rebound strongly in Game 2.
That was a natural play, so a bettor at Caesars would’ve put money on the Lakers. And it paid off when LA took Game 2 easily by a 111-88 final.
In the Eastern Conference semifinals, the underdog Boston Celtics grabbed a quick 2-0 lead on the 2018-19 NBA champion Toronto Raptors by taking Game 1 112-94 and Game 2 102-99.
As proud defending champions, it only made sense that the Raptors were going to come out for Game 3 as if their lives depended on it. If you were to employ the zig zag theory in this instance, you would’ve bet on the Raptors at FanDuel. And again, zagging was the correct call. The Raptors edged the Celtics 104-103 in Game 3.
Like any betting system, it isn’t foolproof. The underdog Miami Heat also grabbed a 2-0 lead over the NBA regular-season champion Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. In this case, had you wagered on the Bucks to capture Game 3 – the correct call based on the zig zag theory – it was a losing decision. The Heat also won that game by an easy 115-100 verdict.
Regardless, the zig zag theory tends to pay off more often than not. It’s a very uncomplicated formula to follow, and who needs more complications in their lives?