NBA Money Lines

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

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How To Bet On The NBA

The start of the 2017-18 NBA season has gotten you interested in betting, has it? Or perhaps you've been studying the NFL odds and decided to expand into basketball. Maybe, after poring over the NCAA basketball odds, you've decided to take a closer look at the professional league. Well, before you dive in and start placing your bets, you will need to have a basic understanding of what’s happening. If you’ve never placed a bet on NBA basketball, or if you are a seasoned veteran in need of a touch-up, here is a brief primer to get you started on your way.


Probably the most commonly known type of bet, many sports bettors wager the moneyline. In a moneyline bet, the final outcome is all that matters. For example, let’s say the Cleveland Cavaliers are facing the Miami Heat. When you take a look at the NBA odds, the Cavaliers are favored to win, and the moneyline is set at -185. The ‘-’ sign is what indicates the Cavaliers are predicted to win. The number, meanwhile, shows how much you would need to wager in order to win a payout of $100. In this case, you would need to wager $185, and if the Cavaliers won, you would win $100. Meanwhile, Miami’s odds are set at +165. The ‘+’ sign shows that the Heat are the underdogs in this matchup. In this case, the number indicates how much you could win based on a $100 bet. So, if you were to bet on the Heat and they pulled off an upset and won, then you would win $165.


The numbers we used in this case are completely arbitrary. The odds will be different for each matchup. You can also bet any amount that suits you, whether that’s $5, $50, $1,000, or any other amount.

Point Spread

A point spread bet is slightly more complicated and is generally meant for those who know the game a little better. In a point spread, you are betting on the winning margin of victory—not only who wins, but by how much.


In any given matchup, your online sportsbook will set a number for each team. For example, let’s take a look at our Cleveland / Miami matchup from before. In this circumstance, the sportsbook might set the odds for the Cavaliers at -6 while the odds for the Heat are set at +6. Just like before, the “+” or “-” signs indicate who is the favorite, with the “-” sign predicting the winner. In this matchup, if you were to bet on the Cavs, they would not only need to win, they would need to win by more than six points to “cover the spread” for you to win your bet. Meanwhile, the Heat would have to either lose by less than six points or even win.


What if the Cavaliers were to win by exactly six points? This is called a push or a tie, in which case, no one wins and you get your money back. Often, to avoid this situation, betting sites will set the point spread on a decimal, such as -6.5. Because there is no way for either team to win by exactly 6.5 points, the actual point spread will never land on this number.


There is usually a moneyline attached to the spread, for example, (-6.5, -120). Just like in a simple moneyline bet, this indicates the amount of the potential payout. So, if the Cavs had their odds set at (-6.5, -120) and they covered the spread, and you had bet $120 that they would do so, then you would win $100.


Next on the list is total betting, also called the over/under. In a total bet, the NBA odds will be set at a number that predicts the combined scores of the two teams. In our Cleveland / Miami matchup, your sportsbook might predict the two teams to earn a combined total of 185 points. As a bettor, you would then predict whether the final point total will be over or under that amount and place your bet. Just like in a point spread bet, if the final total falls directly on that number, it is called a push, and you will simply get your money back.


Keep an eye on the expected matchups to determine how high you expect the total to go. In a matchup between teams with a lot of offensive firepower, you would expect the point total to be high. In a game that is likely to contain a lot of back and forth with defensive struggles, the point total will likely be lower. It’s a good idea to pay attention and bet accordingly.


Finally, many people bet on futures, which is a very broad category. With futures, you are betting on the likelihood that something will happen—you guessed it—at some point in the future. So, the moneyline, point spread, and total are all short-term bets referring to nightly action and specific matchups. Futures, on the other hand, are long-term bets on bigger questions such as “Who will win the NBA championship?”


These odds are refreshed and updated throughout the entire year. As teams do well, their odds will improve. If a team seems to be stuck in a slump, or if something bad happens, such as a key player getting injured, their odds will get worse.


Futures odds can be displayed in a couple of different ways. The betting odds might be displayed in the American fashion, such as +300, +400, +2500, +5000, and so on. They could also be displayed in ratios, such as 3/1, 4/1, 25/1, and so forth. In this case, it’s still simple to understand. Let’s say that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ odds to win the NBA championship are set at 3/1, the San Antonio Spurs at 4/1, the Miami Heat at 25/1, and the Boston Celtics at 50/1. The lower the first number is, the more likely they are expected to win. So in this setup, the Cavs and the Spurs are among the favorites to win, while the Heat and Celtics are long shots. If the Heat were to go on a winning streak partway through the season, though, their odds would improve.


The first number indicates how much money you would win for every increment of the second number you bet  When you place your bet, the odds are locked in wherever they were at that time. So, let’s say that you bet on the Heat at the beginning of the season, and their odds were 25/1. In the middle of the season, though, they go on an unexpected winning streak, and their odds improve to 10/1. Since you already put in your bet, though, you still have your bet locked in at odds of 25/1. At the end of the season, if the Heat ended up winning the championship, then you would win $25 for every $1 you originally bet.


When you’re betting on futures, there are more options than just the championship. You can bet on who will win a division, who will win a conference, or on just about anything you expect to happen. You might not even bet on a team you expect to do well. A sportsbook might predict that a team will win at least a certain number of games. If you think that team will do worse than predicted, you can bet that they won’t hit that number. There are several different types of futures bets to satisfy many different tastes.

Prop Betting Options

Prop betting is also becoming a very popular option for sports bettors. The term “prop bet” is short for “proposition bet.” and can refer to any wager that is not directly based on the final outcome of a game. Most major sportsbooks will release a number of unique NBA odds for games a few hours before tip-off.


There are many different types of prop bet. Honestly, a prop bet can be made on just about anything an oddsmaker can think of. Some, of course, are more common than others. Here are a few to consider:

Individual player performance

Some prop bets are based on an individual player’s performance. For example, a sportsbook might ask the question, “How many points will Dirk Nowitzki score this game?” They will then set a line, let’s say 23 points in this example. Bettors can then make an over / under bet based on that number. Moneyline odds will also be applicable. Rebounds in a single game, three pointers, and other similar statistics are also options for prop bets. This can be an over / under on how many an individual player will get, or it can be a bet on who will get the most.

Team performance

Much like prop bets on individual performance, there are also prop bets on how well an entire team will do. Rather than paying attention to the number of rebounds a specific player gets, these bets note how well the entire team does. So, for example, rather than looking at the number of rebounds or free throws Dirk Nowitzki gets over the course of the game, we would look at how many rebounds or free throws anyone on the Mavericks got.


At the beginning of the season, oddsmakers will create a list that includes the players who they believe are the most likely to receive specific awards, such as the NBA MVP Award or the Rookie of the Year Award. Each of the players on the list will be given their own odds. If you think the award will go to someone who’s not on the list, you have the option to bet the field. This is basically a bet that anyone who is not on the list will win the award. Generally, the field is made up of players whose odds to win are so unlikely that individually, the odds for them to win would be bad enough that it’s not worth putting them on the list. However, the odds that at least one of those players might win is significantly higher.

Special events

Occasionally, events will take place that focus on individual players. For example, during the weekend of the NBA All-Star Game, players participate in several individual events, such as the Slam Dunk Contest. Prop bets can be made on who will win, specific statistics, and so forth.


In the end, there are countless types of prop bets to make. The only limit is the oddsmaker’s imagination.



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