Betting on Basketball: The Basics
As a millennial-basketball fan in what could be described as the statistical glory days of that NBA, I love nothing more than wagering on basketball games. I began my fandom with the Boston Celtics. As a team with so much history and pride (and coincidentally winning the NBA title in 2008 when I began to consistently watch them), they became, and still are, my go to team. From there I became an NBA fan; from fantasy basketball to scoreboard watching. This past year I began betting with baseball and, as the calendar year slowly turned, I moved onto football and now basketball.
The Point Spread:
Every game in the NBA is given a point spread. A spread is the predicted difference in the final score of the game that you are betting on. In each game you have two choices. You can choose that the favorite will win by more than the amount of the point spread or you can choose that the underdog will lose by less than the amount of the point spread. Let me give an example to make this a bit clearer.
CLE (+6) at HOU
• This bet is for Cleveland to win or lose this game by fewer than 6 points
• The other side of this bet is HOU (-6) which is for Houston to win by more than 6 points
• Push: If the final score has Houston winning by 6 then the bet is a push and no one wins the bet
Final Score: 112-117 Houston
Betting result: Cleveland +6 wins
Every game in the NBA is given an over/under. The over/under for each game is based on the TOTAL score of the game. Let’s go back to the Cleveland-Houston example to better understand this
CLE at HOU o/u 236
• Over if the teams combine for over 236 points
• Under if the teams combine for under 236 points
• Push if the teams score exactly 236 points
Final Score: 112-117 Houston, total 229
Betting Result: UNDER
Finally, every game in the NBA is given a money line to wager on. The money line is betting on any given team to win; however it is important when looking at the money line to understand what the numbers mean. Each number is based on an initial bet of $100. For the Cleveland-Houston game the spread shows that the Rockets are favored by 6 points so this will help to craft the money line. For Cleveland to win the money line is +200, meaning if you bet $100 on Cleveland to win you would win $200 if they won. The Rockets, being the favored team, have a money line of -250. This means that if you were to bet $250 on the Rockets to win you would win $100.
Parlays and Teasers:
A parlay is a wager saying that all of the bets within it will win. A two-team parlay usually pays out about 2.5 to 1. As more teams are added the odds get better however the likelihood of the parlay winning becomes lower. Let me give an example using the Cleveland and Houston game.
• Cleveland +6
• Under 236
If I had made this bet it would have hit, however if one of these two bets is not successfuli then the entire bet loses. The potential for a large payout has made this a much more popular style of betting.
A teaser is an adjusted parlay with adjusted payout. In basketball, a teaser gives each team 4 points (or two baskets). By adjusting the spread and over/under though this also adjusts the payout. A two-team teaser payout is the same as a regular spread or over/under bet, -110. Here is an example using the Cleveland and Houston game again.
• Houston -2
• Under 240
Final score: 112-117 Houston
This teaser bet would hit because Houston won by more than 2 and the total score was under 240.
There are many other kinds of bets that can be made on the NBA that involve statistics outside of a regular NBA final score.
As someone who loved fantasy basketball for so many years, player prop bets are a great way to still be able to follow player statistics while betting. Here is an example of a Jimmy Butler prop bet.
• Points o/u 22.5
• Rebounds o/u 6.5
• Rebounds + assists o/u 11
The payout for all of these is -115.
Future bets are a kind of proposition bet that allows great way to be able to root for your home team all season long. For myself, I like to place bets on the Celtics outperforming expectations in the regular season and winning the NBA championship. Although it may be a long shot, it definitely adds to the fun of betting when I have $40 to win $800 on the Celtics winning the championship. Here are some examples of some of those futures bets
• Celtics wins over 51.5 (-115, they are on pace)
• Celtics to win championship (+2000)
Factors that should affect how you bet:
Days of rest- the NBA basketball schedule is known for being rigorous and relenting. There can be times that a team will have five games in a given week and the next only play two. As a sports bettor is important to be aware of the schedule because having no rest could turn an easy win into a blunder of a loss.
Streaks- the NBA is one of the most “streaky” professional sports in the world. The Miami Heat this season started out in a huge slump, however they have rebounded very well and are now one of the best teams in the league record wise since the calendar flipped to 2017. Understanding and seeing these kinds of trends is imperative to successful basketball betting.