Explore basketball betting with our comprehensive guide, covering NBA and international leagues, popular markets, live betting, and expert tips.
Last updated: September 18, 2023
Basketball is one of the most popular sports both in North America and all over the globe. The NBA is the strongest league on the planet, gathering the very best players in the world in the battle for the championship.
As such, basketball attracts huge attention among sports bettors all over the world. With the recent growth of online betting as an industry in the United States and the availability of bountiful high-profile sports betting operators, it is only natural to expect a further rise in the popularity of wagering on basketball.
Basketball is also very popular across the ocean, especially in Europe (Euroleague), while international competitions like the Olympics or FIBA World Cup also attract a lot of attention. All these competitions, including the domestic leagues of the most popular basketball countries in Europe, are available to bet on with most sportsbooks in the United States.
This guide will cover everything you should know about basketball betting. Whether you are a seasoned professional or new to basketball wagers, you should find this guide useful, as we will also share expert tips on improving your betting strategy and increasing the chance of winning in the long run.
On top of being the strongest, the NBA is also the most entertaining basketball league to watch and bet on. Every single play matters, as you cannot look away from the television due to the super-fast pace. This is, after all, what makes it so popular among the bettors.
Furthermore, the array of betting markets available for basketball games is enormous. Nowadays, you can place wagers on almost anything that occurs on the court. We will discuss the main markets (moneyline, spread, and totals) as well as mention a few words about the most exciting among the others.
Moneyline betting is the simplest of all markets. It asks you to choose the winner of the game and can have only two possible outcomes (home win or away win). As you probably know, basketball matches go to overtime in case of a tie in the regular 48 minutes of play.
Sportsbooks also offer a three-way moneyline market where only the regular time score counts. In this variant, they introduce tie as an option as well.
You can see how the odds have slightly gone up for both the Suns and the Warriors wins because neither pick would be a winner in case of a tie at the end of the regular time.
Spread betting represents the favorite market for basketball bettors because they level the playing field when there is a gap in quality between the two teams. We regularly see proper mismatches between the league’s powerhouses and teams with double-digit losing runs. In these cases, the sportsbooks offer odds like -1000 for the favorites to win in moneyline.
This is where spreads come in handy, adding a certain number of points to the underdogs to level the playing field and create an even odds scenario. The number of points added depends on the gulf in quality between the teams involved.
In this example, the Celtics are -500 favorites to win the moneyline. The sportsbooks thus add 11.5 points to their rivals, the Indiana Pacers. The odds are -110 for each option. If you back Boston, in this case, you need them to beat the Pacers by 12 points or more. If you back Indiana, you need them to either win the game or lose by a margin lower than 12 points.
You will also sometimes see the spread as a round number. In this case, there are three possible outcomes for your bet.
Now we have the third option — push. It happens if the Boston Celtics win the match by exactly 11 points difference. In this instance, the sportsbook would refund your stake.
This is a classic Over/Under market. Bookmakers set the line of the expected total number of points in a certain game based on the teams’ offensive and defensive production, matchups, injuries, etc. Your task then is to predict whether the actual total number of points scored in a game will be higher or lower than the one set by the sportsbooks.
An example for Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Denver Nuggets:
The calculations are very straightforward here. If the match ends with 228 or more points scored by both teams combined, the Over pick wins and vice versa.
Much like the case is with spreads, there are also occasions when sportsbooks offer a round number for the “totals” market.
The explanation is identical to the one we did above when we discussed spreads. In this example, the bet is considered a push if the game ends with exactly 227 points scored by both outfits combined. In this instance, you get your money back.
The number of basketball props keeps growing as the sports betting industry rises in popularity in North America. You can thus focus your bets on bountiful game events, team and player performances, and much more. Here is an example of the options available for a regular-season game.
On top of standard single-game bets, most US sportsbooks offer a broad range of season-long markets focused on overall results during the whole season. Thus, You can bet on anything from the NBA Championship across conference and division winners to individual players’ awards like the “Regular Season MVP” or the “Rookie of the Year.”
The plethora of options includes the Over/Under picks for each team’s regular season wins. The futures markets are also available after the start of the season as the sportsbooks modify the odds based on the previous results.
Parlays are more popular among recreational bettors. They are generally good for the entertainment factor, providing a chance for a big payout with minimal stakes. Nevertheless, it is important to know that it is very difficult to consistently land parlays with more than three or four games.
If you prefer this type of wager, make sure to minimize your stakes and have fun with it. You should stick to singles and doubles for professional betting and long-term success.
That said, the NBA offers a tremendous range of possibilities when it comes to parlays. The matches are played every night during the regular season. We have a double-digit number of games on the slate on Wednesdays and Fridays, making it very tempting to go for a big parlay.
For example, you can back the Phoenix Suns to beat the Golden State Warriors at the +100 odds as a single pick. You can then bet on another single bet and go for the Lakers to dispatch the Denver Nuggets at the +170 odds. Let’s say you also want to back the Atlanta Hawks to beat the Charlotte Hornets in their game at the -125 odds.
Putting all three games in one parlay will give you sky-high +870 odds. It is easy to see the appeal, but you should know that you need to land all the games from the parlay for a payout. If even one lets you down, the parlay is a losing one.
Same Game Parlays allow you to combine several markets from one game into a single bet. This type of wager has become increasingly popular for basketball betting in the United States of late.
Example for Brooklyn Nets vs. Golden State Warriors:
You can combine all these picks into one bet and get adequate odds from the sportsbook.
Due to its dynamics, basketball is perfectly suited for live betting. You can look for the momentum shifts and use them to your advantage by being quick with your picks.
The key to live betting on any sport (basketball is not an exception) is to watch the game you want to bet on. When you watch the match, you can notice the tiny details that eventually make a big difference to the outcome of your bet.
In terms of the markets available for basketball live betting, the range is very similar to the standard pre-game betting.
Besides the standard tips like minding your bankroll (the most important tip for any bettor), basketball punters should be aware of several important tips and strategies to be more successful in the long run.
We all know how rough the NBA schedule is, with each team only playing 82 games in the regular season. Unfortunately, injuries happen more often than not. With matches taking place every day, it is essential to go through all the injury reports and see which key players may miss out on a certain night.
Also, we now regularly see teams resting their main stars in back-to-back matches. The media do a good job covering these news hours before the start of the game, leaving you enough space to react accordingly. For example, we all know that the Milwaukee Bucks are a completely different team without Giannis Antetokounmpo on the roster.
The aforementioned injuries and off nights for key contributors in certain back-to-back games can cause chaos among sports betting operators.
This is why it is very important for you as a bettor to do the research and find the best possible lines (spreads, totals, props, anything) for your desired pick that came on the back of the latest news.
In some cases, certain sportsbooks will react slower than usual, allowing you to take advantage of an opportunity to catch the favorable line at juicy odds.
Form plays a big role in NBA betting because the teams play several games within one week throughout the season. The form can thus sometimes be even more important than the overall standings because even the best teams in the league can experience slumps and vice versa.
If you notice a hot team (we normally look at the previous three games) playing against an out-of-form heavyweight, there is your value at the plus odds.