How to bet on NBA games

nba betting guide

NBA is surely one of the most exciting sport league in the world and a great platform for every bettor. Everything can happen in a match, such as team wins in the last minute or favorite team loss because of the absence of a big player.

Today we try to explain how to bet on NBA games and increase your chances to win.

What will you find in this guide:

  1. NBA betting tips
  2. Understanding NBA odds
  3. How to bet and win on NBA
  4. NBA value bets

01. NBA betting tips

Let’s start with basic knowledge, saying that a basketball game can’t end in a draw. This is a big difference from soccer of american football. If it does, referees add five extra minutes, so in general a game ends after about 50 minutes or a little more.

Every NBA team play 82 games in the regular season and because of this, more than 15 teams play every week. You must search the odds before the game begins, even if they are in the middle of the week.

In the NBA franchise regularly try to build “super team” to dominate their conferences. Examples are the Golden State Warriors, which can count on Curry, Durant, Thompson and Cousins, or the Oklahoma City Thunder with Westbrook and Paul, and so on…

If you know the NBA stars, you will easily understand which teams will dominate the division series. You can also dig how the bookmakers make odds: in a regular game they try to balance them.

A. Team performances and missing players

Even if it is not a constant rule, home teams tend to beat the away teams (59,9% average win rate for home teams). Some teams have a higher win rate but you will not find so much teams that loses more at home than away.

Home playing is not the only advantage that determines victory. On the road teams also wins (often in the last minutes) but if their schedules are tight, they are a bit disadvantaged.

West coast teams must encounter east coast ones, and vice versa, so you know how many miles they must travel. In the recent years, NBA tried to lower the handicap of the away teams. The regular season is a week longer to avoid teams play four consecutive games.

Another factor to consider is the presence of young players, because their motivation tends to decrease. On the other side, teams based on older players suffer frequent injuries.

B. Bankroll management and betting schedule

If you have planned to bet throughout the season, you must have a good bankroll. If you decide to start with $500, make a schedule to define when to play and which team to wager on.

Remember that in the NBA, teams also play games on tuesday, wednesday and thursday. So you can decide to bet on five games a week or ten games, or one game per day.

The best thing I can say is to don’t over spend when you get into losing streaks. So don’t be greedy when you win. Always maintain your betting schedule.

C. Focus on specific markets

Even if you can wager on several outcomes, don’t gamble in every wager type. I think your goal is to make money, so even if you can bet on wins, under and over, points spreads and so on… stay concentrated in the type you can study and predict correctly.

Team motivations, form, missing players and schedule (home or away games) influence a game’s outcome. These are the key factors you must research before placing your bets.

02. Understanding NBA odds

how to bet on basketball
Popular odds on FanDuel

American odds, also known as “moneylines” are represented by a plus or minus sign followed by a number and work different between favorite and underdogs teams.

Money lines

Taking the notorious FanDuel as an example, popular game lines include money lines like these:

Indiana Pacers -650 / Cleveland Cavaliers +470

In this case, Pacers are the favorites and Cavaliers are the underdogs. Let’s see how the odds work.

The favorites are represented by a minus sign and show how much money you have to risk in order to win $100.

  • Pacers are -650 to win
  • if you place a successful $100 bet on them you win $15 [(100/650)+1=1.5]
  • you also get your original $100 bet back
  • total payout = $115 ($100+$10)

The underdogs are represented by a plus sign and show how much money you can win if you risk $100.

  • Cavaliers are +470 to win
  • if you place a successful $100 bet on them you win $34 [(240/100)+1=3.4]
  • you also get your original $100 bet back
  • total payout = $ 134 ($100+$34)

Popular odds include game lines like money, spread and total. We have just discussed money lines so we will now take a look at the spread.

NBA Point spread

This is one of the most popular way of NBA betting, available at every bookmaker on the market. I am talking about “Point spread“, also known as “handicap” or “betting line“.

What is a handicap? It’s an estimated final margin for a NBA game. This margin means a 50/50 bet to the bookmakers. Betting on point spread means that you are predicting which side of the margin the game will finish on.

In the picture above, Indiana Pacers are the favorites (minus handicap), and Cleveland Cavaliers are the underdogs (plus handicap).

So if you think that Indiana will win by more than 10.5 points (for example 11 points or more) you place a bet on Indiana -10.5 points.

Conversely, if you think that Cavaliers will win the match or lose by fewer than 10.5 points (for example 10 points or less), you place a bet on Cleveland +10.5 points.

 How to determine if your point spread bet is a winner

Let’s say that the final score is Indiana 120 and Cleveland 108.

If you bet on the favorite (Indiana), you subtract 10.5 points to their final score, so you will get a 109.5 Indiana adjusted score versus 108 Cleveland. In this case, Indiana win the game even if you subtract the 10.5 handicap and you win the bet.

However, if you bet on the underdog (Cleveland), you add 10.5 to their final score, to get a 120 Indiana, 118.5 Cleveland adjusted score. In this case, Cleveland lose even if you apply the 10.5 handicap. You lose the bet.

Totals or Under/Over

Another bet type who usually give high scores is “Over Under“, also known as “Point totals” or “Totals“.

This kind of bet is more simple to understand that point spread. In this case, the bookmaker sets a line on the total combined number of points scored in a NBA match (50/50 bet again).

In the same example above, the bookie list two -110 odds for both Over 208 points and Under 208 points. If you bet Over 208 you need the total number of points scored in the game to be at least 209. Otherwise, if you bet on Under 208 points, you need the combined number of points to be at the very most 207 points.

As we can see in the image above, bookmakers can offer point totals for individual teams (home or away), along with Win Margin, First basket, Line total double and Match total double.

Player Proposition

NBA betting player props

This is a kind of bet which regards the occurrence or non-occurrence of an event in a game not directly affecting the final outcome. In this particular case, the bets are all player’s related.

You can find bet on First basket, and on how many points (or rebounds or assists) will every player do.

First half/quarter bets

NBA first half bets
There are also various type of bets on the first half or first quarter outcome, such as spread, total points, margin, away team total, home team total, alternate spread, alternate total points and so on…

Alternate Spreads

NBA alternate spreads bet
This is a very interesting option for the bettor, who can build his own spread just combining bets on the regular spread and the alternate line.

NBA futures and outrights

NBA futures bet
FanDuel NBA futures bet

Another different way to bet on the NBA is to bet on futures and outright markets. Basically, you bet on the winner of the NBA Championship, NBA MVP (most valuable player), Eastern conference winner, Western conference winner and division winners.

At the time of publishing we can see that the Golden State Warriors are clearly favorite to win the championship at odds of -160 followed by Toronto Raptors at +700.

This means that if you  place a successful $100 bet on the Warriors to win the ring, you will gain $16 (and obtain $116). Otherwise if you bet on the Raptors to win NBA championship, you will gain $80 (and obtain $180).

03. How to bet and win on NBA

To be a profitable NBA bettor need to be capable to find value bets first. Be sure that building a NBA betting strategy demands discipline, dedication and experience in betting NBA markets.

Now we will show you how to increase your profitability betting on NBA. Learn step by step how to bet like a true expert.

  1. Prepare to learn. Even if you know all about the NBA (the teams, the players…) understanding NBA betting markets is completely different, you don’t have to confuse the two things.
  2. Bet on the markets you know. Most popular NBA bets are Point Spreads, Moneylines and Point totals. Our advice is to begin with these markets even if there are plenty of others.
  3. Bet exclusively when there is value. Identifying real betting value takes a great deal of time, but one day you will be able to look at the next NBA games and see some value prospects immediately.
  4. Maintain a record of your NBA bets. Becoming a serious bettor need to keep detailed records of all your NBA betting. You should include at least these details: date, market, description, bookmaker, stake, odds, profits/loss, comments.
  5. Consider the NBA schedule. With a long season made of 82 games you need to find value using situational analysis. These regards how a team perform in particular cases. For example after the end of a long road trip, or in back-to-back nights on the road, or at the beginning of a long run of away games. Before the season begins you should mark the NBA schedule for each team, and then deeply look at the trends.
  6. Open multiple bookmaker accounts. We recommend all you bettors to open at least three bookmaker accounts. This will provide you flexibility and chances to take the best odds on any NBA market. On the long term, slight differences can amount hundreds of dollars.

04. NBA value bets

We start explaining what is a value bet, that you can find when you believe that the outcome is greater than the probability implied in the odds. Let’s make an example: considering Toronto Raptors playing the San Antonio Spurs.

We believe that Raptors are a 40% chance of winning the match. 3.30 odds for a Raptors win is a real value bet because with the 40% chance, the odds have an implied probability of 30%.

How to calculate NBA value bets

We can make a simple example considering a coin toss, with 50% chance to land on head or tail. Let’s say a bookmaker is offering odds of 2.20 for the coin to land on tail. Clear example of a value bet. Why? This the way to calculate a value bet:

  1. value=(probability x decimal odds)-1
  2. value=1.10-1
  3. if the value is greater than 0, we have found a value bet
  4. value=0.10
  5. we have a value bet