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A Beginner’s Guide to NBA Betting

While the NBA may take place in America, it has an international fan base and you can bet on games at sportsbook around the world, including here at Sports. The sport offers some truly exciting betting opportunities and placing a bet on a game can certainly make watching it even more exciting.  

Of course, there is no way to guarantee success when placing bets. However, there are a number of things that you can do that may increase your chances of success and will certainly increase the amount of fun you can have betting on your favourite teams.  

Types of NBA Bets 

The first thing you need to do is make sure that you understand the different types of bets available to you. There are a number of them, but they won’t take you long to understand.  


The most basic bet is the Moneyline. This is a bet on which team you think is going to win and you bet against the Moneyline odds. The favourite to win will have negative odds, which means that you will be betting more than you can potentially win. The underdog will have positive odds, which means that you can potentially win more than you bet. For example, Team A may be at -200 to win while Team B is at +180. Team A is a strong favourite and the numbers mean that you would have to bet £200 to get a £100 return. Team B’s positive number shows how much you win for every £100 bet if they win the game.  


A Spread bet is a bet on the margin of victory, i.e. how much a team will win by. To win the bet, you need a team to win by a certain number of points or more, or you will need a team to win or only lose by a certain number of points. For example, if Team A is at -7.5 and Team B is at +7.5. If you were betting on the favourite, Team A, then you would “lay” 7.5 points. In other words, you need Team A to win by at least 8 points. If you want to bet on Team B then you “take” the 7.5 points, meaning that Team B needs to win or lose by fewer than 8 points for you to win the bet.  


A Total bet is a bet on the total number of points scored by both teams together in a game. If you are placing a total bet it means that you don’t mind who wins, you are only interested in if it will be a high or low scoring game. The bets are represented as Over and Under, over a total number of points or under a total number of points. The bets usually have Moneyline odds of around -110, meaning that a bet of £110 wins £100. You will find a number of variants of Total bets, such as markets on individual teams or time periods such as 1st Quarter, 2nd Half and so on. 

In fact, the three bet types discussed so far (Moneyline, Spreads and Totals) can all be found in a number of variants, usually referring to specific time periods within the game. For example, you can bet on whether the total points scored in the second quarter will be over or under a specific number. Similarly, you can bet on the underdog being within a certain number of points of the favourites at the halftime mark.  

These markets can be made even more exciting by using in-play betting and you will be pleased to learn that they work in exactly the same way. After each play, a new total and new spread are generated, giving you the chance to place informed bets in real-time. Another advantage of in-play markets is that they tend to have higher moneyline odds, meaning that you have the chance to win even more. 


A Parlay bet is the combination or two or more bets. It is like placing a bet on a game, winning and then using those winnings together with your original stake and putting it all on another bet. This is sometimes referred to as “letting the money ride”. If all parts of your Parlay bet win, then you will most likely win a large payout. However, if any part of the bet loses, then you lose the entire bet.  

Player Props 

A Player Prop bet (player proposition) is on a statistic relating to a specific player or a group of players. For example, you can bet on a specific player to score more than 23.5 points. If the player then scores at least 24 points, you will win your bet. You can also bet on statistics such as assists, rebounds, free throws, and more, and even a combination of them all. These markets can be particularly attractive if the odds are not great on the Spread or Total markets.  

Game Props 

A Game Prop bet is one that relates to specific events that may occur during a game. For instance, you could bet on the first team to score a specific number of points. You could also bet whether there will be more or less (Over or Under) a specific number of 3-point shots made between the two teams.  

How Odds are Decided 

In general, there are three main factors that go into the creation of NBA odds, the Power Rankings of the teams, the home-court advantage, and any situational factors ahead of the game. It is worth taking a little look at each of these.  

Power Rankings 

A Power Ranking is a listing of the teams in the league based upon their overall strength. The rankings are designed to show how the team would perform against an average opponent. For example, the Golden State Warriors may be at the top of the Power Rankings with +8.5, which means that they are 8.5 points better than an average team. It is worth trying to develop your own Power Rankings and updating them regularly, as they can be a useful tool when planning your bets.  

Home Court Advantage 

While it is never going to be fixed, in the NBA the home court advantage is usually about 3 points. This means that if two equally matched teams are playing, the one with the home advantage is favoured by 3 points. As an example, this information can be used to put together a hypothetical spread for a game played in Oakland between the Golden State Warriors and the Milwaukee Bucks. Assume the Power Rankings have given the Golden State Warriors 8.5 and the Milwaukee Bucks 6.5, the Warriors will also have a 3 point home advantage. Therefore, to work out a handicap you see that the Warriors have a 2 points Power Ranking advantage and a 3 point Home Court advantage, which means that they have a 5 point edge.  

Using Power Rankings & Home Court Advantage to Place Bets 

If you believe that a Spread is correct, then you will not be able to make a profit by betting on the game. If the Spread is correct it means that 50% of the time the favourite will beat the spread and 50% of the time the underdog will beat it. As a result, there is no point betting on the game at -110 odds as you would have to win 11/21 times just to break even. If you are only winning 50% of the time then your bankroll will quickly run out.  

As a general rule, don’t bet on a game unless you think the Spread is at least 2 points off. A 2-point advantage will general lead to a 55% proposition that you will win the bet. Another advantage is that with a 2-point edge there is still space for a margin of error. If you are 1 point off, you will still break even or even make a slight profit in the long run.  

Using the above example, in which the correct line for the Warriors vs Bucks was -5.5, it means you should only bet the Warriors if the odds are -3.5 or less. On the other side, you should only bet on the Bucks if the Bucks are offered at +7.5 or more.  

Considering the Facts on the Day 

Power Rankings and Home Court Advantage are a good starting point. However, they do not consider the facts of the day, such as if players are injured, if the team is likely to be tired, if the team is motivated, and so on. It is these things that can really swing a game and also open up more betting opportunities. As noted, betting is not an exact science and these kind of situational factors make it even more complicated. It is up to you as a sports fan to try to keep track of things and use your knowledge of the game to make more informed bets. For example, if you see that Team A is the strong favourite but they don’t need the points, then you may think that Team B is a good value bet as they will be more motivated to win.  


At the end of the day, sports betting should always be fun and it is important you keep it that way by not betting money that you cannot afford to lose. By using the different types of betting markets explained above together with the idea of Power Rankings and home advantage, you can begin to look for markets that represent good betting opportunities. Ultimately, it is up to you to combine this information with your own knowledge, and between the two, you will hopefully soon start placing lots of winning bets.  

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