Of all the sports in the world, basketball is one of the most popular ones, enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. And what’s not to love?
The basketball is soaring through the air and into the hoop. The crowds are screaming in gladiator-like domes, and of course, the amazing athleticism from players wows everyone. Basketball is also one of the most bet-on sports – with numerous markets and selections offered by bookers for every game. With this guide, we’ll show you the ropes on how you can make the most out of basketball betting.
Currently, the most popular league in the world of basketball is the NBA (the National Basketball Association), based in the United States. The league started with just under 11 teams in 1946. In the present day, it has grown to hold 30 teams across the United States, attracting and fielding phenomenal talent, not just from North America but worldwide.
With each NBA team playing in 41 home and 41 away games in the regular season, punters have at their disposal a plethora of games offering excellent betting value. If that’s not enough, there’s also NCAA college basketball, with thousands of games to choose from.
How to Bet on Basketball
The most common method or mode of play in betting on basketball games is what we call point spread or spread betting. The point spread is a sort of handicap that bookmakers put on one team in the match to equal the playing field in a bid to make both teams equal in terms of betting.
The team most likely to win is referred to as the favourite and the other team as the underdog. Let’s explain basketball spread betting with a real game example.
Say the Lakers were playing the Hornets. The Lakers are the stronger team on paper, so most people would bet on them to win. Let’s assume the point spread for this game makes the Lakers a 10-point favourite, meaning that they would need to win by 11 or more points. Punters backing the Hornets would win their bets if they won the game or were to lose by nine points or less. If the Lakers win by a ten-point gap, then it is considered a tie or push, and no one wins.
Bettors are asked to lay 11-to-10 odds when they bet against the point spread, risking $11 to win $10. This basketball betting strategy is exactly how the typical bookmaker makes profits. If one punter bets $11 on the Lakers and another bets $11 on the Hornets, the bookmaker collects $22 but will only return $21 to whoever wins. The extra $1 is the bookmaker’s fee for accepting wagers.
Totals are the second most popular wager type in basketball. It is also known as an over/under bet.
Totals involve predicting the combined score of the two teams. Punters have the option of picking between if the total combined points scored will be over or under the number posted by the booker. Let’s consider the Lakers v Hornets game again.
Suppose the number for this game is 188. Bettors picking over in this type of basketball wagering would win if the combined score came to 189 or more, while bettors wagering under would win if the game had 187 or fewer total points scored. If the combined score turned out to be 188, it would again be considered a tie.
In the same case as with the point spread bet, bettors are asked to risk $11 to win $10 on 11-to-10 odds for each wager.
Totals and point spread aren’t the only betting options for basketball lovers; there are many others. One of them is the moneyline wager. This is a wager on the winner of a basketball game without a point spread. Considering some teams have better winning chances, moneyline wagers use odds, meaning that any winning basketball bets made on a team that’s a favourite, you risk more than you could win.
Moneyline odds appear as:
Los Angeles Lakers -300
Charlotte Hornets +240
What this means is that anyone betting on the Lakers to win would be putting up $30 to win $10, while those for the Hornets would risk $10 to win $24.
Parlays and Teasers
These are sometimes referred to as exotic bets. Here, a bettor must predict the winners of two or more games. With parlays, there is the option to use the moneyline wager or bet against the point spread, while teasers use the point spread, with bettors adjusting in their favour. However, all your predictions must come true, or you lose the bet.
Basketball Betting Advice
In this section, we’ll look at how to navigate betting on basketball games and teams better.
Betting on Basketball Underdogs
The average bettor will stake his lot with a favourite, meaning that the market is often biased towards handicaps for the underdogs. For example, over the last decade in the NBA, underdog teams playing away on +12 points or more have ended up covering the line over 53% of the time.
The trend is similar in college basketball, with underdogs of +17 points or more having a strike rate of over 53%. This proves that there is a market bias in favour of the underdog teams, and every bettor should remember this when assessing bets.
Betting on Popular Teams
Basketball betting strategies are especially important when picking teams that are strong and considered favourites. We’ve already established that the average punter is likely to go with a team that is a favourite in the NBA. The same trend goes for popular teams.
Take, for example, the Los Angeles Lakers, arguably the most popular team in the NBA. As a successful team for many years, you could say it is justified that punters stake on them to win almost every time. However, that’s not a wise move.
Betting on reputation is not a great idea, especially considering the case of the Lakers, whose strike rate against the spread when playing at home is just under 47%. You don’t need advanced NBA basketball betting tips to figure this one out: it shows that the Lakers hold a subpar record when highly favoured in a home game. The same goes for teams like the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls, who have had strike rates of 45% and 43%, respectively, when they are home favourites of more than -10.
So what’s the lesson here? Certain teams might have a natural pull for punters because of their historical or current popularity and/or the assumption that they are good. However, that could backfire on a selection. It pays to know the situations and conditions in which you opt for these teams. Or, just avoid them entirely. The popular team might just be bad news for you in this instance, so consider betting on the underdog instead.
Basketball Betting Guide: How to Bet on NBA
Before we begin, you must know what NBA odds exist. They are typically displayed in three popular formats. These are:
- Moneyline odds
- Decimal odds
- Fractional odds
Most punters from the United States will be very familiar with Moneyline or American odds. However, this guide will discuss NBA odds more in decimal format, as they are much easier to understand than Fractional and Moneyline odds.
As a punter looking to make a profit from NBA bets, it is crucial to understand how odds work. It is safe to say that working out how to bet on basketball and win is impossible without a working knowledge of the odds.
Betting odds are a representation of an event to happen. The likelihood of an event happening is represented by how much you’ll win if you predict it accurately.
Fractional odds are represented as fractions and are a more traditional format. For example, 3/1 betting odds give you $3 for every $1 invested.
Decimal odds are more frequent with European bookers. Unlike fractional odds, your stake is already factored in, so the odds appear in formats like “3.25.” Say you’re betting on a Phoenix Suns game: to calculate your potential winnings if you accurately predict the winner, multiply your stake by the NBA betting odds given by the bookie.
Now that you have a better understanding of two popular bet types, let’s talk about how to bet on NBA games properly.
We’ve already covered one of the most popular types of betting in the NBA; point spread (also known as line betting, spread betting, or handicap betting). But how do you place this type of bet?
Here’s an example. The Lakers are about to face the Hornets, and your betting site of choice has the following odds:
Los Angeles Lakers -8.5 @ 1.91
Charlotte Hornets +8.5 @ 1.91
The Lakers are the favourites, so betting on them comes with a handicap. This makes the Hornets the underdogs. As a bettor, this type of NBA betting gives you two choices: you can bet that the Lakers will win by nine or more points or that the Hornets will either win or lose by a margin of eight or less. There are no half points in basketball, so this type of bet only offers a win/lose situation.
How To Bet NBA Over/Under
Since basketball is a typically high-scoring game, over/under bets are a common and excellent betting option.
Here is an example:
Los Angeles Lakers O 203.5 1.909
Charlotte Hornets U 203.5 1.909
Here, the booker believes the odds are 50/50 that the total number of points scored at the end of the game will be on either side of 203.5 points. If a bettor picks Over 203.5, then for them to win on such basketball betting odds, the total number of points scored should be 204 or more. For a bet on Under 203.5 points, the total number of points scored must be 203 or less.
Betting on Moneylines simply means betting on which team you think will win a match. This bet type also covers the outcome in the event of overtime.
NBA Futures and Outrights
As the name implies, these are bets on future NBA events, preferably made before the start of the season. They typically involve bets on who will be the:
- NBA Championship Winner
- Western Conference Winner
- Eastern Conference Winner
- NBA Most Valuable Player
- Division Winners
Other Basketball Betting Markets
Moneylines, point spreads, futures, outrights, and over/under bets are not the only types of wagers that can be played with the NBA. We have other emerging markets. We have alternative points spreads such as;
- Winning Margins
- First Half Winner
- First Quarter Winner
- Quarter Winner
Or statistical markets on individual player points such as:
- Total fouls
- Individual player rebounds
- Individual player assists
With more bookmakers popping up every day, there are more emerging markets, too. You could even decide to focus on several aspects of the game simultaneously, such as betting on who gets into the playoffs and who manages a clean sweep there (4-0).
NBA Sports Betting Tips
Here’s a summary of the top 10 NBA betting tips that you can make good use of:
- You should only bet when there is value in your selection.
- Be ready to learn.
- Start with the teams you know.
- Bet on the markets you are familiar with.
- Always apply sound judgment with your money.
- Keep records of all your betting history.
- Accurately assess every team’s performance.
- Keep track of the game schedule.
- Follow tips from the experts.
- Explore multiple bookies to get the best value out of your bets.