Beginners Guide to Basketball betting

Basketball betting

Basketball is one of the easiest to bet on. Along with football, basketball uses the point spread for wagering on sides (teams), as well as an over/under number.

The most common method of betting basketball involves the point spread, which is a handicap the sportsbooks impose on one team to make both teams equal in terms of betting.

With the point spread, the team expected to win will be called the favorite, while the team expected to lose will be called the underdog. The team expected to win gives, or lays, points to the team expected to lose for betting purposes.


Money line basketball betting

Money line markets are the most common and simplest market for a bettor to understand the cost of a bet. This form of basketball betting is simply placing money on a certain team to win the game. For example, look at these money line odds for Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz:

Boston Celtics:  3.440
Utah Jazz: 1.364

In this example, the Utah Jazz (1.364) are the favourites to beat the Celtics (3.440) at home. If you staked £10 on the Jazz, you would get a return of £13.64 – which includes your £10 stake. The profit would be £3.64. However, if the Celtics had won, you would win nothing and lose your £10.

If the Celtics win, your return would be £34.40 including your initial £10 stake, which would leave you a profit of £24.40.

Handicap basketball betting

Once you understand how to bet on basketball using the money line, betting on the handicap can become a valuable tool when one team is heavily favoured over their opponents. With handicap basketball betting, to counter the perceived bias in ability, bookmakers offer a handicap to level the playing field.

The handicap number (displayed as either + or – a value, such as +7.5 points) is factored into the final score to determine the game’s outcome for the purpose of the bet. This means that the handicap result is sometimes different from the actual result. For example, look at these two handicap bets:

Golden State Warriors:   (+7.5) 2.050
Indiana Pacers:   (-7.5) 1.862

If the Pacers won the game (100 – 96), bets on their handicap would actually lose. This is because for the purpose of this bet they started the game with -7.5pts, and therefore we have to subtract 7.5 from their final score. This makes the match outcome 92.5 – 96 in the Warriors’ favour.

If the Pacers won 104-96, the adjusted handicap result is 96.5-96, which means the Pacers still win. This is referred to as “covering the handicap”.

Totals basketball betting

Totals betting (also known as Over/Under) is a bet on whether the combined points scored in a game will be over or under a set number. For example, look at the totals odds for the Sacramento Kings vs. Miami Heat below:

Over 210.5:   1.962
Under 210.5:   2.110

If you bet £10 on the game to be over 210.5 points, and the result was 116-98 (an aggregate total of 214 points), you would make a return of £19.62 (£9.62 profit). If you had backed the total score as under 210.5 with the odds of 2.110, you would have lost the bet.

Proposition or Prop Bets

Prop bets are similar to future bets, but instead of wagering on the future of a team, the wager is made on an individual player or event. Sports books will describe a scenario and place odds on that scenario actually happening. Prop bets can be placed on anything from how many goals, runs or touchdowns certain players will score to which team will score the first in a specific game, etc.


Which player will have the most runs, RBI and home runs in the A’s-Red Sox game?

Frank Thomas (TOR) –105
Barry Bonds (SF) -125

If Jamal believes Bonds will have more runs, RBI and home runs than Thomas, he must wager $125 to win $100.