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Betting Tutorial

How To Bet on Basketball

Sports betting is one of the most exciting ways to experience sporting events. Basketball is one of the most dynamic and thrilling sports to wager on. However, wagers can get complicated, and many people don’t know how to bet on basketball.

In this in-depth primer, we’ll go over the fundamentals of how to bet on basketball. We’ll get into basketball betting lines, NBA and NCAAB betting, implied probabilities, types of bets, and more.

Betting Explained: Understanding Basketball Betting Lines

The first step towards learning how to bet on basketball is understanding the betting lines. Betting lines, also called moneylines, inform you of two crucial things: what the odds are, and who’s the favorite.

In American odds formats, a match will feature a moneyline for each outcome. In a 2-way moneyline (games where teams can’t tie), only two outcomes are possible. Each team’s moneyline reflects the payout of a $100 bet on the team to win.

Negative (-) moneylines indicate a favorite. A negative moneyline indicates how much you need to bet to win $100. Positive (+) moneylines indicate underdogs. Positive moneylines show potential net winnings on a $100 stake.

NBA Betting

When you bet on NBA games, you’ll find a few standard betting lines available. The most common include moneyline, point spread, and total. Let’s look at an example. Say the Boston Celtics are playing the Los Angeles Lakers at Boston. Boston is the favorite, with moneyline at -140, spread at -2.5, and totals at 200. LA stands at +120 moneyline, +2.5 spread, and 200 totals.

Let’s then say you bet $100 bet on the Celtics to win, and $100 on the Lakers to beat the spread. The game finishes 97-95, with Boston on top. Your $100 moneyline bet at -140 would pay about $171, or net winnings of $71.

Spread bets pay if your team plus or minus the spread beats the other team’s score. In this case, the Lakers lost, but beat the spread, since 95+2.5 is 97.5, which is higher than the Celtics’ 97. Spread bets are a somewhat more advanced way of how to bet on basketball.

Betting on NCAA Basketball

A bet on college basketball isn’t much different from a bet on NBA games. When you bet on college basketball, you get much the same options as with the NBA. Moneylines, spread bets and totals are the most common betting lines.

Let’s try a practical example. Say it’s the height of March Madness, and the Duke Blue Devils are playing the Michigan State Spartans. Duke is the slight favorite, with -110 odds, -1.5 spread. Michigan is the slight underdog, at +105 odds and +1.5 spread.

Let’s also say you are feeling Michigan will have a great game. You bet $100 on Michigan to win, and $100 on Michigan to beat the spread. The game ends 73-72, with Duke ahead. You bet on Michigan to win loses, but spread bets on Michigan still payout, since 72+1.5 is over 73.

Many people love to bet on college basketball. March Madness, in particular, is a great time to bet on college basketball. The best bets, promotions, and offers come around this time of the year.

Learn How to Calculate Implied Probability

There are many strategies and tips out there to bet on the NBA. The best bets follow smart strategies that work overtime. However, to learn how to bet on basketball with even the simplest of strategies, players must understand implied probability.

Bookies set the odds based on the likelihood of an event happening. That means you can examine the odds to figure out how probable the bookies think an outcome is. That’s what implied probability means. Implied probability is crucial for serious online sports betting. When you bet on NBA games, your odds determine the implied probability. Finding discrepancies between implied probability and real probability is the goal of the NBA’s best bets.

If that sounds complicated, don’t worry. It’s quite simple. Let’s go over a few examples of how to bet on basketball and calculate implied probability.

Decimal Odds

For decimal odds, the process is extremely easy. Say you bet on the Lakers at decimal odds of 1.5. The inverse would be 1 divided by the decimal odds, in this case, 1/1.5 = 0.66 = 66%. That means the sportsbook is implying that the probability of the Lakers winning is 66%.

Fractional Odds

Using fractional odds, things aren’t much more complicated. Let’s say you’re betting on Gonzaga at fractional odds of 6/4. To get the implied probability, divide the denominator by the sum of both numerator and denominator. Like so: 4/(6+4) = 4/10 = 0.4 = 40% implied probability.

American Odds

With American odds, the process is a little more complex. Let’s say you’re betting on the Celtics at -200. Divide the odds by the sum of the odds and 100. Like so: 200/(200+100) = 200/300 = 0.66 = 66% implied probability.

For positive odds, the process is slightly different. Let’s say the Chicago Bulls are underdogs at +300. Divide 100 by the sum of the odds and 100. Like so: 100/(300+100) = 100/400 = 0.25 = 25% implied probability.

Using implied probabilities, you can figure out how to bet on basketball in a much more effective way. It’s all about finding events where the bookies’ implied probabilities are lower than the real-world probabilities.

Types of Basketball Bets


Point-Spread bets are available for the NBA, NCAA, and WNBA when the leagues are in season. The point-spread was developed to provide a balance for both teams involved in a contest to entice bettors to potentially back the weaker team and receive points.

The two squads in a game are listed with a title, either a favorite or an underdog. The favorite is usually the perceived better team in the game, as backing them means giving up several points. For example, if Los Angeles is listed as a seven-point favorite (-7) over Orlando, backing Los Angeles would mean they need to win by at least eight points to win the bet. Any victory by six points or less by Los Angeles would result in a loss, even though they won the game straight-up.

The underdog is the team not expected to win, but betting the ‘dog has its advantages. In the above example, betting Orlando with the seven points (+7) is actually beneficial in two ways. If Orlando loses the game by six points or less, Orlando wins the bet. Also, if Orlando wins the game straight-up regardless of the amount, they cash winning tickets. Assuming the game falls on seven, in this case, a ‘push’ occurs, which is a tie, meaning all tickets are refunded.


In basketball, the standard betting practice is to lay (bet) $110 to win $100. When we learn about betting baseball and hockey, the money-line is the main form of wagering, meaning no point spread. There is money-line betting in basketball in case you don’t want to worry about the points. However, the odds are adjusted accordingly for both the favorite and underdog. If you wanted to back Los Angeles (a five-point favorite) but only needed to them to win straight-up, you would need to wager $250 to win $100. On the flip side, if you have enough faith in Orlando to beat Los Angeles outright as a five-point ‘dog, you can place $100 to win $180.

There is a sliding scale on the money-line/point-spread correlation, with the favorite numbers rising relative to how many points they lay. A three-point favorite to win outright is just -160 (Lay $160 to win $100), while a seven-point favorite is a chalkier bet at -320 (Lay $320 to win $100).

Totals (Over/Under)

Another option to bet on basketball instead of taking a side is to bet on the total. Basically, this is a cooperative effort between the two teams to either go ‘Over’ or ‘Under’ the posted total. In basketball, if Los Angeles and Orlando have a game total of 205 ½, a winning ‘Over’ bet would mean the two clubs would combine for 206 points or more. On the flip side, a winning ‘Under’ ticket is 205 points or fewer between the two teams.

Basketball Rules

All betting shops and bookmakers follow their own house guidelines, but the rules listed below are widely considered industry standards

Basketball games are official when 43 minutes have been played (35 minutes in college basketball).

Crafting Your Basketball Betting Strategy

If you are serious about learning how to bet on basketball, you’ll need the best tips and strategies. There’s a lot of wisdom to be gleaned from more experienced players. Proven strategies are the backbone of the NBA best bets.

The following are some of the most important tips to place NBA and college basketball best bets. If you want to learn how to bet on basketball, keep the following tips in mind.

NCAA & NBA Best Bets Tips

  • Manage your bankroll effectively. The specifics are up to you, but keep in mind how vast the NBA schedule is. There’s always a lot of action to take, so don’t commit your whole bankroll to a single game.
  • Keep track of schedules. That applies to both game and practice schedules. A team that reads great on paper can quickly fold if they’re fatigued or overworked.
  • Stay up to date on injuries. Player injuries can be the bane of both NBA and college basketball best bets. Keep an eye on player rest updates as well. A team on a slump with a star coming back from rest is often underestimated by oddsmakers.

Next up, we’ll take a brief look at some of the most successful strategies. They’re some of the smartest rules of thumb for how to bet on basketball.

Best Strategies For Betting On Basketball

Tunnel Betting

Tunnel betting means capitalizing on differences in betting lines offered at the same odds by different bookies. For example, let’s say Bookie #1 has the total for a game at 200, and Bookie #2 has it at 205.

If you take the over 200 and the under 205, if the game ends at anywhere between the two, you’ll win both bets. Best of all, if you miss that range, you’re guaranteed to win one of your bets. It’s a relatively low-risk way of how to bet on basketball.


Middling is a more advanced approach to how to bet on basketball. It’s based on the fact that sportsbooks will adjust betting lines during a game in reaction to player action.

Let’s say you bet on Miami Heat as favorites against the Chicago Bulls, with a spread of -2.5. At halftime, following intense betting on the Bulls, bookies shift the line so the Bulls are the favorites, at -4.5. This creates a happy middle.

If you take both sides of the action, you could stand to make a substantial profit with the right result. If the Heat win by a 3 point lead, both teams will beat the spread. In most other possible outcomes, at least one of your bets will pay off, too. It’s a rather low-risk strategy. Middling is not just a popular way of how to bet on basketball. Many people use it to figure out how to bet on football as well.

Get Expert Picks for Basketball Betting

If you want to learn how to bet on basketball, it’s reasonable to learn from the best. From March Madness picks to top NBA predictions, bettors seek out shortlists and advice constantly. The following are some of the NBA and college football best bets you can make today.

College Basketball Picks

Here at, our handicappers work hard to gather the most up-to-date information on NCAA basketball. Handicappers are ranked by their recent performance. There is a prominent list of leading handicappers and hot streaks. They’ll be your best friends every March Madness. The list is constantly being updated.

As of this writing, the top 3 college basketball handicappers are Matt Fargo, Greg Smith, and Stephen Nover. Players can access documented lines, as well as time-stamped expert, picks for 1 day of college basketball action.

NBA Picks NBA handicappers are some of the best-informed professional bettors in the industry. With proven track records and impressive hot streaks, our top handicappers have a unique talent for picking winners.

The top 3 handicappers feature the most dominating runs among our expert bettors each season. The top 3 are constantly changing. However, as of this writing, it’s made up of Joe Nelson (18-5), Chip Chirimbes (4-0) and Paul Bowl (5-0).

Live Betting, In-Play Betting & Basketball Betting Futures

So far, we’ve discussed pre-match betting markets, the most popular way of how to bet on basketball. However, there are many other forms of basketball wagering. They include basketball betting futures and live, in-play betting.

The difference between pre-match betting, live betting, and futures, is how far from the action the betting happens. With typical pre-match betting, you place wagers before a game that is starting soon.

Live betting, on the other hand, is about markets constantly adapting to the score of an ongoing game. They include many of the same markets you’d find pre-match, but with betting lines and odds always on the move.

Every sports betting operator offers pre-match betting. Most of them offer live betting markets as well, though many have a more limited selection compared to pre-match markets. Several operators also offer a third form of wagering: basketball betting futures. Basketball betting futures are a different take on how to bet on basketball. Instead of focusing on specific matches going on now, futures focus on big tournament titles. You can bet on the outright winner of the NBA finals or the March Madness champion for the year.

There are dozens of outright betting markets in many operators. They tend to have very favorable odds compared to pre-match and live markets. At the same time, they’re much harder to win. Unless you know something about next year’s season that no one else knows, that is.

Best Online Sportsbooks for Basketball Betting

Learning how to bet on basketball online also means knowing where the action is. In the US, there are many online sportsbooks and betting apps available.

Different sports betting apps have different things to offer, depending on your betting style. While several states now offer legal sports betting apps, NJ sports betting apps remain the most diverse and abundant.

BetRivers Sportsbook

The Rivers Casino opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2009, five years after the state legalized casino gambling. A decade later, the Rivers Casino launched the BetRivers Sportsbook, first as a trial, then permanently.

Also, BetRivers Sportsbook offers many pre-match and live betting markets on major American leagues like the NFL, NBA, and MLB. They have pretty competitive odds for basketball betting lines.

BetRivers Sportsbook is ideal if you're located in Pennsylvania or Indiana. The operator also offers a sleek mobile app for Android devices. Regular betting boosts and having PayPal as a payment method make it an attractive option.

PointsBet Sportsbook

PointsBet is an innovative online sportsbook, founded in Australia and now expanding across the globe. In the US, PointsBet is currently available for New Jersey and Iowa players.

It’s an excellent operator for NBA sports betting, particularly if you want to shake things up a bit. PointsBet is actually in an official partnership with the NBA, and the league considers it an authorized sports betting operator.

Furthermore, PointsBet has a unique way of how to bet on basketball that brings tremendous amounts of adrenaline to sports betting.

The PointsBet system lets you cash in on every point that a team beats the score by. If the team misses the spread, though, you’re on the hook for every point they miss it by.

FanDuel Sportsbook

Founded in 2009 in New York, FanDuel began as a daily fantasy sports provider, one of the first in America. In the following decade, FanDuel expanded to almost every state. When the US legalized sports betting, FanDuel began its move towards sportsbook operations.

Today, FanDuel Sportsbook is available in four states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Indiana. The operator offers great odds and constant promotions for several major American sports leagues, including the NFL, MLB, NBA, and UFC.

FanDuel also has one of the best betting apps in the market, with excellent functionality and live betting capabilities.

DraftKings Sportsbook

Naturally, DraftKings Sportsbook is the sports betting arm of DraftKings, the largest daily fantasy sports provider in the US. DraftKings has had a presence in virtually every state almost since its inception, back in 2012. Following the 2018 PASPA repeal, DraftKings opened its Sportsbook.

DraftKings Sportsbook offers pre-match and live betting markets to players in New Jersey, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Indiana. It’s also available at retail locations in half a dozen other states. DraftKings offers odds on major American and international sports and leagues.

The operator offers many betting boosts, interesting betting pools, multiple futures markets, and other special offers.

BetMGM Sportsbook

MGM Resorts International is one of the most renowned names in gambling in America. BetMGM Sportsbook is their second online sportsbook project after their initial playMGM brand failed to pick up steam.

BetMGM, on the other hand, started its life with much more momentum behind it, thanks to the 2018 PASPA repeal. BetMGM quickly entered into official betting partnerships with every major American sports league, including the NBA.

The BetMGM Sportsbook is available in New Jersey, Indiana and West Virginia, with plans to expand to many other states. BetMGM offers a great selection of betting lines at pretty competitive odds.

Bet on Basketball Today

Armed with everything you need to know to bet on basketball effectively, you’re ready for the action. It’s time for you to choose a sportsbook, make your player account, and get to betting.

There are many different bonuses and promotions available. Compare and contrast your options, and choose what’s right for you.