NBA Betting Guide

by Shane Rivers on February 19th, 2015.

Betting on NBA games can be similar to wagering on the NFL. However, while American football only offers 17 weeks of games plus the playoffs, the NBA season goes on much longer. Not only does this provide more opportunities for bettors, but it also keeps the excitement level higher for a longer period of time.

Considerations for NBA Bettors

Before we look at the types of NBA wagers available, let's review a few important considerations for first-time basketball gamblers.

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Forget about the Weather - This might seem like an obvious one, but those who are used to wagering on other sports might initially forget about it. All NBA games are held indoors, so you never have to factor in the weather. Even if a terrible storm is brewing outside the arena, the arena is always pleasant and climate controlled.

Home & Away Scoring - Most teams score differently at home and on the road, and it's wise to pay attention to these always-changing averages. This can be especially important when putting your money on an over/under wager.

Injuries - Given the grueling nature of an NBA schedule, most players have to deal with some manner of injury during the season. Keeping track of injured players, whether superstars or bench warmers, can give you an advantage over more casual bettors.

Schedule - Follow the NBA schedule closely and look for opportunities to take advantage of. Let's say, for example, that the L.A. Clippers have to play a tough game against a physical playoff contender on Friday. Soon after, they must board a plane and fly to the other side of the country to compete against an underdog.

While the Clippers should normally win this second matchup, the physical toll taken in the previous game, coupled with a short turnaround and coast-to-coast travel, could create a favorable situation for the underdog. Looking for these factors won't guarantee a win, of course, but it's always the mark of a smart bettor.

Home Court Advantage - Most teams tend to play better at home, whether they're a playoff contender or perennial league embarrassment. A lot of bettors, however, underestimate the impact of playing at a familiar arena in front of enthusiastic supporters. Don't make the same mistake when it comes time to place your wager.

Beware of Overvalued Teams - Each year, there are teams whose inflated value can make it difficult to turn a profit with sportsbooks. In recent years, the Lakers and Celtics have been good examples of this. Instead, try to find quality squads like Oklahoma City that have often flown under the radar and provided superior odds.

Pace Yourself - When you're betting on the NFL, you can focus all your attention on Sunday; that's not the case with the NBA, however. When the season is underway, there are games almost every night of the week. That's why it's best to pace yourself and only play the games with the most promising odds; otherwise, your newfound interest in basketball can be quickly derailed.

Another option is to start by focusing on a single division and learn all the players and stats. Once you've accomplished this, then you can widen your focus. This might seem daunting at first, but you'll eventually start to get the hang of it.

Types of NBA Bets

The following are the most common types of wagers available to NBA bettors:

Total - Also known as the over/under, this wager allows the bettor to pick whether the score of an NBA game is going to be above or below a certain number decided upon by the oddsmaker.

Futures - If you're wagering on an event that will happen at some point in the future, then it's appropriately known as a "future bet." The most common example would be betting on a specific team to win the NBA title, although wagering on the league MVP, rookie of the year, and top scorer are also popular options. Bookmakers often post these bets long before they're decided, and they may change the odds as the circumstances change.

Point Spread - The most popular form of wager, the point spread is designed by oddsmakers to get an equal number of bets on both sides. They do this by awarding extra points to the underdog and subtracting points from the final score of the favorite. Here's an example:

San Antonio Spurs +3 1/2 (+130) vs Miami Heat -3 1/2 (-110) In this example, the Spurs (the underdog) would have 3 1/2 points added to their final score, while the Heat (the favorite) would have 3 1/2 points subtracted from their total. A $100 wager on the Spurs would pay off at $130, while the Heat would deliver $100 on a $110 wager.

Moneyline - There's no point spread in this form of wager. Instead, the bettor only needs to pick the winner of the contest. Both teams are assigned a numerical value, with the favorite having a negative symbol and the underdog being given a positive sign.

Dallas Mavericks (-120) vs Chicago Bulls (+130)

This example shows that the Mavericks are the favorites to win the game, and the bettor needs to risk $120 in order to win $100. The Bulls are the underdogs, and a wager of $100 pays $130.

While this is a basic introduction to NBA betting, it's more than sufficient to get you started in the wonderful world of online sports gambling. And once you've got a few payouts under your belt, the fast-paced action of the National Basketball League should seem more exciting than ever.