Betting on the NBA
For those new to betting on the NBA, we welcome you to this brief guide on how to get started. We will cover how to read NBA odds, what they mean, and what to do with them. Learn about the most popular types of NBA betting and a few fringe bets to spice things up.
Betting on the NBA can be profitable and fulfilling if done properly. But, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s cover the basics of NBA betting.
How to bet on the NBA
The NBA remains one of the most popular leagues in the world for sports bettors. In the United States, bets on NBA are second only to the NFL in terms of money wagered.
Individual games can often see a lot of action depending on the teams involved and how important the game is. Naturally, the NBA Finals get the most attention and garner more bet slips than any other NBA event throughout the season.
Considering how popular betting on the NBA is, we thought it best to compile a how-to guide to keep you on top of your game.
Some of the topics covered include how to read NBA odds, common bet types, notable terms, and more. Take some time to review the information it contains and set yourself up for success.
Reading NBA Odds
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of NBA bet types, it’s paramount that we first cover how to read NBA odds.
Without this, how can you know what you are actually betting on? Luckily, understanding odds is easy and, for the most part, the same for all sports. For the purposes of this section, we will focus on the American (aka Moneyline) format for odds.
Let’s start with a simple example of a game between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics. The head-to-head odds for this game may look something like this:
Golden State Warriors -150
Boston Celtics +120
There are two things to take note of here, the numbers themselves, and the (+) or (-) sign accompanying them. If a team is favored to win in this format, their odds will be preceded by a minus (-) sign.
Conversely, underdog odds have a plus (+) sign attached. In our example game above, we now see that the Warriors are favorites while the Celtics are underdogs.
But, what about the numbers that follow these +/- signs? For favorites, the number presented is the amount of money you will have to wager to win $100. So, you would need to bet $150 on the Warriors in order to win $100 back.
On the other hand, underdog odds read differently. The number indicates the payout based on a $100 wager. So, a $100 bet on the Celtics would win $120. In both instances, winning wagers get back their initial bet along with the amount won.
As you might expect, the gap between the odds for favorites and underdogs widens along with the probability of the favorite winning. If both teams have odds of +100, this is called a pick ‘em and it’s assumed each team has an equal chance to win.
There are two other popular odds formats that you will likely encounter as you begin your sports betting journey. Fractional odds (aka “British” odds), and decimal odds (aka “European” odds). Here is the same game as above, but shown with fractional odds:
Golden State Warriors 4/6
Boston Celtics 6/5
While most people dislike fractions, understanding this format is easy once you get the hang of it. A team with 5/1 (or 5-1) odds will pay out $5 for every $1 wagered plus the original stake.
So, the Warriors would pay out $4 for every $6 wagered in the above example as favorites. The underdog Celtics, on the other hand, pay out $6 for every $5 wagered.
Finally, let’s take one look back at the above example with decimal odds:
Golden State Warriors 1.67
Boston Celtics 2.20
Decimal odds are the norm in most places not named the United States or Great Britain and are worth getting to know. The decimal odds integer represents the amount you would win based on a $1 wager.
It is important to note that, unlike the other two formats, decimal odds factor in both the payout and initial stake in one number.
So, a $1 bet on the Warriors would net $1.67. This makes calculating the total payout far easier than the other formats.
Now that we are experts at reading NBA odds, let’s dive deeper. Below is a rundown of the most popular bet types that BetUS offers for NBA games in 2022-23.
NBA Moneyline Betting
We are going to start with the simplest form of betting, both in the NBA and most other professional sports worldwide.
The Moneyline (ML) bet, also known as straight-up or outright betting, requires that bettors simply pick which team wins the game.
Therefore, it’s the best option for beginners looking to get their feet wet. We can use the same hypothetical game as before for this section.
Golden State Warriors -150
Boston Celtics +120
These odds tell us a couple of things. First off, at BetUS, the NBA home team is always listed second on the odds board. So, we know this game is taking place in Beantown.
The other thing we can glean from these odds is that the Warriors are sizable road favorites at -150. A $100 bet on the Warriors pays $50 in profit because Golden State is expected to cruise to an easy win.
But, take a chance on Boston, and you would stand to win $120 plus your initial $100 stake if the Celtics pull off an upset.
NBA Point Spread Betting
While straight-up betting may be the easiest to understand, the most popular form of NBA bet is the spread. Betting against the spread (ATS) is a term you have probably heard before, but might not yet understand.
The idea behind a point spread is it allows bookmakers to level the playing field in any game, no matter how badly teams match up.
This comes in handy for games with such a wide gap that there is no value in betting on either side of the Moneyline. Our GSW vs. BOS example in spread format at BetUS would look like this:
Golden State Warriors -5½ (+105)
Boston Celtics +5½ (-125)
Every point spread has a favorite and an underdog even if the game is a ML pick ‘em. In this case, the Warriors are favorites with a spread of 5½ points that pays out at +105.
The spread, at 5½, is a handicap for the favorite that allows bookmakers to offer digestible odds for every game. For a bet on the Warriors to hit, Golden State not only has to win but win by at least 5½ points.
This is the first time we see half points as Moneyline odds do not use them. Half points are a way for the sportsbooks to ensure that a game doesn’t end in a tie or “push.”
So, a spread of 5 1/2 means that the Warriors would have to win by at least six in order to cover. On the other side of the coin, the Celtics can lose and still cover, but they can’t lose by more than five points.
So, a $100 bet on the Warriors would net $205 if Golden State wins by six or more points. Players looking to net the same$205 payout on the Celtics at -125 would have to wager $114.
NBA Totals Betting
Betting on the total of an NBA game is unique because it doesn’t matter which team wins or loses. The only thing that matters is the total number of combined points both teams score.
Wagering on NBA totals is also known as Over/Under (O/U) betting. This is because you have to bet whether the total goes Over or Under the number set by the oddsmakers. The odds for a game in this format would look something like this:
Golden State Warriors vs. Boston Celtics O/U 203 ½ (-105o/-115u)
This tells us that the total for this game is 203 ½ points as set by the oddsmakers with odds juiced to the Under.
This means that the Under is favored to win at -115 compared to the Over at -105. Generally speaking, the odds on totals are around -110 for both sides.
If you bet the Over in this game, you’d need Golden State and Boston to combine for 204 points or more. Anything under that would be a win for Under bettors.
BetUS Sportsbook also offers team totals for most NBA games. These bets are identical to O/U bets but feature just one team instead of both.
NBA Prop Betting
BetUS Sportsbook offers numerous prop (propositional) bets for every NBA game during the regular season for adventurous bettors to enjoy.
The bigger the game, the more props available. The biggest games feature upwards of 100 different prop bets you can explore.
There are two main types of props in the NBA, player props and team props. As the names suggest, the former focuses on the performance of an individual player while the latter lumps the whole team together
Going back to the GSW vs. BOS game, let’s say that Steph Curry has a scoring total of 23 ½ points (-105u/-115o) for the game.
What this means is that a bet on Curry to go Over this total would require the superstar to drop 24 points on Boston. Anything less would be a loss.
Props in the NBA are not limited to points with odds on rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and other metrics available.
There are also head-to-head props where you can pit players against each other to predict who will score more points or snag more boards. There are a ton of options to check out every day at BetUS in terms of NBA props so check back daily to find the best value plays.
NBA Futures Betting
Futures are often considered a type of prop bet, often referred to as “season-long” props. This is because, unlike other prop bets, futures allow bettors to wager out outcomes months down the line.
These outcomes can be things such as which team wins the Eastern Conference, who wins the MVP, or who is named Coach of the Year. There is a prop available on LeBron James’ odds to win his 5th NBA title before Stephen Curry does.
Betting on the eventual winner of the NBA Finals is the most popular form of NBA futures betting. But, there are so many more options to take advantage of all season long than just who takes home the championship trophy in 2023.