Understanding How To Bet Basketball

Basketball is one of the world's most popular sports. The NBA is full of superstars from overseas and events like the Olympics and World Cup always showcase how much talent is out there. Plus, basketball is an exciting sport to watch. It's a combination of athleticism, speed, power and finesse all rolled into one. It's exciting and thrilling and extremely fun to watch. And, if you can believe it, basketball can be made even more fun to watch - by dropping down a bet! With more and more states legalizing sports gambling and players from all over the country - and world - able to bet, basketball is quickly becoming one of the most popular sports to gamble on. Today, we're going to examine some of the most popular bets, tell you what to look for and hopefully send you on your way to winning some bets! Let's jump in!

Gambling On Basketball: The Big Three

We've touched on some other sports - baseball and hockey - that have a different spin on these bets. But players will be happy to know that basketball, like football, is one of the sports that offers the standard big three bets. But for any players out there who might not know how it works let's explain…

  • The Spread

The spread is a margin of points that the oddsmakers think a game will be played within. For basketball, that spread can be anywhere from a single point all the way into the double digits - with the NBA it usually will go as high as the mid-teens, but for college basketball it could reach the 20s. Let's take a look at an NBA game for example…

Let's say our spread is 5 points. That means Team A, the favorite, will be listed a -5 (they'll be laying 5 points) and Team B, the underdog, will be listed at +5 (they'll be getting 5 points). If you place a bet on Team A at -5 then they would need to win the game by MORE that 5 points. That's because they are laying 5 points - or in other words, you will take away 5 points from their final score. So if they win the game 90-80, congrats! You win! But if they only win the game 85-83, your bet would lose.

If you took Team B at +5 then they could lose the game but you could still win your bet. If Team B loses the game 83-80, you still win! That's because we are adding 5 points to the final score. But if they lose 95-80 then you would lose the bet. If Team B wins the game outright you win the bet as well.

Betting the spread in basketball is an added excitement because the scoring is so quick and fast that it can change in an instant.

  • The Money Line

The money line bet has nothing to do with winning by a certain amount. It's all about wining the game period. Favorites will always be listed with negative odds like -110 while the underdogs will come with positive odds like +110. So, a bet on the favorite at -110 means you need to place a $110 bet in order to win $100. That's because they are favored to win so the risk is lower. You need to bet more just to win a little.

A bet on the underdog at +110 means a $100 bet would win you $110. Because underdogs are not 'meant' to win, they pay out larger sums if they do win.

The money line bet is a little less stressful than the spread because you're not living and breathing with every point scored.

  • Over/Under

Over/under bets are when you bet on the TOTAL amount of points being over or under what the oddsmakers set it at. So if the over/under is 200, you need the COMBINED score from both teams to be over 200. If you pick the under then the COMBINED score needs to be under 200.

A good rule of thumb for over/under bets is to look at the types of teams playing. Are they both high scoring teams? If so, the over is probably the better bet. If they're both strong defensive teams then the under is probably the safer bet.

Game And Player Props

We love prop bets. Prop bets are bets that usually don't have anything to do with the final score or outcome of the game. They are all riding on teams or players to achieve certain things within the game. This puts your focus on certain players in hopes they get you what you need.

  • Game Props

Basketball is played in 4 quarters and comes with a halftime. So you're likely to see game props like 'which team will win the first quarter', 'which team will be winning at halftime', 'which team will have for made three pointers', 'which team will have more total assists'. These game props are fun because like we said, the final outcome of the game doesn't matter, you're rooting for one specific thing and that's all - unless you place a parlay!

  • Player Props

Players props put all the focus on specific players. You'll see player props in basketball like 'Player A to score the first points of the game', 'Player B to have X amount of points, assist, rebounds combined', 'Player C to have at least 3 made 3-point shots'. There are so many individual statistics in basketball that the player prop list is extensive.

We personally love player props because it's less likely that a fluky event can ruin your bet where a spread or money line bet can be ruined at the buzzer.


And there we have it! Our closer look at understanding how to bet basketball - and as you can see, it's not that hard! With basketball getting ready to start up again, it's now the perfect time to brush up on your favorite teams and players and understand the types of bets and how to place them. So the next time you're ready for a sportsbook session, make sure you read our handy guide and you'll be shooting your way into big wins!