How to Bet on the NBA (Regular Season): Betting Tips and Strategies

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There may not be a professional sport more global than the National Basketball Association. Six of the world’s seven continents have been represented in “The Association’’ and the game’s popularity continues to grow world-wide.

Now that is is legal to bet on the NBA (and most other sports) with the click of your computer here is everything you need to know to place a bet on the team of your choice and root them and yourself on to victory.

NBA Types of Bets

There are different ways to make a bet on a NBA game. The three most popular ways are the straight-up bet against the spread; the money line; and the over/under point total. Let’s take a look at each of these bets and how they work.

Point Spread Bet

Oddsmakers, who work for the various casinos around the United States come up with a number —the point spread — for every NBA game every night. That number attempts to equalize the game because obviously some teams are stronger than others. The number will be accompanied by either a plus sign (+) or a minus sign (-) to indicate which team is the favorite and which team is the underdog.

A typical NBA point spread line would look like this:

Houston Rockets (-8) vs. San Antonio Spurs (+8)

If a basketball bettor chooses to bet on the Houston Rockets in this game, the Rockets must win by at least nine points for him, or her, to collect on the bet. A final score of Houston 105, San Antonio 95 would be a win.

If a bettor chooses to bet on the Spurs in this game, they must either win, or lose by less than eight points for him, or her, to collect on the bet. A final score of Houston 105, San Antonio 100 would be a win.

A final score of Houston 105, San Antonio 97 would result in a “push’’ and all bettors would get their money refunded, or as it’s commonly called “break even’’.

The Money Line Bet

If a bettor does not want to deal with point spreads there is the money line bet. In this case the team you choose to bet just has to win the game. Using the same two teams as our example a money-line bet would look as follows:

Houston Rockets (-400) vs. San Antonio Spurs (+250)

If a bettor chooses the Rockets in this example, if the Rockets win the game, no matter the score, the bettor wins the bet. The caveat is the bettor must wager $400 to win $100 (not great odds), or $200 to win $50.

In this same example if the bettor chooses the Spurs and they win this game, the bettor would win $250 on a $100 bet (pretty good odds).

Why would a bettor choose this type of bet over the more common point-spread bet? There are two reasons. If the bettor is convinced a team is going to win the game, but isn’t sure the team will win by as many points as the point spread indicates he won’t mind giving up the odds. Or if a bettor thinks an underdog (like the Spurs in the above example) is going to win the game straight up, why not bet it and take the good odds.

NBA Over/Under Betting 

This is a very simple bet that has become more and more popular in recent years. It gives fans with no strong opinion on who is going to win the game, another way to bet.

The over/under NBA bettor wages on whether the total points scored in the game will be over, or under, the predetermined number again set by the oddsmakers at the sports book or casino.

Here’s an example using our same two teams from he previous bet.

Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs O/U 205

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In this example if a bettor chooses “over’’ the final score (and it doesn’t matter who wins) must total more than 205 points. If the final score is Houston 105, San Antonio 101  the over bet is a winner.

If the bettor chooses “under’’ the final score must total less than 205 points. If the final score is Houston 105, San Antonio 99 the under bet is a winner.

If the final score of the game is Houston 105, San Antonio 100 the game is a “push’’ and all bettors would get their money refunded.

Quarter Lines and Half Lines

The majority of bets on any sport are usually on the final outcome of the particular contest. However, for sports like the NBA, there are first quarter and first half lines offered as well. The quarter spread is used to determine who will be the winner at the end of the first quarter. The same is true for a first half line, only the wager ends when the first two quarters are completed. Generally, the first-half spread will be close to half of the overall spread on the game.

Here are examples.

First-Quarter Line

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Houston Rockets (-2) vs. San Antonio Spurs (+2)

If the Rockets lead by more than two points at the end of the first quarter, a bet on the Rockets would be a winner. If the Spurs lead at the end of the quarter, the game is tied, or the Spurs are losing by just one point, a bet on the Spurs is a winner.

First-Half Line

Houston Rockets (-4) vs. San Antonio Spurs (+4)

Again this is just for the first half, so if the Rockets lead by more than four points at halftime a bet on the Rockets would be a winner. If the Spurs have the halftime lead or are losing by less than four points a bet on the Spurs is a winner.

How to Build Parlays when Betting on NBA?

A parlay bet is a wager placed in combination with the point spread and the moneyline, to increase the payout. A bettor only wins his parlay when all the teams he bets wins.

For example a bettor could place a two-team parlay on the Houston Rockets (-8) vs. the San Antonio Spurs; and the Philadelphia 76ers (-3) vs. the Boston Celtics. If the Rockets and 76ers both win and cover the point spread the bettor would receive 2.6 times his bet. So a wager of $100 on those two teams would result in a win of $260. But remember both teams must win. If either the Spurs or the 76ers lose, the bettor loses his original $100 bet. If one team wins and the other team pushes, it is turned into a single bet and the bettor would win $100.

Bettors can increase the amount of teams bet and therefore increase the odds. Most sports books pay off as follows:

  • 3 team parlay: 6-1
  • 4 team parlay: 12-1
  • 5 team parlay: 24-1
  • 6 team parlay: 48-1

Future bets

Many American sportsbooks offer what are known as NBA future bets. They are what they say, a bet into the future.

The most popular NBA future bet is who will win the NBA Championship. You can wager on whichever team you like, usually at very good odds, and if you are fortunate enough to pick that winner, you will be rewarded handsomely.

There are other future bets as well. Some include which teams will just make it to the championship and which players will win Most Valuable Player or Rookie of the Year.

Photo by Ramiro Pianarosa.

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