How to Bet on Basketball

Betting on March Madness and the NBA Playoffs are always two of the biggest wagering events of the year for bettors. However, with 30 NBA teams and countless college basketball teams, there is no shortage of basketball games to bet on from November through early June. Throw in betting on the WNBA and basketball betting has turned into a year round

The three most common ways to bet on basketball are the point spread, the ‘total’ and the money line. If you are familiar with betting on football, the concept is essentially the same.

Betting the Point Spread

Like football, betting on the point spread is the most popular way to bet on basketball.

The point spread is a number the sportsbooks derive to even the playing field of two opposing teams. Basically, the favored team will be spotting the underdog a certain amount of points. In order for those who bet on the favorite to win their wager, the favorite must win the game by more than the point spread. If the favorite wins the game by fewer points than the point spread or lose the game altogether, those that wagered on the underdog would win their bet.

Let’s take a look at how to actually bet on a point spread for basketball. A sports book has the Lakers listed as 12 point favorites as they host the Clippers. If you backed the Lakers (-12), they would have to win the game by at least 13 points in order for Lakers bets to win and Clippers (+12) wagers to lose. If the Clippers lose the game by 12 or fewer points, or win the game outright, Clippers (+12) wagers would win and Lakers (-12) bets would be graded as losers.

Betting the Total

After the point spread, the ‘total’ is the second most popular way to bet on basketball.

Also referred to as the over/under, the ‘total’ is a predicted number of points two opposing teams are predicted to combine for in a particular game. You have the option of either betting the ‘over’ or the ‘under’. If you wagered on the ‘over’, the two teams must combine for more points than the listed ‘total’ in order for the wager to win. If you backed the ‘under’, the two teams can not combine to score more points than the listed ‘total’ in order to cash.

For instance, the ‘total’ for the Celtics vs. Heat game is listed at 211 points. If the two teams combine for 212 points or more when the final buzzer sounds, ‘over’ bets will win, whereas ‘under’ bets will lose.  If the final score combined for fewer than 211 points, ‘under’ bets win while ‘over’ bets lose. If the final combined points fell exactly on 212 points, it would be considered a ‘push’ and both ‘over’ and ‘under’ wagers would be ‘no actioned’.

Betting the Money Line

Like any other sport, betting the money line in basketball is backing the team that you think will win the game outright; the final score does not matter.

The concept is as easy as it comes; however, understanding the odds might be a little tricky to a novice. The favored team will have a minus (-) sign in front of a three digit number while the underdog will usually have a plus (+) sign in front of a three digit number.

Here is an example of a basketball money line wager. The Suns are a -160 favorite versus the Bulls, who are listed at +140. If you were going to bet on the Bulls, you would win $140 for every $100 bet, as long as the Bulls win.

Parlays and Teasers

There are plenty of other ways to bet on basketball, including parlays and teasers.

1. Parlays

An attractive wager type for bettors looking to make a larger profit from a small or moderate sized bet, parlays are always a popular bet during the basketball season.

A parlay is a single wager which incorporates numerous games or selections. All of the selections must win in order for the parlay to be graded as a winner. Since all of the selections must win, the payouts become increasingly generous as more selections are added.

For instance, let’s say you make a $100 parlay on the Pistons -7 with the Jazz -3. If both of the games cover in your favor, you’d win $260, considering the usual payout for a two team parlay is 13:5.

As mentioned, the higher the number of teams in the parlay, the great the payouts. A ten team parlay, for example, pays out around 700:1 depending on the sportsbook. So for a $2 dollar wager, you could win $1400 if all 10 selections covered.

2. Teasers

Another popular bet for college and NBA bettors alike, teasers allow the bettor to change the point spread or ‘total’ in his favor.

Teaser bets are a single wager in which you pick at least two games and are permitted to change the spread or total in your favor by a certain amount of points.

Let’s say you want to do a 5 point teaser with the 76ers +5 points and the Magic -3 points. By teasing each game by 5 points, you will now have the 76ers +10 points and the Magic at +2 points. Since this is considered a single wager, both of these teased spreads must cover in order for you to win the bet.

Depending on the sportsbook, basketball teasers are generally allowed for 4, 4 ½ and 5 points. Additionally, they often allow anywhere from two team teasers all the way up to 15 team teasers; again, depending on the sportsbook.

Now it’s time to get off the bench and onto the court. Check back to daily for the latest picks and in-depth analysis on all of the big basketball games.

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