Fatigue and Sports Wagering

How much energy a team has heading into a game often factors in to the game’s final decision. With so many statistics, matchups, and trends to study and take in, bettors sometimes forget that these are still human beings playing these games; and a bad case of fatigue can trump just about any statistic.

Back-to-back games can be extremely fatiguing in both the NBA and NHL even if travel isn’t involved. Bringing your best effort night in and night out is difficult enough; doing so with less than 24 hours rest in between games is even more challenging.

When travel is involved, the effects of fatigue are even more apparent. Usually a team will go straight from the game to the airport to fly into the next town they are playing in and won’t arrive until late in the evening. If a team is traveling from the west coast to the east coast they also lose three hours of sleep. Getting limited rest on a plane and/or in a hotel room doesn’t bode well for being full of energy in the second game of back-to-back matchups.

While back-to-back games are perhaps the most obvious cause of fatigue in the NBA and NHL, teams are also often scheduled for three games in four nights, or four games in six nights. Even if the players are able to catch up on some sleep, the wear and tear on the body of stretches of games without much rest definitely adds up.  

When handicapping a game, be sure to be aware of whether the team played last night or is near the end of a brutal stretch of games. If you believe a team will have a fatigue-induced letdown, consider fading them; but keep in mind that potential fatigue can be factored into a line, so make sure you are getting a fair price.

One situation in which to consider betting with teams on their second night of a back-to-back situation is when they are playing a team that has had a long layoff. The team coming off the long layoff might be rusty against a team already in sharp game-shape from the night before.