How to Bet on Basketball

In basketball, the team that scores the most points wins the game. Pretty simple, right? Well when it comes to betting on basketball, things can be a little more complicated. But fear not, we’re going to show you how to bet on basketball NBA games so you can make the best decisions when it comes to game time.

There are several different ways to bet on basketball, but for now, we’ll focus on the three most popular ways people will bet on games: the spread, the money line and the point totals. Learning how to bet on basketball may seem like a foreign language at first with all the numbers and lingo, but don’t worry – here are the basketball betting odds explained.

The Point Spread:

Not all teams are created equal, and while everyone loves a good upset (unless you’re a fan of the team getting upset), it’s harder to predict when one of those will happen. That’s where the spread comes in. Betmania will set the spread, also known as a line, to make it easier for both teams to win the wager. Here’s an example of a spread:

Dallas Mavericks +3 ½ -120
Miami Heat -3 ½ -110

In the above example, the Miami Heat are favored by 3 ½ points while the Dallas Mavericks are considered 3 ½ point underdogs. In the point spread, a “+” indicates the underdog while the “–“ represents the favorite. If you were to bet on the Miami Heat in this example, the Heat would have to beat the Mavericks by more than 3 ½ points. If you had bet on the Mavericks, you would win your bet if the Mavericks lose by less than 3 ½ points or if the Mavericks pull off the upset and win the ball game. The numbers next to the point spread is called the vig or the juice and will indicate how much money you would win if you hit on your bet. In the above example, if you were to bet on the Dallas Mavericks, you would need to bet $120 in order to win $100. If you were to bet on the Miami Heat, you would need to bet $110 in order to win $100.

The Money Line:

When learning how to bet on basketball, the money line is one of the easier ways to bet on a game. Simply put, you are choosing which team you expect to win the game. The challenge when it comes to betting on the money line is figuring out which odds you should take to maximize your earnings. Here is an example of a money line:

Boston Celtics +450
Los Angeles Lakers -700

In this example, the Los Angeles Lakers are considered to be heavy favorites, indicated by the “-” next to their money line odds, and the Boston Celtics are the underdogs with the “+” next to their odds. The larger the money line odds, the greater the team is a favorite or underdog. In this example, because the Lakers are such heavy favorites, you would have to wager $700 just to earn $100 if you picked the Lakers to win, which makes the payoff a lot less enticing even though the team may be much more likely to win. But if you pick the Celtics, you would only have to wager $100 to earn $450, which makes it more enticing to bet on the underdog, even though they may be a long shot to actually pull off the upset. The closer the teams are, the lower the money line odds will be. The key is balancing the risk and reward when it comes to betting the money line.

Point Totals:

To bet a total wager, you will be betting on the points of both teams combined by either taking the over or the under. Here’s an example of a O/U (over/under) line:

Washington Wizards 201.5 o-110
Philadelphia 76ers 201.5 u-115

In this example, you either have the option of betting on the Washington Wizards and the Philadelphia 76ers scoring more (o) or less (u) a combined total of 201.5 points. When betting the point total, it does not matter which team ends up coming out on top or how much a team wins or loses by – only what the final total is.

There are also other types of bets, including 1st quarter, 1st half and halftime bets, which are the three types of bets we’ve covered above but only applying to a certain portion of the game instead of the whole game.

You can also combine bets together, which is called a parlay. The more bets you combine, the higher the payout, but because you would need to hit on all the bets that are bunched together, the odds of success are also slimmer.

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