Betting Strategies

basketball betting strategies

Basketball betting odds are relatively straightforward in the many countries.

Each match in the NBA and Euro League will be priced up alongside many lesser-known competitions on the site. Whether it is taking place during the regular season or a play-off contest, the odds will remain the same. The prices are available in either fractional or decimal form and this can be changed in the bookmaker’s settings.

Betting Against the Spread

It is my understanding that the rule of thumb for handicapping basketball is that home court advantage is worth 4 points. The average closing point spread is -3.88 on the home team. However, in reality, the home team wins by only 3.82 points, on average. The visiting team also wins 1.27% more often than home teams. This could just be random variation. It also could be that the market is more enamored of betting home teams, creating a better bet the other way.

Historically speaking, the probability of winning has been 0.69% higher for underdogs than favorites. This is not surprising. In football the value in betting underdogs is even stronger. It is no big secret that recreational gamblers tend to bet on favorites, creating value on underdogs.

The following table shows the probability of winning/losing/pushing and the house advantage (laying 110, 108, and 105), according to whether the player bets the home or away team, and favorite or underdog.

Betting Against the Spread

BET PROB. WIN PROB. LOSS PROB. PUSH HOUSE EDGE (LAYING 110) HOUSE EDGE (LAYING 108) HOUSE EDGE (LAYING 105)
Home Underdogs 48.45% 49.47% 2.08% 5.43% 4.61% 3.33%
Home Favorites 48.34% 49.67% 1.99% 5.72% 4.91% 3.63%
Home Pick 48.45% 51.55% 0.00% 7.50% 6.68% 5.40%
Away Underdogs 49.67% 48.34% 1.99% 3.19% 2.35% 1.04%
Away Favorites 49.47% 48.45% 2.08% 3.47% 2.64% 1.33%
Away Pick 51.55% 48.45% 0.00% 1.59% 0.73% -0.64%
All Home 48.37% 49.64% 1.99% 5.66% 4.85% 3.57%
All Away 49.64% 48.37% 1.99% 3.25% 2.41% 1.10%
All Favorites 48.65% 49.34% 2.02% 5.11% 4.29% 3.00%
All Underdogs 49.34% 48.65% 2.02% 3.80% 2.97% 1.66%
Overall 49.01% 49.01% 1.99% 4.46% 3.63% 2.33%

So, if you must bet basketball blindly, your best bet is to bet on visiting underdogs, at a house advantage of 3.19%, when laying 110. 72% of the time the home team is favored, so there should be no shortage of opportunities to bet the other way.

Betting Overs and Unders

There is no significant difference between betting overs and unders in the NBA. The following table shows both the probability of winning, losing, and pushing on both, and the house edge laying 110, 108, and 105. The small difference between overs and unders is statistically negligible.

Overs and Unders

BET PROB. WIN PROB. LOSS PROB. PUSH HOUSE EDGE (LAYING 110) HOUSE EDGE (LAYING 108) HOUSE EDGE (LAYING 105)
Over 49.22% 49.15% 1.63% 4.41% 3.58% 2.28%
Under 49.15% 49.22% 1.63% 4.53% 3.71% 2.41%

Betting the Money Line

The following table shows the probability of winning and fair money line for point spreads from 1 to 17. I smoothed out the ups and downs, so take this one with a grain of salt.

Money Lines

SPREAD PROB. UNDERDOG PROB. FAVORITE FAIR LINE UNDERDOG FAIR LINE FAVORITE
+1 48.25% 51.75% +107 -107
+1.5 47.00% 53.00% +113 -113
+2 45.74% 54.26% +119 -119
+2.5 43.62% 56.38% +129 -129
+3 41.54% 58.46% +141 -141
+3.5 39.49% 60.51% +153 -153
+4 37.48% 62.52% +167 -167
+4.5 35.50% 64.5% +182 -182
+5 33.56% 66.44% +198 -198
+5.5 31.65% 68.35% +216 -216
+6 29.78% 70.22% +236 -236
+6.5 27.94% 72.06% +258 -258
+7 26.14% 73.86% +283 -283
+7.5 24.37% 75.63% +310 -310
+8 22.64% 77.36% +342 -342
+8.5 20.94% 79.06% +377 -377
+9 19.28% 80.72% +419 -419
+9.5 17.65% 82.35% +466 -466
+10 16.06% 83.94% +523 -523
+10.5 14.72% 85.28% +579 -579
+11 13.43% 86.57% +645 -645
+11.5 12.20% 87.80% +720 -720
+12 11.02% 88.98% +807 -807
+12.5 9.90% 90.10% +910 -910
+13 8.83% 91.17% +1033 -1033
+13.5 7.82% 92.18% +1179 -1179
+14 6.86% 93.14% +1358 -1358
+14.5 5.96% 94.04% +1579 -1579
+15 5.11% 94.89% +1857 -1857
+15.5 4.32% 95.68% +2216 -2216
+16 3.58% 96.42% +2693 -2693
+16.5 2.9% 97.10% +3351 -3351
+17 2.27% 97.73% +4305 -4305

Parlays

The following table shows what some  sports books pay on off the board parlays, listed from best to worst.

Off the Board Parlays — Odds Survey

SPORTS BOOK 2 TEAMS 3 TEAMS 4 TEAMS 5 TEAMS 6 TEAMS 7 TEAMS 8 TEAMS
Golden Nugget 2.6 to 1 6 to 1 11 to 1 22 to 1 40 to 1 75 to 1 140 to 1
MGM-Mirage 2.6 to 1 6 to 1 10 to 1 20 to 1 40 to 1 80 to 1 150 to 1
Lucky’s 2.6 to 1 6 to 1 10 to 1 20 to 1 40 to 1 80 to 1 150 to 1
El Cortez/South Point 2.6 to 1 6 to 1 10 to 1 20 to 1 40 to 1 75 to 1 150 to 1
Harrah’s 2.6 to 1 6 to 1 10 to 1 20 to 1 40 to 1 75 to 1 140 to 1
Venetian 2.6 to 1 6 to 1 10 to 1 20 to 1 40 to 1

The next table shows the house edge of parlays, according to the number of picks and what it pays. This table assumes the probability each pick is correct is 50%, and ignores ties.

Off the Board Parlays — House Edge

PICK PAYS PROB. WIN HOUSE EDGE
2 2.6 25.00% 10.00%
3 6 12.50% 12.5%
4 10 6.25% 31.25%
4 11 6.25% 25.00%
5 20 3.13% 34.38%
5 22 3.13% 28.13%
6 40 1.56% 35.94%
7 75 0.78% 40.63%
7 80 0.78% 36.72%
8 140 0.39% 44.92%
8 150 0.39% 41.02%

If you mix just one event into a parlay that does not pay -110, then a calculation is made to determine the payoff odds. The calculation is made as if every bet were made independently. For example, if you made a three team parlay with odds of each event of -110, +200, and -300, then the payoff odds would be (21/11)*(3/1)*(4/3) = 7.6364 for 1, or 6.6364 to 1. If you used this method of calculation in making all -110 bets, then your payoff odds would be better, except for a 3-event parlay. The following table shows the house edge under MGM-Mirage parlay and the calculation method.

MGM-Mirage vs. Calculation Parlay Comparison

PICK MGM-MIRAGE PAYS CALCULATION PAYS MGM-MIRAGE HOUSE EDGE CALCULATION HOUSE EDGE
2 2.6 2.645 10.00% 8.88%
3 6 5.958 12.50% 13.03%
4 10 12.283 31.25% 16.98%
5 20 24.359 34.38% 20.75%
6 40 47.413 35.94% 24.36%
7 80 91.424 36.72% 27.79%
8 150 175.446 41.02% 31.08%

A nice trick to get out of the stingy off the board pay table on parlays is to mix in any event that does not pay -110. For example, if player X makes an 8-team parlay at an MGM-Mirage sports book, all at -110, he stands to be paid 150 to 1. If player Y makes an 8-team parlay, with 7 picks at -110, and one at -120, he will be paid (21/11)7×(22/12) – 1 = 168.4446 to 1. So, player Y substitutes a game that is more likely to win, and stands to get paid significantly more. If there are no sides that pay anything other than -110, then consider mixing in a money line bet.