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A Guide to Betting on Basketball


Basketball is fun to play and to watch, but have you ever considered betting on it?

Basketball is a fast-paced, end-to-end, high scoring game. It makes for entertaining viewing, and lends itself well to betting, too. The NBA is, by far, the most popular choice for basketball betting, though you can also find plenty of markets for the NCAA, too. There are many options available when it comes to placing your bets and making the right choices potentially mean the difference between profit and loss. Let’s explore.

Can you make a profit?
Most people bet basketball for fun. They already watch the game, support a specific team and they want to make the game even more exciting. Some even people try to make a profit by placing the right bets in the long term.

To understand whether it is possible to play for profit, let’s compare basketball betting to playing online roulette in the USA. With games like roulette and most casino games for that matter, the odds are predetermined and built into the game. A roulette wheel always pays out 36-1, and the house takes a small edge due to the green zero spaces (an edge of 2.6 percent for European roulette, and 5.2 percent for American).

Betting on basketball is different. Bookies try to set odds that are approximately right for the outcome, again, aiming to take a small cut, but this time, it’s not an exact science. They must use the information available to them to set the odds, and their lines are changing all the time as they react to new events and updates. It’s far from a guessing game, but bookies don’t always get it right!

If your aim is to bet on basketball for profit, your job is to find opportunities where the bookies have left room for you to do so. Wherever they have made an incorrect calculation or laid down overly-generous odds, you can make what is known as a value bet — a bet in which you expect to make a profit in the long term.


A deep analysis of team and player statistics will lead to better results.

Types of Bets
So, you have decided to bet on basketball. What next? What are your options, and what bets can you place? This section takes you through some of the markets you can pick from.

Money Line – The money line is the easiest bet you can make on a basketball game and is an ideal option for beginners who are looking to get to grips with the process. You bet on a specific team to win, whether it be the favorite or the underdog. There’s not much more to it than that.

For example, the Sacramento Kings are playing the Utah Jazz and have 31/20 odds to win. A $10 bet would return $25.50 — your original $10 that you bet and an additional $15.50 profit. If you bet $10 on the favorites, the Utah Jazz, at 8/15, you would receive a return of $15.33 for a profit of $5.33.

The key to making a good money line bet is researching the teams, but also finding the value bets. It’s not always about picking the favorite. You should work out whether the odds given are worth a bet. Sometimes, it’s worth betting on the outsider, if the odds are favorable in the long term. For example, if you think a team has a 30 percent chance of winning a game, but the bookies only give them 20 percent, then you have found a 10 percent gap to exploit.

Points Spread – A points spread bet is quite like a money line bet, but in this case, the teams are given handicaps of a specific number of points. The handicap is applied only for the sake of the bet and could be a plus or minus. The idea is to reduce the advantage of the team with the most ability, and as a result, each team will likely have similar odds in a points spread, usually of 1.9 or 10/11.

For example, the Oklahoma City Thunder is playing Los Angeles Lakers and is the favorite to win, so much so that betting on a money line would yield little return. For the “points spread” market, the Thunder is given a -9.5-point handicap and the Lakers are given +9.5. Effectively, the Lakers will start with a 20-point lead.

Finding decent value bets is about determining whether the bookie has laid the right handicaps. If you find a gap between what you think a team’s handicap is and what has been laid by the bookie, then you might have found an opportunity.

Total – Total betting is based on the combined total score of both teams and is also known as “Over/Under.” The bookie will try to present what they believe to be the likely total amount of points, and you can either choose to go under or over this amount.

For example, the Chicago Bulls are playing the Golden State Warriors. The bookies think this will be a high-scoring game, but you think it will be a whitewash, so the total score is set at 232 points. You can either bet above or below that amount. Again, the odds for this will usually be close to equal.

To make a successful total bet, you need to find the markets in which you believe the bookies have miscalculated the likely total score. They could think that the game will be high scoring, but you have knowledge that says a team’s lead scorer is out of the game or the teams involved have been failing to score three-pointers recently. You bet under.


The Golden State Warriors are usually a safe bet, but are the odds good enough for a value bet? It doesn’t always pay to bet on the favorites.

Advanced Basketball Betting
As well as the main types of basketball betting mentioned above, there are also many other ways to bet.

Quarter and Half – Quarter and half bets let you bet on outcomes after the first quarter and at halftime. The money line, points spread and total bets are all typically available as a quarter or half bets. This makes betting more complex, but it also gives you more options and more room for maneuver. Your research could reveal that a specific team has been playing well in the first half but lagging in the second — bet for them to win the half or to score highly, and then you could even bet against them in the second. This approach requires an in-depth approach to each game, but it can be rewarding.

Outrights – Betting on individual games gives you a large margin of error. If you make a mistake, you lose your money. Outright bets allow you to choose which team you believe will win the competition or conference. Other outrights may include the most valuable player. It can be hard to make a lot of profit off outrights in basketball, as the same teams are often favorites, and the outsiders rarely win, but still, this is a good long-haul bet.

Parlay – Also known as accumulators, these are extreme kinds of betting. Instead of betting on the outcome of one game, you try to predict the outcome of several games in a row, with the odds and prizes accumulating. What this means is you have little chance of winning (because even an expert would struggle to predict the outcome of 10 games in a row, and you only need to botch one to lose all your money), but when you do win, it’s a big deal.

Factors to Consider When Betting
To get to know the different kinds of market available, let’s look at the factors you need to consider before placing a bet. This guide can’t turn you into a profitable sports better, but it can steer you in the right direction.

Statistics – Yes, you must get down and dirty with the data if you want to succeed. You need to have your head in the game and keep track of team records and results, team and player form, news and social media as well as betting statistics like “against the spread” (ATS), which tells you how often a team has beaten their handicap. Use your research to draw up your own odds and handicaps for games and compare these with the odds available on the bookie sites to see if you can find value.

Injuries and Rotations – Basketball is fast and intense, and the volume of games can put immense strain on players. Injuries are common, and managers must rotate players regularly to keep them fresh. If an integral player is going to miss a game, this can affect the result. If you can react to this first, you may be able to get better odds.

Team Schedules – If teams have been on the road for a few games in a row or they have had a dense schedule recently, with a lot of games against challenging teams, then fatigue becomes a significant factor. Look out for signs of this, and keep it in mind when drawing up your odds and looking for bets.

Find Value – Finally, find value! This has been mentioned a few times already, but it is the key to successful basketball betting. Aim to find the best odds that give you good value for your money and that are likely to make a return. Shop around before placing a bet.