How to Bet on the NBA

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How to Bet On Sports > How to Bet on the NBA

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Introduction

For over a decade SportsInsights.com has been a leader in the sports information industry and our “How To” articles are designed to help our members to grasp the fundamentals of sports investing. This article will focus on the ins and outs of wagering on the NBA. The seemingly eternal NBA season starts in late October and the Finals occur in early July. The long season provides many opportunities to build your bankroll, but before you can become a sports investor, you must learn how to bet on the NBA. This article discusses the different wager types the NBA has to offer, including: Spread, Moneyline, Parlay/Teaser, 1st Quarter/1st Half, Halftime, and Futures.

Spread

Any fan of the NBA will tell you that games can become high scoring affairs as teams are only given 24 seconds on every possession to score. Due to these high scores, bookmakers use a spread, or line, to equalize the chances of either team winning a wager. It is not uncommon to see 15+ point spreads, something that is rarity in the NFL. The example below from the SI Archive should help clear things up:

Team Opening Line Final Score
Celtics -2 -110 96
Knicks +2 -110 86

The example above demonstrates the opening line for a regular season match-up between the Celtics and Knicks. The -2 indicates that the Celtics are the favorite, despite the Knicks playing at home. The ‘-110’ next to the line is what’s known as the vig, or juice, which is simply a fee the sportsbooks charge to use their service. A bet of $110 on Boston would improve your bankroll $100 as the team covered easily by 8 points. A ‘+’ symbol always indicates an underdog, whereas a ‘-‘ always indicates a favorite. A two-year study on NBA point spreads concluded that games fall within .5 points of the spread 5.5% of the time, which is why shopping for the best line is crucial to the smart sports investor.

Moneyline

The Moneyline is a type of wager that provides different odds based simply on who will win. The Moneyline (ML) odds can be drastic when the powerhouses of the NBA face-off against the lower level teams who are struggling to stay above .500. The example below demonstrates a typical Moneyline wager in the NBA:

Team Moneyline Odds
Warriors +600
Spurs -850

The example above shows drastic moneyline odds, indicating that the Spurs are the big favorites in this contest. In fact, one would have to lay $850 on the Spurs to collect a mere $100 in profit. On the other hand, a wager of $100 on the Warriors would earn the bettor $600 in winnings. The Moneyline and point spread are not necessarily released simultaneously.

The Spread and Moneyline are contributing factors for SportsInsights’ Steam Moves and Smart Money plays.

Totals

A total wager is one placed on the COMBINED score of each team. This number is determined by the bookmakers and the bettor places a wager on the over or under (O/U). The NBA is the highest scoring sport of all the major U.S. sports, so it is not uncommon to see totals in the +220′s. The example below should help makes things clearer:

Team O/U Final Score
Heat 197.5o -105 100
Pistons 197.5u -115 94

The final total for this contest was 194 points, falling just 3.5 points short of the bookmakers’ predicted total. Due to the increased juice, a wager of $115 on the under would earn $100 profit. Totals lines can fluctuate from their time of release, so make sure you consult SportsInsights.com’s Betting Trends Data before placing a wager.

Quarter/1st Half Lines

A 48-minute NBA game is broken down into four 12-minute quarters, and bettors are able to place bets on the 1st quarter and 1st half lines before these contests begin. These bets can be best thought of as the game within the game. The 1st quarter line (generally ¼ of the entire game’s spread) lets you dictate who you think will be covering the spread at the end of one quarter of play. The 1st half lines are essentially the same, only they extend through the 1st half of play. Like other sports, some teams are known to jump out of the gate quickly and build an early lead, while others are “4th quarter teams” who like to play from behind. These situations are some of the inspirations for 1st quarter and half lines. (you can keep or delete this above sentence, I couldn’t decide)

Halftime Lines

For most people, the dawning of halftime means it’s time to change the channel, but for the avid sports investor, halftimes can become a thing of profit. Halftime lines are available DURING halftime only. The halftime lines take into consideration what transpired in the 1st half to create an entirely new spread for the remainder of the game. Think of the 2nd half as a completely new game with a new spread to accompany the remainder of the contest. The example below should shed light on this concept:
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Team Halftime Score Halftime Line Final Score
Bulls 58 -4 -110 102
Pistons 53 +4 -110 90

If you were to think of the start of the 3rd quarter as 0 to 0, the final score would be 44 to 37, meaning the Bulls would have covered the halftime spread by 3 points. Halftime wagers are not nearly as popular as bets placed before the game, but a winning wager still creates the same profit.

Parlay/Teaser

Like any major American sport, you can parlay, essentially combine, your bets to increase the payout. For your parlay to hit, or win, ALL of the bets must cover. You can combine spread, totals, and moneyline bets to increase the payout of a parlay. A teaser bet is essentially the same as a parlay wager only the booksmaker gives you points to increase your odds of winning, but decrease your overall payout. For example, if you are wagering on a 4-point teaser and the Boston Celtics spread is -10, it would become -6. This 4-point advantage is included on each part of the teaser wager. The chart below shows payout structure for a typical spread parlay:

# of Teams Payoff
2 2.64/1
3 6/1
4 12.28/1
5 24.35/1
6 47.41/1
7 91.42/1
8 175.44/1
9 335.85/1
10 642.08/1
11 1226.70/1
12 2342.79/1
13 4473.51/1
14 8541.25/1
15 16306.94/1

Futures

Futures bets are proposition bets placed on which team will win what conference or the NBA championship. Futures are not only limited to teams. For example, you can place bets on who you think will the league’s MVP. There are even bets available at the beginning of the season as to the over/under win totals for a specific team. As the season progresses, the odds fluctuate, and once a team has officially been placed out of the running, they take down the odds for them to win in all. It is not uncommon to see teams fall from this list before the end of March. Despite the fact that only 8 different teams have won the NBA championship in the last 30 years, many bettors like to wager on a dark horse team due to the better odds these teams receive. A bettor may choose to place wagers on several teams to win the big game in order to increase the chance of a decent payout.

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