When it comes to betting on the NBA, the first step for newcomers is going to be to learn how to read an NBA betting line. During the NBA season, these betting lines can be found by checking in with any leading online sports betting sites such as BetMGM or Caesars New York.
A standard NBA betting line features three main items – the point spread, the moneyline and the total. Each element is a separate wager.
Here’s what an NBA betting line looks like and how to read NBA odds:
Team Moneyline Point Spread Total
Golden State Warriors +125 +3.5 (-110) O 214.5 (-110)
Boston Celtics -145 -3.5 (-110) U 214.5 (-110)
The total is the simplest wager to explain. The 214.5 number is the assessment by oddsmakers of how many points will be scored during the game. Bettors wager on whether the two teams will go over or under that total.
With point spread betting, bettors are getting or giving points, depending upon whether their wager is on the favorite or underdog. In this case, betting the favored Celtics at -3.5 means Boston would need to win the game by at least 4 points to make the bet a winner.
Bet underdog Golden State at +4.5 and the bet cashes if the Warriors win, or lose by three points or less. The -110 in parentheses following the odds is the vig or the juice. It indicates how much you’d need to bet on the play in order to turn a $100 profit.
NBA Moneyline Bets
A straight win bet on the outcome of the game, moneyline wagers are calculated based on $100 bets. The moneyline would read Philadelphia 76ers +145 at Boston Celtics -175. In this example, the Sixers are the underdog. If you bet $100 on them and they win, you’ll garner a $145 profit. Favorites are figured in the moneyline based on how much a bettor needs to put down in order to realize a $100 profit. At -175, they’d be required to wager $175 on the Celtics to realize a $100 profit on your bet.
So, the moneyline is a straight bet on the winner of the game. In the event of a tie, your stake is normally refunded. One team is assigned favorite and will be odds-on to win. The other team is the underdog and will be odds against.
For example, the Memphis Grizzlies are playing the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are hot favorites and are priced at -550. The Warriors are +400. That means you would have to bet $550 on the Warriors in order to win $100 (plus your stake). For the underdog Warriors, you would win $400 for a $100 stake.
Another element that makes the NBA popular with sports bettors is that it offers a point spread system that is identical to what is utilized in football betting. The point spread is designed to enable oddsmakers to balance the books in the betting on a game. If the New York Knicks are -4.5 against the Atlanta Hawks, it means the Knicks are 4.5-point favorites. They’ll need to win the game by a minimum of five points in order to cover a point spread wager on them. As for the Hawks, bet on them and the bet will cash if Atlanta wins outright, or as long as the Hawks lose the game by four points or less.
The point spread assigns the favorite a points handicap before the game starts. The underdog receives the same number of points as a nominal “head start”. The win odds are changed to reflect the new starting points.
In our example, Memphis +10 are -110, while the Warriors are -110 with a -10 handicap. Memphis have suddenly gone odds-on after being assigned a 10-point lead before the game begins. If Memphis managed to ‘cover the spread’ and win by more than 10 points, your spread bet would win.
Betting Totals (Over/Under) in NBA
Perhaps the easiest method to follow when choosing to be betting on NBA games is through the total. Also referred to as the over/under, the bet simply asks how many points the two competing teams will combine to score during the game.
Also called the over/under, with this wager it doesn’t matter which team wins the game. All that counts is the number of points scored by the two teams. If a total is set at 266.5, bettors then wager on whether the final score of the game will be over or under that total. An interesting trend with NBA betting – during regular season play, the under terms to be the more successful play. But in the playoffs, the over carries the day more often than not.
The totals bet is a wager on whether the total points in an NBA game will be over or under the mark set by the sportsbook. For example, our game between Memphis and Golden State is priced like this:
Over 223 points: -110
Under 223 points: -110
You must correctly guess whether the total in the game is over or under 223. In addition, you can close out totals bets as the game progresses.
A total for the game is established by oddsmakers at a sportsbook such as PointsBet or BetRivers. Suppose the New Orleans Pelicans are playing the Charlotte Hornets and the total is set at 211.5. That indicates oddsmakers are projecting the combination of points scored will be 211.5.
Of course, that can’t be the final total, because teams aren’t able to score a half point. The half point is included to ensure that the game doesn’t finish at exactly the total posted, causing all bets to be refunded.
The betting play is self explanatory by the over/under name. You’re asked to wager on whether teams will go over or under the total. Odds will be assigned to each play to indicate what the payout on a winning wager will be.