Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world. In the United States, it’s the second-favorite pastime with football remaining king. Nevertheless, basketball’s action-packed games offer an unprecedented dose of excitement to both spectators and those who are betting on fixtures.

If you’re among the many up-and-coming bettors searching for a slam dunk, but you’re having trouble making sense of the point spread, moneylines, and American odds, we’ve got you covered. With our basketball betting guide, you’ll be shooting to score in no time.

Types of Odds in Basketball Betting

Before delving deeper into strategies and various types of bets, you need to learn how to read odds. While it’s relatively straightforward, many newcomers tend to get confused with different odds systems. But any self-respecting NBA or college basketball fan will tell you that knowing how to read NBA or college basketball betting lines is an essential first step.

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are also known as European or continental odds. Lower decimal odds mean greater chances of winning with lower payouts. If the odds are higher, the probability of victory is lower, but the payouts are bigger.

In a game between the Washington Wizards and Oklahoma City Thunder, the odds were 1.15 and 5.50, respectively, for the teams to win. With decimal odds, it’s easy to calculate how much you would win in a bet. In this example, if you bet $100 on Washington and they win, your payout would be $115. However, if Oklahoma City pulled off a surprise and won the match, your $100 bet would earn you $550.

Decimal basketball betting odds are simple and easy to calculate. In the aforementioned example, the chances of victory for the Washington Wizards are:

1/1.15 = 0.87 = 87%

This same calculation gives Oklahoma City only an 18% chance of winning. Calculating your total payout is equally simple:

Stake x Odds = Total Payout

Washington Wizards win: $100 x 1.15 = $115

Oklahoma City Thunder win: $100 x 5.50 = $550

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are also known as traditional or British odds. As the name illustrates, these are expressed as fractions. If you bet on an NBA game from our previous example, the Washington Wizards would have 2/13 odds to win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma’s odds would be worse at just 9/2. So what does this fraction actually mean?

For every $13 you bet on Washington, you would earn $2. Since Oklahoma is the underdog in this match, for every $2 wagered on them to win, you would get $9. Calculating the total payout for a $100 wager would look like this:

Stake x Odds + Stake = Total Payout

Washington Wizards win: $100 x 2/13 + $100 = $115

Oklahoma City Thunder win: $100 x 9/2 + $100 = $550

Before you bet on a basketball game, you can easily calculate the probability from the fractional odds. Just divide the denominator by the sum of both the denominator and numerator. For example, for 2/13 odds, the calculation would look like this:

13 / (13+2) = 0.87 = 87%

American Odds

When compared to fractional and decimal odds, American odds are a bit more complex. However, there’s a simple way to get a ballpark figure of your winnings. It’s important to note that the team more likely to win the match has odds expressed as a negative number (with a minus sign in front). Simply put, the number indicates the amount you’d need to stake to win $100. So any basketball bets placed on -650 odds like Washington winning against Oklahoma City would require $650 for $100 in winnings.

The odds for underdogs are listed with a plus sign. Oklahoma City, in our example, has odds of +450. If you bet $100 on Thunder winning against the Wizards, you could earn $450.

Calculating the probability is a bit different than with fractional and decimal odds. For the Wizards, the chance of winning is:
|Odds|/(|Odds| + 100) = 650 /(650+100) = 0.87 = 87%

The formula for the underdog is a bit different:

100/(Odds + 100) = 100 / (450+100) = 0.18 = 18% 

Sports Betting for Basketball: Popular Wagers

The great thing about basketball is the sheer number of betting options at your disposal for each match. You can choose between spread betting, moneyline bets, over-under bets, prop bets, teasers, parlays, halftime/quarter bets, futures wagers, and live betting.

Point Spread

Basketball is a typical point spread sport, where each bet can result in one of three outcomes: win, loss, or push. The sportsbook will usually determine the point difference required for a win or loss. If the game ends in a tie, your bet will count as a “push,” and you’ll get your money back.

The best way to explain point spread betting and how to bet on NBA games is by using an example. For instance, the game between the LA Clippers and the Houston Rockets has a point spread of -11 and +11, respectively. So if you bet on LA to win, they have to score 12 or more points than the Houston Rockets. However, if you bet on Houston, they have to either win or lose by less than 11 points. If the LA Clippers win exactly by 11 points, that’s considered a “push,” and your wager is refunded.


Another popular wager among NBA sports betting fans is over-under  (totals bet). This bet is based on the total number of points both teams will score during the game. Wagers depend on the score being over or under the total set by the oddsmakers. There are multiple factors that influence the specified number of points. Chief among those are the offensive and defensive strengths of both teams and their style of play.


If you want to bet on a basketball game, but you don’t want to wager on a point spread outcome, moneyline is the ideal alternative. The subject of the wager is a simple matter of choosing the winning team. The odds reflect the discrepancy between the team favored to win and the one expected to lose. If you decide to bet on the favorites, your winnings wouldn’t be as high as when you bet on the underdogs to win.

However, odds during the NBA playoffs or tournaments for NCAA basketball have betting lines that are very similar with both point spread and moneyline bets. The point spread wagers have a score difference of up to three points when teams are closely matched.

For example, a game between the LA Lakers and Orlando Magic would have -110 odds with a point spread of +10 and -10, respectively. Since the LA Lakers are the favorites requiring a +10 score difference to win a point spread wager, a moneyline bet would reflect the higher odds of them winning. The moneyline bet would have -650 odds for the LA Lakers and +450 for Magic, clearly showing that oddsmakers favor LA in this matchup.


College and NBA basketball betting can be even more exciting with parlays, effectively combining several bets on the same betting slip. With parlays, you need to win each bet on your slip, which is more difficult than playing a single match. However, the greater risk comes with greater rewards if you win.

Parlay bets can combine moneyline, point spread, over/under, and any other types of wagers. Additionally, you’re not limited to one kind of sport. Keep in mind the best sports betting sites offer risk-free bets for newcomers, which are an excellent opportunity to try out parlay betting.


Teasers for basketball betting are a way to adjust the spread and make a bet riskier or safer. Like parlays, teasers have to include at least two games, and in both cases, you’ll have to pick winners to receive a payout. Most sportsbooks will let you adjust the spread in a four or six-point range. While most commonly used for spreads, teasers can be applied on over/under bets as well.

Prop Bets

Proposition bets involve wagers on a particular occurrence during the game as opposed to betting on the basketball match outcome. For example, you could bet on a specific player scoring a certain number of points or making a certain number of assists.

Halftime and Quarter Bets

Since basketball is played in quarters, many sportsbooks offer the option to make wagers on the game’s halftime score or after each quarter. Betting on the score throughout this dynamic game adds an additional dose of excitement and allows bettors to explore different tactics. If you bet on an NBA game where the favorites had a few challenging games in a row, it might be a good idea to bet against them in the first half. It’s very likely that the experienced team will pick up the pace before the match is over and win in the end.

There are many factors to consider when placing halftime and quarter bets. These can pose some interesting challenges even for the most experienced sports fans.

Futures Bet

Many basketball fans like to make predictions about which team is likely to clinch the title in the playoffs and NCAA tournaments or who is going to get the MVP award. Most sportsbooks include futures as an option for NBA and college basketball betting. You can place futures bets any time during the season. Just bear in mind that as the season progresses, oddsmakers will adjust the lines.

Unlike other team sports, basketball can depend on the performance of a few highly talented players, making futures betting an exciting option for fans. If you don’t mind waiting on the results of your wager and you want the most significant return on your investment, futures bets are a great fit.

NBA Betting Strategies and Advice

There is no single NBA betting guide or secret ingredient to help you pick winning bets. However, practice makes perfect, as any patron of the best online poker sites will tell you. Applying strategy and balancing odds will improve your chances of winning.

Do Your Research

Unlike other sports, in basketball, the starting lineup is announced just hours before the match gets underway. Staying informed about last-minute changes is important. For example, imagine you made a totals bet before finding out that the top-scoring players won’t attend the match. If you get a hold of that information ahead of time, you’d know that this is a great opportunity to bet on a low total outcome.


While formulating your NBA betting strategy, you have to take note of the fact that teams fit 82 games into their schedule. Therefore, this can result in back-to-back away games and lead to fatigue among certain players due to traveling. AS such, you have to consider home-field advantage, the team’s schedule, and similar factors.


While number crunching isn’t the most indicative way to determine the winner of a match, it can undoubtedly help with directing your bet. The number will give you a clearer picture of the team’s current performance.

How to Bet on Basketball: Tips and Tricks

It goes without saying that experienced bettors are constantly discovering new ways to improve their odds of winning. The most famous are middling and tunnel betting.


Oddsmakers are always adjusting betting lines in the lead-up to games. By betting on both sides on the same bet at different lines, the bettor can win both bets while ensuring that at least one of them will result in a win. This requires research and constant tracking of an NBA or a college basketball betting line.

For example, if Team A has a -3.5 line against Team B, which shifts to -4.5 after your initial wager, a middling move would be betting on Team B to win at +4.5. If Team A wins by exactly four points, you’ll win both bets.

Tunnel Betting

Tunnel betting is similar to middling but slightly simpler. You are still betting on both sides of the exact match, but you’re not waiting for the line adjustment. Instead, you are placing your bets at two different sportsbooks with different NBA or college basketball betting odds on the same game. The middle result would net you a win on both, while any other result still wins one bet.


What does +1 mean in betting basketball?

Odds accompanied by a plus sign indicate that the team in question has a higher chance of losing the game. The team with a minus in front of their odds is more likely to win.

How do betting odds work in basketball?

Negative odds (for example, -150) show how much you need to wager to win $100, while positive odds (like +250) show the profit for a $100 wager.

How do you bet on basketball?

Basketball betting is straightforward, and the best way to bet is to choose between moneyline, point spreads, or over-under (totals bets). A moneyline bet requires you to guess which team will win the match without additional conditions. A points spread bet is similar to moneyline but requires a team to win by a certain margin or for the underdog not to lose by the same margin. Totals require you to guess whether the combined score will be over or under what the oddsmaker sets.