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How To Bet On Basketball

We guide you through everything you need to know to bet on Basketball and make some cash!
Fri, October 27, 4:20 AM EDT | 3 min read

From the NBA's annual Slam Dunk Contest to the Final Four in March Madness, basketball is one of the most exciting sports to wager on. But those new to sports betting, learning the ins and outs of popular wagers and betting tips can be overwhelming. Ready to learn how to bet on basketball?

OddsChecker is here to help you learn:

  • How to read basketball odds
  • Types of popular bets
  • Key industry insight

How to read Basketball betting odds

The first step to wagering is understanding how to read basketball odds put forth by sportsbooks. The most common way to read odds is the American system, which uses plus (+) and minus (-) symbols to indicate which team is the favorite and the underdog. A plus (+) indicates the underdog. A minus (-) indicates the underdog.

The most popular ways to bet on basketball are point spread betting, moneylines, and over/under totals. Let's take a look at an example, then dive into more details on how to bet on basketball games.

An example of how a basketball game is priced up by oddsmakers

In this example of NBA odds, the LA Clippers are the favorite and the Wizards are the underdog. Point spread odds (above as "Spread") include a "handicap" for the underdog team. This means the favorite must win by at least 9.5 points for a bet to pay out, while the Wizards must lose by less than 9.5 points for a bet on the underdog to pay out.

Moneyline odds (aka "Win") determine which team is likely to win the game. American odds show what a bettor stands to win from wagering $100. To win $100 betting on the Clippers, a punter must wager $130, while $100 wagered on the +245 underdog Wizards would yield a $245 payout.

Lastly, totals odds (aka "Over/Under") predict whether the final score will be over (O) or under (U) a certain total. Though written next to moneyline and spread lines, these odds do not refer to which team will win. A bet pays out if you correctly predict whether total points at the end of a game are over or under the set amount.

You'll also notice the -110 and -105 written below the spread and total boxes. These refer to the total amount paid in a $100 bet. The extra 10 and 5 are the "vigorish" (aka "vig"), which is paid to a sportsbooks for their service - though many also offer free bets.

Understanding The Terminology

Above, you learned how to read basketball odds for the most popular basketball wagers. Now, let's take a closer look at how to bet on pro basketball with various wagers.

  1. Moneyline: This bet covers which team will win a game, with favorites listed with (+) and underdogs with a (-). Moneylines are written in terms of a $100 bet, though it's common to wager less. For example, if you wager $10 on the +210 underdog Knicks to beat the -300 favorite Bucks, you'd receive a $21 pay out should the Knicks win.
  2. Point spread: Because moneylines often see lopsided action on the favorite, oddsmakers handicap favorites by requiring them to win by a certain margin. Using the example above, the Bucks might see a spread line of -10 (written as -10 / -110) and the Knicks would have a spread line of +10 (written as +10 / -110).
  3. Over/Under (Totals): This bet covers the total number of points at the end of a game, which oddsmakers use statistical analysis to predict. You can wager on whether the total points will be over or under the line.
  4. Futures: These bets cover a future outcome. In the NBA, some of the most common futures bets cover MVPs and All-Star teams, as well as the champions of the eastern and western conferences. Popular futures bets in college basketball include predicting Elite Eight and Final Four teams, as well as divisions like the SEC and Big 12. Futures bets are always available across the NCAA, NBA, and WNBA.
  5. Prop bets: Also known as "proposition" bets, these imaginative wagers are growing in popularity. Prop bets cover a wide range of outcomes. In the NBA, the most popular prop bets cover individual player stats per game, including three-pointer counts and number of slam dunks. In the NCAA, popular prop bets cover March Madness seeds, including bets on which seed will win.
  6. Parlays: This form of betting allows you to wager smaller amounts on two or more moneyline and/or point spread bets that are tied together. The payout is larger than other bets - but only if each leg of the parlay wins. If you wager on four games and successfully predict the outcome of the first three games, but not the last, you won't receive a payout.

Basketball Events

Now that you know the ins and outs of how to bet on basketball games, let's jump into the most popular events in the US.

  • March Madness: Each spring, 68 NCAA teams compete in brackets split between the West, South, East, and Midwest. There’s non-stop action each weekend as teams battle it out in seven single-elimination rounds before one team is crowned National Champion.
  • NBA Finals: Like the MLB and NHL, the NBA Finals are a championship series that run in a 2-3-2 format. The champions of the eastern and western conferences face off in a best-of-seven game series.
  • NBA and WNBA Regular Season: Though March Madness remains the most popular event to wager on basketball, the NBA sees consistent action from its late October start date to the Finals in mid-March. In recent years, the WNBA has gained popularity and sees more action from sportsbooks.

Easy Tips to Bet on Basketball

Long-time punters know the key to success is staying informed. Let's take a closer look at tips for the NBA and NCAA on how to bet on basketball and win.

  1. Follow slumps and momentum. A team's most reliable record comes from the past three games, not their overall standing in a division. Study their most recent stats for reliable insight.
  2. Know the roster. Injuries and other outstanding issues contribute to how each game is played. Without key players, many rosters can't recover.
  3. Cross-compare matchups. Just because you're familiar with your favorite team's strengths, that doesn't mean they'll hold up against each opponent.
  4. Compare lines. Seasoned punters know that it's not always about backing the right team, but instead finding the most competitive odds and lines. In the past, learning how to bet on basketball in Las Vegas was a punter's only option. Now, OddsChecker does this work for you, letting you cross-compare offers from leading sportsbooks and access NBA picks from experts.
  5. Rank the referees. Recent studies indicate referees have a strong influence on a team's momentum on the court, as well as the final score.

List of States that you can bet Basketball legally in the US

Now that you know how to bet on pro basketball, you can get in on the action in these states with live online markets:

  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia
  • Virginia
  • Washington DC


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