Betting on Basketball 101
Like football, basketball games are bet primarily against the spread. But unlike in football where there are only 12 to 14 games per team in college and 16 to 20 games per team in the NFL, there are dozens of games per team in basketball leading to loaded betting cards just about every day during the season.
The “spread” is designed to equalize two teams that are not equal on the court. A standard basketball spread will look like this: Team A +7.5 (-110) vs. Team B -7.5 (-110). In this example, Team B is favored by 7.5 points at home.
The team that is the favorite (or minus the points) must win the game by that many points to pay as a winner. So in this example, Team B must win by eight or more points to cover the 7.5-point spread. Wagers on Team A +7.5 will pay off if Team A wins the game outright or if Team A loses by seven points or less.
Bettors that don’t want to deal with the spread can instead bet for a winner on the moneyline. Moneyline bets are simply a bet on which team will win the game (by any number of points), with favorites being more expensive to bet on than underdogs. A standard moneyline bet would look like this: Team A (+330) vs. Team B (-360). “+330” means “Bet $100 to win $330”, while -360 means “Bet $360 to win $100”.
Because so many basketball games have a pretty clear-cut favorite on the moneyline, many favorite bettors prefer trying to cover points against the spread instead of risking a lot of money to win a little on the favorite. Home underdogs should always be given some consideration in the NBA and college as home-court advantage is more apparent in basketball than in any other major sport.
Bettors can also bet on whether a game will go “Over” or “Under” a set total. Every game is designated a total score, and an “Over” bet means you anticipate the combined score of both teams will go OVER the total, and an “Under” bet means you anticipate the combined score of both teams will go UNDER the total. In a game with a total of 181.0, a score of 100-90 (100+90=190) has gone OVER and a score of 90-87 (90+87=177) has gone UNDER.
Future bets can be made on future events such as which team will win each division or the NBA championship. Future bets are less popular in the NBA than in the other sports because very few teams have a realistic shot at winning it all, but they are quite popular in college basketball as anything can happen in March Madness.
Prop bets are in-game bets other than who will win or what the total will be. These can be bets on individual performances such as “Will LeBron James score over or under 32 points” or on specific events such as “which team will be leading at the end of the first quarter”.
Read more on basketball betting strategies in the articles below.