Betting on the Hoops: How To Bet on Basketball

The sport of basketball is a globally popular pastime. Although the NBA may represent the pinnacle of the game, basketball is played all over the world, with national as well as domestic competitions, ranging from the World Cup to the prestigious Olympic basketball tournament.

Basketball is an ideal sport for betting in many ways. The high scoring and the fact that many games are in the balance until the final seconds makes it an exciting sport to follow, and that volatility means that there are often good odds to be found for those who know their basketball. So how exactly do you bet on basketball?

What is the Moneyline in Basketball?

The staple of basketball betting is the traditional moneyline bet. In this bet, you are simply picking one of the two teams in a match to win. A typical moneyline betting market may look like this:

  • LA Lakers     -156
  • Detroit Pistons     +132

In a moneyline market, the odds indicate the return that you can expect. In this case a successful $100 bet on the Detroit Pistons, who are the outsiders in this game, would net you a profit of $132, while if you bet on the Lakers, the odds show you would have to wager $156 to win $100.

What is a Moneyline Spread in NBA betting?

The NBA is the peak of basketball excellence, and the world’s most wagered-upon betting tournament, and the majority of those bets will be on the moneyline market outlined above.

But there are other ways to bet on an NBA game, including the spread, or moneyline spread as it is known. For the Lakers versus Pistons game mentioned above, you may see this moneyline spread:

  • LA Lakers     -8    -110
  • Detroit Pistons     +8    -110

In this case, the sportsbook is giving the Lakers an eight-point handicap. If you bet on the Lakers to win and they win by seven points or fewer, or if the Pistons win, you will lose. You will note that the odds needed to calculate your winnings are quoted after the handicap. Generally these odds will be as close to Evens as possible, the idea being that the handicap effectively removes the ability gap.

Handicap Betting in the NBA

You may also see handicap betting markets for the NBA and other basketball tournaments. These generally work in the same way as the moneyline spread markets outlined above, but whereas there is only ever one moneyline spread for each game, sportsbooks will sometimes offer a variety of handicap betting markets, adjusting the odds each time. For example:

  • LA Lakers     -5    -160
  • Detroit Pistons    +5    +200

In this case, there is a handicap for the Lakers, as in the moneyline spread, but the sportsbook thinks that this favours the Lakers, so the Pistons are +200 to beat the spread. This offers the basketball punter a greater range of potential bets rather than being restricted to the moneyline spread.

Three Way Basketball Betting

In most tournaments, basketball games are played to a finish, with overtime played as required to produce a winner, which means that there are generally only two outcomes to any game, and most betting markets will reflect this. However, there is such a thing as three way basketball betting, in which you bet on the result of the game in normal time, with a third option, the tie, available at bigger odds. This is similar to the way that most soccer markets operate.

Another form of three way basketball betting occurs in the moneyline spread and handicap markets. In this scenario, if the game finishes in a handicap tie, your stake is refunded. You don’t explicitly bet on the tie, so it isn’t true three way betting, but it does offer a degree of security if your bet fails narrowly. For example, if you bet on the Lakers with a -8 handicap and they win their game by exactly eight points, that is a handicap tie, and your stake is refunded.

In order to avoid such a scenario, some sportsbooks will offer half-point spreads and handicaps, effectively ensuring that the handicap tie is impossible.

Betting on Winning Margin in Basketball

Another form of popular basketball betting is to try to predict the winning margin in a game. As with the moneyline spread and handicap markets, this type of bet requires you to weigh up the difference between the two teams, but winning margin markets will usually give you a range of options such as:

  • LA Lakers    0-4 points    -110
  • LA Lakers    5-9 points    -125
  • LA Lakers     10-14 points    -120

This type of betting can often be a good option if you don’t want to bet on the moneyline or the moneyline spread or you want the cushion of betting on a range of points margins.

Betting on the Race to Twenty Points

Some teams start stronger than others, and if you think you’ve identified such a team, then the Race to Twenty Points market could be worth a look. In this market, you are simply betting on which of the two teams will be first to reach 20 points in a game. There are many other points-related markets available on most basketball games, but this is one of the most exciting and has the advantage that you don’t have to wait until the game ends to find out if you’ve won.

Where can I Bet on NBA Games?

If you’re betting in Europe, you will find that most bookmakers will offer extensive odds on NBA games, as it is one of the world’s most popular sporting competitions. The picture is a little patchier in the US, where sports betting isn’t yet available in all states, but fast growing companies such as DraftKings, FanDuel, and Bar Stool Sportsbook are expanding their operations and offer the full range of NBA betting markets from moneyline betting to winning margin bets.

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