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How to bet on the NBA

The NBA presents a terrific betting opportunity, with games nearly every day. However, if you’ve never wagered on basketball before, you may feel overwhelmed by the staggering number of options available. Fear not, we have you covered with our step-by-step guide to betting on the Association!

Betting the moneyline

The easiest wager to make is on who will win and who will lose. We will use a matchup between the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings as our example. The favorite team will always have minus odds, meaning you must wager the amount listed to win $100 profit. For example, if you bet that the favorite, New Orleans, will win at -125 odds, a bet of $125 would win you a $100 profit. If you were to bet a smaller amount, the winnings would still be the same rate. For example, a $12.50 bet would win you $10 if the Pelicans won the game.

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Conversely, if you go with the underdog, you would win the amount listed on a $100 bet. In this case, if you back Sacramento at +105, then you would profit $105 on a $100 wager. The difference between these odds will increase the more lopsided the matchup, meaning if the Pelicans were a bigger favorite, you would have to risk more to win money, but correctly picking a bigger underdog to win would yield a higher reward.

Betting the spread

The spread is the difference in expected points between the two teams when the game ends, and it's one of the most popular betting options for college basketball. The spread will increase in total when one team is more favored than the other. Sacramento is favored on the road, but only expected to win by a small margin.

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In this case, the juice on both sides is the same, so the payout for either pick would be $100 on a bet of $110. If you believe that the Pelicans will win the game by two or more points, then you would take New Orleans and “lay” the 1.5 points. However, if you think Sacramento will lose by one point, or win the game outright, then you would “take” the 1.5 points.

Betting the total

Another popular bet is to wager how many points will be scored in the game. Bettors can place wagers on whether or not the total will go over, or under, the expected number of points. The total is based on what oddsmakers expect the final score to be. That number is based on a variety of factors including the location of the game, players expected to play or not play, the styles of the two teams, and previous results.

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If you believe the two teams will combine for 235 points or fewer, the under would pay out $100 on a $111 wager. If you bet the over, you would see $109 win you $100. Keep in mind, totals are dependent on the final score of the entire game, not just regulation. In a game expected to be as close as this one is, overtime may be a factor, which could change the outcome of the bet. Be sure to take that into account when deciding on a total wager.

Betting first-half lines

If you want to wager and not have overtime or late-game fouling come into play, the first-half lines might appeal to you. These lines will typically be almost half of what the full-game lines are in terms of spread and point total, but not always. Just like full-game lines, the juice will usually be even on both sides. This can give you an advantage, however, if playing lines on games where teams tend to start hot, start cold, or might be resting key players.

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Betting first quarter lines

Want to break things down even further? Betting on the first quarter lines are truly a way to get into the early action. Betting the first quarter is just like betting the first half, except you’re betting on the first 12 minutes rather than 24. Again, take things into consideration such as resting of key players, the ability for teams to overcome early foul trouble, and recent game history to determine which wager gives you the best chance to win.

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Betting team totals

Another popular in-game bet is the individual team totals. Much like the game total, you place a wager on the total going over or under the pre-set amount. The difference here, you are wagering only on the total points scored by one team. This is helpful if you have a really good feel for how a specific team may play offensively or defensively compared to the number, but may not have enough confidence in the outcome of the game itself.

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Betting NBA player props

Player props allow you to wager on individual performances, and can be an enjoyable way to bet on games. If a team is without key players, it can be a good way to bank on stars playing above or below their normal numbers, or even slipping because their support is gone. It’s good to look at who the player will be matched up with as well, and analyzing how you believe they will perform against their opponent.

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Betting NBA futures

Futures bets allow you to bet on outcomes down the road, including who will win the NBA title, who will win each NBA conference, and who will win each NBA division. Future bets generally have a higher payout because there are so many unknowns. They also provide you a chance to hedge a bit as well, betting on multiple winners at solid returns. If you’re confident that someone will make a run late, it’s a great chance to get some excellent value on your hunch!

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Now that you know how to place your bets, it’s time to do some research and find some lines you really like. Make your picks, get a few bets in, and enjoy the NBA season!


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