Welcome to the exciting world of betting on National Basketball Association (NBA) games. The information provided on this page will help you better understand the nuances of betting on NBA games. Hopefully, the tips offered in the last section will help you become a winner.
How to Bet on NBA – Straight Bets
Aside from soccer, professional basketball is one of the few sports played almost everywhere in the world. As such, it has some appeal to world-wide gamblers.
Most sports require the bettor to bet on a match or game that has two potential outcomes, either Team A wins or Team B wins. If the two teams tie, all bets are refunded. Bookmakers use a point spread betting format when posting NBA odds. When betting NBA games, there are three potential outcomes: Team A wins, Team B wins, a tie (push) with the point spread applied.
Point spreads are used to theoretically give both teams appeal as a betting option. Without a doubt, there are some teams that are just better than others. When a top NBA team plays a bottom tier NBA team, there would be very little betting appeal if the money line option was the only betting option available. It doesn’t seem to appeal to NBA bettors over the long haul. With that said, money lines are usually made available for bettors who prefer not dealing with point spreads.
There are a lot of things that lines makers use to develop point spreads in the NBA. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just a matter of what a lines maker believes is the difference in the two teams. They use statistical information and then take into account things injuries and homecourt advantage. Homecourt advantage in the NBA is said to be worth two points (one basket). Along with point spread betting on the outcome of the game, bookmakers also offer over/under betting options on NBA games. The over/under betting option requires the bettor to wager either over the total or under the total using the lines makers’ stated total, which represents what they estimate will be the final score for the two teams combined.
Note: Most point spreads and over/under bets come with a money line of -110. The extra $10 represents the commission or “vig” for the bookmaker should they get equal action on both sides of the game.
For all examples listed below, we will assume the bettor is going to be wagering in $100 USD increments. The favorite in a match will be listed with a minus (-) point spread while the underdog will be listed with a plus (+) point spread. The minus represents the amount the bettor must bet to win $100. The plus represents the amount the bettor will win if they bet $100.
Example: Today’s game is between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat in Miami. Here’s what the line might look like:
Boston Celtics –2 –110 over 202 –110
Miami +2 –110 under 202 –110
If the bettor bets $100 on either team or either side of the over/under option, they will get back $190.90 for a profit of $90.90 if their respective team wins. The winner is determined by taking the game’s final score and subtracting 2 points from Boston’s score or adding 2 points to Miami’s score. Example: If the final score was Boston 108 – Miami 100, the adjusted score would be Boston 106 – Miami 100 and Boston would still be the winning side for wagering purposes. Remember: If the two teams are tied after the point spread is applied, the game is a push and all the applicable wagers are refunded. The same is true if the total lands right on the number
Note: the winnings on a minus money line are calculated by taking the bet amount and dividing it by the money line odds with a decimal placed two digits to the left from the end. In this case, it would be $100/1.10 = $90.90. The same calculation method would be used if the bettor wagered on the over or under at the stated odds.
How to Bet on NBA – Money Lines
As indicated above, bettors may wish to forgo the point spread option in favor of betting with the actual money line. For this game, the money line would look something like this:
Boston Celtics –120
Miami Heat +100
If the bettor bets $100 on Boston, they would get back $183.83 for a profit of $83.83 if Boston wins the bet. If the same $100 was wagered on Miami, the bettor would get back $200.00 for a profit of $100.
How to Bet on NBA – Proposition Bets
It’s not uncommon to see as many as 20 prop bets on each NBA game. Prop bets are straight bets only, no parlays permitted. They can cover individual performances such as total points + rebounds for a certain player, individual matchups such as which player scores the most points, team performance such as total points 3-pointers for one of the teams or team matchups such as which team will score last. Point spreads and over/under bets for each quarter and each half are popular in the NBA.
How to Bet on NBA – Parlay (Accumulator)
Parlays or accumulators allow bettors to bet on multiple NBA games all within the same bet. The basic requirement is all games must be recorded as winners. That’s a risky proposition. However, it comes with some potentially nice payoffs.
A bet becomes a parlay when the bettor decides to list at least two teams on the same betting slip. Again, it will only be a winning bet if all selections win. If ties a game ties after the point spread is applied, a parlay treats the game as “no-action” and relegates the parlay down one level. For instance, a 3-team parlay becomes a 2-team parlay.
Here’s the parlay bet:
Miami Heat +2 –110
Utah Jazz +3 –110
Chicago Bulls under 206 –110
NBA Parlays pay at stated odds as follows (calculating with money lines would give similar return):
The scale continues up to a 10-teamer that pays 500-1. Anything higher, a money line calculation could be used.
How to Bet on NBA – Teasers
For sports where point spreads are applicable, bookmakers offer a teaser option. A teaser bet is like a parlay in that the bettor has to use at least two games. The difference is the bettor gets to adjust the point spread on each listed game by a selected amount. NBA teasers range from 4 points to 6 points by half-point increments. Sounds great except for one caveat, the payoffs are significantly less than that of a parlay.
Using the parlay from above, the 4-point teaser would look like this:
Miami Heat +6
Utah Jazz +7
Chicago Bulls under 210
The payout would be approximately +180 on the bet
NBA Betting Tips
The internet is filled with NBA betting tips from self-proclaimed handicappers. Some tips are free and others are available at a price. Tips can be useful if you don’t have time to do your own handicapping. If you do your own handicapping, betting tips might be a good way to see if you have consensus with your own opinions.
Still, you should make every effort to do your own handicapping. Here’s a list of factors you should include in your handicapping process:
- Several times a year, each team has to play a game on back-to-back nights. If only one team is doing so on the second night, consider betting the other side if the point spread makes sense. Also, games tend to go over the total if at least one team is playing game two.
- Occasionally, star players might sit a game for extra rest. Check for late scratches and place your bets as late as possible.
- For each game, compare the offenses against the respective defenses. It’s possible you’ll find an over/under line that doesn’t make sense. Bet your gut.
- Read injury reports.
- Pay attention to betting trends. That would include how certain teams do against the point spread or how they have been playing at home or on the road (whichever one is applicable).
As a rule of thumb, you should never bet more than 5% of your bankroll on a straight bet, 3% on a parlay or teaser and perhaps no more than 2% on a proposition. However, you must realize the bookmaker is going to have a significant advantage when you are making proposition bets. Above all, you never want to gamble with more than you can afford to lose. That means pay your bills, put some savings aside and have fun betting on NBA games with whatever you might have remaining. Responsible gambling is the only way to truly enjoy the experience.