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How To Bet On NBA Games

Need some insight on the basics of betting on NBA games? Luckily for you, we've got you covered in our breakdown of everything you need to know about gambling on the NBA.
Fri, October 27, 4:20 AM EDT | 5 min read

Though football takes the crown as America's favorite sport, basketball isnt far behind. With around 2 million fans tuning in to watch each NBA match, it's no surprise that there is also a big market for betting on games.

As more and more states legalize sports betting, the number of Americans registering with sportsbooks has skyrocketed. As they do this, many are looking to bet on the NBA for the first time.

At OddsChecker, we make it easy for fans to bet on their favorite sports, including the NBA. That's why we've put together this comprehensive, but easy-to-understand guide so you everything you need to help you get started.

No matter whether you want to know how to bet on NBA games or how to read betting lines, we've got you covered.

Understanding The Terminology

The first step in understanding how to bet on the NBA finals and regular-season games is to learn the difference between each type of wager. If you've bet on other sports before, you'll see many similarities, though some things are unique to basketball.

Betting Against the Spread

Like in football betting, betting against the spread is the most popular type of wager in the NBA. These are sometimes known as point spread bets or simply "ATS" (Against The Spread) bets.

They work by evening out the odds for both the favorite and the underdog by requiring a bet on the team that's most likely to win to score more than a certain number of points. This number of points is called "the spread" and is denoted by a small number with either a + or - before it. For example, in a 2021 game where the Washington Wizards were hosted by the Orlando Magic, sportsbooks set the spread at 3.5 points.

NBA Moneyline

The -3.5 shows that the Wizards were the favorite going into the game, meaning they would have to win the game by 4 or more points for this bet to be successful. Meanwhile, the Magic would need to win or lose by less than 4 points for a bet on them to be successful.


While point spread bets are most popular, moneylines are much easier to understand, which makes them a great option for beginners that are just learning how to bet on NBA games.

A moneyline bet just requires you to choose the team you think will win. If you choose correctly, you win, if you don't, you won't. In another 2021 game, the Indiana Pacers hosted the Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Matchup ML

As favorites, the Pacers were given moneyline odds of -130, meaning you'd need to place a $130 bet to win $100. In contract, a bet on the Timberwolves at +110 would see you win $110 from a $100 bet .

In moneyline bets, the favorites always have odds that have - before them, while the underdogs have a +.

Over/Under Betting

Sometimes called "totals" bets, these are a different type of bet that don't require you to predict the winner of the game, but just how many points will be scored by both teams. If you're wondering how to bet on over/under in the NBA, you'll be pleased to know it's very simple.

You will be given two options by the sportsbook, either "over" or "under" the total number of points that they suggest. Using the Timberwolves-Pacers game as an example again, we can see the total has been set at 222.5 points.

NBA Total Betting

The "O" and "U" next to the points denote whether you're betting on the score to be over or under. The odds shown underneath help you understand how much you'll win if your bet is successful.


Futures are different from the other types of bet because they're not on a game but the entire NBA Championship, a division or conference. You can often place futures bets from the day after the NBA finals, with odds changing as time goes on.

They work similarly to a moneyline bet in that you just pick the team you think will win and receive a payout if you picked successfully.

If you're wondering how to bet on the NBA finals, a futures bet may be a good option.


Parlays are a type of bet that lets you combine multiple wagers together. They're popular among some bettors as they can significantly increase the potential return, though they are also more difficult to win.

When you place a parlay, you select several different bets. These can usually be moneylines, point spread, or totals, and can be on one or multiple games. There are some restrictions though, a parlay can't usually contain a spread and moneyline bet for the same game. Some sportsbooks may also limit the number of bets you can combine, while others will let you include as many as you like.

For a parlay to pay out, all of the individual wagers within it must win. So if you have a five-bet parlay and the first four are successful, you still wouldn't receive anything if the last one lost.

How to read NBA betting lines

Now you understand the different types of bet, it's time to look at how to read the odds.

In the US, we usually use the "American" odds format, though most sportsbooks give you the option to switch to fractional or decimal odds if you prefer. The American format can make it a little harder to understand the underlying probability of a particular outcome, but they do make it much easier to see how much you can win if your bet is successful.

NBA Betting Basics Explained

Using this Knicks-Celtics game as an example, we can see that the Celtics are favorites. Their moneyline odds of -150 show that you would need to wager $150 to win $100 (plus your original $150 stake). On the other hand, a moneyline bet on the Knicks would yield $140 (plus the original stake) from a bet of $100.

When betting against the spread, you need to pay attention to both the odds and the points spread. The odds will tell you how much you stand to win if your bet is successful, while the spread will tell you how much a team needs to win or lose by for your wager to pay out.

In the case of this Knicks-Celtics game, the spread is 3 points, meaning the Celtics need to win by 4 points or more to beat the spread. If they win by 2 or less your bet will lose. However, if they win by three, the bet will "push", meaning the sportsbook will just refund you your money.

NBA Betting Tips

Now you can speak the basketball betting lingo and read betting lines, here are some other handy tips that you can use while starting out with betting on NBA games.

  • Keep an eye on the schedule

- The NBA season can be grueling for players, with 82 games on each team's schedule. This can be a big influence on the outcome of games if players have been subject to back-to-back games or a string matches on the road where they haven't had a lot of time to rest.

  • Consider home-court advantage

- Playing at home is important in the NBA. Since the 1970s, more than 60% of all NBA games ever played have been won by the home team. Of course, don't blindly back the home side, but be sure to factor it in when you're making your selections.

  • Find picks

- While you're still learning how to bet on NBA games, you may want to find NBA picks and predictions from professional handicappers to take advantage of their experience, knowledge, and insight while making your betting choices.

  • Find free bets

- Free bets can help you get more for your money by taking away some of the risk. Most sportsbooks offer free bets to new customers, so check out our list of the latest free bets to find the ones that are right for you.

  • Compare odds

- While most sportsbooks offer odds on most sports, they won't all be equal. Placing a bet with the best odds means you'll receive more if you're successful. At OddsChecker, we make this easy by comparing NBA odds from all leading bookies in the US, helping you to always get the best value from every wager you place

Where can I bet legally in the US

Betting on the NBA has got much easier in recent years as the number of states that have legalized sports betting has grown. This list is constantly getting longer, and there are now more than a dozen states that allow you to legally place bets on most professional sports, including the NBA.

Rules are set and licenses issued by each individual state, so you will see some variance in what sportsbooks are available across the country. Some states also allow betting on college games, while others don't. If you're interested in betting on March Madness, then be sure to check out the rules in your state.

You don't usually have to live in the state to be able to place bets, rather, you just need to be physically present in it at the time you make your wager. So if sports betting isn't currently allowed in your state but you're visiting one of the ones on this list, then you'll be able to bet on the NBA.

All of the states that allow online sports betting right now are:

  • Colorado
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Mississippi (when you're in a casino)
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia

Sports betting has been legalized in these states but sportsbooks are yet to launch:

  • Delaware
  • Tennessee
  • Washington DC

More states are legalizing sports betting all the time, as they do, we'll keep updating this list. So be sure to check back regularly to be sure you know when you can start betting in your state.


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