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NBA Betting 101: How to Bet On Basketball

NBA Betting 101: How to Bet On Basketball

If there were a pantheon of sports to bet for your average sports bettor, NBA betting would be at the top of the list.  Outside of professional football betting, the NBA is arguably the most popular sport within the United States now.  LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Zion Williamson, and a host of other young and hyper-talented players have brought on an entirely new generation of fans, and as a result interest in wagering on the sport continues to rise.

While NBA betting is certainly fun, it is also considered to be one of the most challenging sports to bet on.  Basketball is a game of momentum and teams will often go on a number of scoring runs or droughts throughout the course of the game.  This is a sport that is ripe with “bad beats” due to those aforementioned runs and scoring droughts.  It makes researching matchups reports, injuries, streaks, and trends that much more essential if you wish to bet on this sport and turn a little bit of profit.

As with any sport, there are multiple ways you can bet on an NBA game.  Let’s dive in.

NBA Spread Betting

The most common way to bet on an NBA game is just good old fashioned spread betting.  For those not overly familiar with how a point spread works, the spread is a margin of victory that the favorite must win by in order to “cover” the spread.  Conversely, if you were to bet on the underdog, the point spread will tell you the maximum amount of points that team can lose by if they do not win straight up.

For example, if the Lakers are listed as -11 point favorites against the Kings, they must win that game by 12 points or more for you to win your bet.  Should the Lakers win by 11 points exactly, you would be refunded your money or what’s better known as a push.  Should the Lakers win by 1-10 points, or lose straight up, you would not win this bet as the Lakers did not cover the spread.

Many bettors favor betting on a game with a point spread over picking a straight-up winner due to the amount of money you would have to risk on a heavy favorite to win straight up.  Additionally, another very common betting strategy for many professional bettors and casual bettors alike is to bet against the public consensus for any particular game.  This is commonly referred to as “fading the public” or “contrarian betting”.

For example, using the same hypothetical from above.  If the Lakers were also getting 80% of the betting action, some bettors may take this as a sign to take the contrarian approach and bet the Kings to keep the game close.

NBA Moneyline Betting

We briefly touched upon this in the previous section, but if you don’t want to concern yourself at all with a team covering point spread or a margin of victory, money line wagering could be for you.

Money line wagering is simply picking the side you think will win.  However, the amount of money you need to risk in order to win your desired payout will vary based on the team you are betting on and the matchup itself.

For example, if the Rockets were on the road against the Bucks and were listed with a +230 payout on the money line, you would win $230 on a $100 bet should the Rockets go on to win that game straight up.  Conversely, if you felt the Bucks would win on their home floor but weren’t fully confident they would cover a point spread, you would be able to wager on the Bucks to win straight up as well, but you would have to risk more money for the same payout.

In this scenario, Milwaukee would be right around a -280 money line favorite, meaning you would need to risk $280 to win $100.  This higher risk tends to be the reason bettors either stack money line favorites in a parlay (i.e betting multiple money line favorites to improve the payout) or just simply stick to betting against the spread.

NBA Quarters and Halves Betting

Another option for bettors to remove the anguish of needing a team to not blow your cover over the course of 48 minutes of action, is by betting on quarters or halves instead.

NBA 1st quarter betting is an option that is picking up more steam as more and more data shows teams that start hotter (or colder) than others, giving bettors hidden value by betting shortened lines.

We like to keep using the Lakers-Kings example above and will do so again here.  If the Lakers were 11-point favorites against the Kings, in all likelihood they will be favored by roughly 4 points in the first quarter and 6 points in the first half.  Covering a single-digit point spread is much simpler than a double-digit spread, thus this could be a very appealing option for bettors.

NBA 1st/2nd half betting works in much the same light.  Instead of wagering on four quarters, you are now just wagering on a half.  Did you find a trend that shows Team A starts out hot or that Team B is a 2nd half team?  This is where you can really find some value that you wouldn’t have otherwise had if you bet the game before it began.

Another big perk of betting on halves is when a heavy favorite starts out slow and finds itself in a close game at the half, or trailing outright.  Using the above hypothetical again, let’s say the Kings managed to take a 4-point lead into the locker room at the half and the Lakers are now favored to win the 2nd half by 9.5 points.  In all reality, this essentially says the Lakers are now favored by 5.5 and that the original point spread of 11 has now been cut in half.

NBA Futures Betting

Futures bets are appealing to both the professional gambler and the Average Joe walking through the Bellagio on a weekend afternoon.  Essentially futures bets are just that, bets on an event that will happen in the future.  You know how you totally called the Heat rolling the Bucks in the playoffs to all your friends?  Well, you can also put your money where your mouth is, and should your Nostradamus like wisdom pay off, you’re looking at a nice payout.

The most common NBA futures bets are bets on who will win the NBA championship.  But you can also bet on who will win a given division, the conference champion, any awards, or even who will win the scoring title.  Basically, the futures market is robust with options, many of them of the fun variety. We strongly recommend at the least throwing a small wager on your favorite team to win it all.  Think of it as a lotto ticket for sports fans.

NBA Prop Betting

NBA prop betting has seen a rise in interest with the surge in popularity from daily fantasy sports (DFS). Prop betting is different from the more traditional ways to bet because your bet is typically not dependent on the outcome of the game.  Prop betting usually relates to betting on the specific performances of players or teams within a certain duration of time.

Here are a few different examples of what would constitute as a prop bet:

  • Kawhi Leonard over/under 29.5 points
  • LeBron James over/under 8.5 assists
  • Dallas Mavericks over/under 35.5 wins
  • Los Angeles Lakers first to 20 points
  • LaMelo Ball over/under 1.5 draft position

As you can see, prop bets come in many different forms.  Many bettors believe that some oddsmakers overlook some players with their props and that there is value to be had here.  If you’re a DFS wiz or just really know all the ins and outs of a particular basketball team, prop betting could be for you.

NBA Live Betting

Lastly, as we enter 2020, more and more sportsbooks are offering in-game wagering (aka live betting).  Live betting may be the biggest hidden gem in all of sports betting, as you are able to literally bet on the game at any point.

There are obviously a whole host of reasons why live betting can be very profitable. These can range anywhere from slow starts from heavy favorites to unforeseen injuries/ejections.  Mismatches that weren’t apparent in your research or needing to see how two evenly matched up teams look against each other are other reasons why live betting can become your new best friend.

When you are looking at sportsbooks to sign up with and wager through, be sure to try to find one that allows for you to bet on sports live.

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