Basketball Betting for Beginners


A primer

Experts on sports betting believe basketball is one of the easiest sports to bet on. Just like it is for football, betting on basketball can entail using the point spread for wagering on teams as well as using an over/under number.

In fact, anyone who knows how to bet on football is fairly equipped to bet on basketball games.

The point spread method

As earlier hinted, the most common method of betting on basketball involves the point spread. The point spread is a handicap by the bookmaker, imposed on one team to make both teams equal in betting terms.

When the point spread method is in use, the team expected to win would be tagged as the ‘favorite’ while the team expected to lose would bear the tag of ‘underdog’.

The ‘favorite’ team, that is the team expected to win, gives points to the team expected to lose for betting purposes.

Let’s illustrate the above points for easy assimilation: imagine the Lakers are playing the Warriors, most bettors would likely bet on the Lakers to win the game.

Now, let’s imagine the point spread will make the Lakers a 10-point favorite, that means the Lakers have to win by 11 or more points for Laker’s bettors to win their bet. On the other hand, those who bet on the ‘underdog’, the Warriors in this hypothetical case, would win their wagers if the Warriors won or lost the game by 9 points or less.

Bear in mind that if the Lakers had won, precisely, with 10 points, then the bet would be tagged a ‘tie’ or a ‘push’. When that occurs, money won’t change hands between the bettors.

In essence, bettors are asked to lay 11-to-10 odds when wagering against the point spread and the practical implication of that ask is that bettors risk, say, $11 to win $10.

That’s one of the hacks behind the bookmaker’s profit. Meaning, if Sanjay bets $11 on the Lakers and Gupta also bets $11 on the Warriors, the bookmaker aggregates $22 between the duo but the winner of the bet only gets to keep $21. The remaining dollar is the bookmaker’s cut for facilitating the wager.

Meanwhile, the point spread method is not the only option available to people who want to bet on basketball.


There’s another popular method of betting on basketball known as ‘betting totals’ or ‘over/under’.

Simply put, a total represents the predicted combined score of the two teams playing a basketball game.

Here’s how it works: a number will be picked and bettors will be invited to exercise the option of betting that more than the predicted total points will be scored in the game or that less than the predicted total points will be scored in the game, after the full time.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, the above is an explanation for why the method is also referred to as the ‘over/under’.

Extending the Lakers v Warriors analogy we used earlier in this article, the over/under-predicted for a game between the Lakers and the Warriors might be 187 points.

People betting on the ‘over’ would be declared winners if the total combined points were 188 points or more and as you’ve probably guessed by now, people betting on the ‘under’ would be declared winners if the total combined scores are exactly 186 points or less.

But the combined score in the basketball game is exactly 187 points, the bet is classified as a tie and money doesn’t change hands between the bettors.

Similar to what applies under the point spread method, people wagering are asked to lay 11-to-10 odds and risk $11 to win $10 on each ‘over/under’ bet. And the extra is pocketed by the bookie for his effort.

Betting against the point spread or on totals are not the only options a bettor on basketball games can exercise, even though these two options represent the majority of basketball wagers.

Money line wagers

One other option available to a bettor is the ‘money-line wager’. The money-line wager is a bet on the winner of a basketball game without regard for the point spread.

However, because some teams are given more than a 50% chance of winning a game, money line wagers are made using high odds. That means if a bettor wagers on expected to win, he’s asked to risk considerably more than he stands to win.

For instance, the money line odds on a game between the Lakers and the Warriors may look like the below:

  • Lakers -300
  • Warriors. +240

The implication of the above is that people betting on the Lakers are asked to bet $30 to win $10 while those favoring the underdog, the Warriors, are asked to risk $10 to win $24.

Historically speaking, an overwhelming volume of sports betting was done with money line wagers at some point but since the majority preferred betting on the favorites, the point spread option had to be introduced. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Exotic bets

The other ways people bet on basketball games are generally known as exotic bets or parlays and teasers.

In parlays and teasers, a bettor has the option of betting against the point spread or using the money line while teasers are made using the point spread.

On teasers, bettors can amend the point spread in their favor. The thing with parlays and teasers is that it operates on perfect predictions; all the teams a bettor predicts will win must win else, the bet is a loss.

Closing thoughts

Meanwhile, to be successful at betting on basketball games, you must have the capacity to find value bets and assess a team’s performance accurately.

A profitable basketball Betting career relies on being able to learn how best to bet on basketball games and to do that, you must be familiar with the market, learn how to apply sound money management principles when betting, consistently keep a record of past bettings and by following seasoned basketball tipsters.

Some people promote the view that there’s a way to bet on say, the NBA, and win most if not all of the time.

As always, that’s pure fantasy since there’s no foolproof way to profitably bet on basketball games.

Everyone gets it wrong sometimes, so don’t enrich people selling ‘too good to be true’ betting systems.

All in all, betting on basketball is a pretty straightforward affair that allows everyday people to entertain themselves and make money while they are at it.

We hope you learned a few simple truths.