A Complete Guide to NBA Betting

NBA gambling is one of the most popular recreational sports betting options in the country. With the ever-growing popularity of online betting, not to mention daily games for eight months of the year, it’s easy to see why wagering on the NBA continues to gain steam. One of the best things about the NBA is bookmakers offer a wide variety of options and props for sports bettors with varying value.

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Types of NBA Betting Options

Point Spread

The NBA, more so than other sports, is dominated by superstars because players are on the court for larger portions of the game and can make a superior impact. With so few players on the basketball court at a time (five each), this makes predicting who is going to win an easier task than some other sports.

Bookmakers use the point spread as a way of leveling out the chances of either team winning the game by providing an advantage or disadvantage based on the margin of victory or defeat for a given team. Bettors then need to choose if a team wins by a certain amount of points (the favorite) or doesn’t lose by a certain amount of points (the underdog).

Moneyline Betting

A Moneyline bet in the NBA is a type of bet that provides betting odds focused on who will win the game, regardless of how many points. The more uneven the game, the larger the numbers you’ll see.

A minus sign (-) in front of the odds indicates the favorite and the number listed shows how much money you must wager to win $100. A positive sign (+) in front of the odds indicates the underdog and the number show how much money you will win for a $100 wager. The more uneven the contest, the bigger the numbers you’ll see. It is rare, but sometimes if the matchup is too extreme or one-sided, a book will take the Moneyline option off the board.


The total in an NBA game is the final combined score of both teams. The bookmakers determine this number through past performance and matchups and the bettor must choose if the final score will land on either side of this number.

If the total for an NBA game is set at 199.5 and a bettor wagers on the under, this means that if the final combined score is 200 or more, the bet loses. If the teams combine to score 199 or less, the bet wins. As a sports bettor, there are many factors to consider before wagering on totals such as injury reports, load management, recent schedule and performance, elevation and NBA party cities.

NBA Live Betting

Live betting, or in-game betting, for the NBA has grown leaps and bounds over the last few years as mobile sports betting from a smartphone has become more industry standard. NBA is perhaps the best sport for live betting as runs are such a big part of the game. The majority of live betting done during NBA games revolve around point spreads and totals.

Much like the stock market, the lines and betting odds fluctuate by the second, so bettors need to be advantageous and monitor it closely to capitalize on odds they wish to wager on.

NBA Parlays

An NBA parlay is a combination bet that combines the outcome of multiple games. There are normally multiple basketball games per night during the regular season and plenty of betting options per game. A parlay is one bet on at least two different outcomes. When making a parlay bet, you can wager on the spread, moneyline and total.

We should note that those bets all have to come from different games. If you are betting the Lakers to cover the spread you can’t parlay that with the Lakers total, your second pick would require another game.

NBA Futures

As the NBA has transformed into a 12-month-a-year sport with the draft and free agency, the NBA futures market has become a year-round option for bettors. The opening odds show up at the end of the current season and throughout the offseason, new betting plays begin surfacing.

Some of the potential NBA futures bets include NBA champions, conference champions, division winners, Rookie of the Year and regular-season MVP.

NBA Betting Basketball Proposition Bets

The standard for NBA prop bets link to the performance of teams or individual players in a given game and can be extremely profitable and fun. Many of these propositions are in a Total or an over/under format. One of the most common players props available at online sportsbooks is the point total that a player scores in a game. Think betting on the over/under for James Harden points scored in a given game. If the line is set at 29.5 points, bettors need to determine if he will score 30 points or more or 29 or less and wager accordingly.

Another popular way to bet props are NBA team props. These focus on team performance and include ‘Which team will score first?’, or ‘Which will be the first team to score 20 points.

The great thing about NBA team props is that they can be broken down into 1st half/2nd half lines as well as by quarter. This is a great way to find value as certain teams might have a great starting five, but a weaker bench. So, you know they are going to come out hot, but might struggle in the second quarter when the starters rest.

What are some of the best tips for beginner NBA bettors?

NBA betting

These suggestions aren’t limited to those who are new to the online basketball betting sphere, they’re meant to inform those who might not have a lot of experience with NBA wagering.

  • Shop around for the best lines whenever possible. Some sportsbooks will offer lines that deviate from the masses to differentiate themselves from the competition and you can use that to your advantage. Sportsbook reviews are a good way of doing this as well.
  • Don’t shy away from big favorites. Unlike other professional sports, teams that are heavy favorites in the NBA almost always come through. You won’t always like the odds you’re offered, but if you like a matchup, you should consider laying some real money on it.
  • Three games in four nights matters. The NBA schedule is grueling and teams playing three games in four nights are often at a major disadvantage no matter where they’re playing.
  • Alternate spreads can be your friend and your enemy, so bettors should tread carefully before choosing this option. Let’s say you’re feeling great about the Los Angeles Clippers, you believe they’ll cover their -5 spread with ease over a bad team. Rather than settle for the standard spread bet, bettors can adjust the betting line to how they see the game playing out. Sportsbooks will allow you to adjust the betting line to -7.5, for example, and get odds at higher value as a result.  However, since NBA teams are playing simply to win the game, adjusting their win margin can be treacherous territory as they’re not competing in an attempt to win by 8 points as it doesn’t affect their outcome.

NBA Betting Glossary

NBA Betting Term Definition
Slip / Ticket another word for bet slip in which your wager is printed on
Point Spread a type of bet where one team must win by a certain amount of points or the other team must lose within a certain number of points. For example, Bucks (-7) vs Cavs (+7) means the Bucks must win by more than 7 points to win or the Cavs must lose by fewer than 7 points or win outright. If the final score is Bucks 98 Cavs 91, the bet is a PUSH.
Push a sports betting term for a tie and wagers are returned to the player
Moneyline (ML) another term for an outright win sports bet. When betting the moneyline you believe one of the two teams (or player) will win the event.
Point Total (Total)  also known as an Over / Under bet, is one when you must guess whether the total points scored will be over or under a certain number
Parlay a multi-game, multi-event bet, in which 2-or-more wagers must be correct in order for the ticket to cash. Because you are betting on more results to happen successfully, parlay bets often enjoy great odds than single bets.
Teaser similar to a parlay, a teaser contains multiple event bets where the point spread and/or totals can be adjusted by “buying” points.
Juice / Vig is another term for cost of placing a bet and is easier to show an example than define. When you look at a moneyline bet on an oddsboard, it’ll look something like: Bucks -200 Cavs +250
Prop / Proposition Bet – these typically have to do with a certain player or team achieving a certain goal threshold within an event. An example of a prop bet would be Kevin Love OVER/UNDER 21 points against the Bucks.
Specials an off-shoot of prop bets, specials are unique to a certain time frame. For example, during MLB playoffs, who will be higher, Nationals runs scored or Lakers winning margin?
Exotic as the name indicates, exotics are another form of prop bet that gets a little weird sometimes. For example, what will happen first LeBron wins a title or Luka Doncic wins a title?
1Q/1H/2Q/2H/3Q/4Q shorthand for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th quarter and 1st and 2nd half bets
L5 / L10 shorthand for last five games, last 10 games
Tilting when you start betting with uncontrollable emotion

NBA Online Sports Betting FAQ