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Basketball Betting – Beginners Guide

How to bet on basketball games is a question that a lot of people want to know, but do not understand how to attack it. Today we are discussing the various types of basketball bets and figuring out which one works the best for you. There are a bunch of different ways to attack betting basketball and we will find one that suits your style. 

To get started with betting on basketball, the first thing you are going to want to know is what different types of wagers you can choose between? What do they even mean and what will be the best wagers for me? To answer that, we will discuss all the types of wagers that you can choose from with some real examples, so that will make it a little easier to follow. 

Related pages:

Where to bet on basketball?

How betting on basketball work? 

Betting on football has a lot of different ways of happening. We are going to dive into a bunch of different ways that you can bet on games. This will essentially be a crash course on betting on basketball for dummies. Hopefully, you are able to find one of these that you like and comprehend the best in order to use it. Without further ado, let’s jump right into it! 


Moneylines are the most basic thing to understand in a betting market. The moneyline is picking a winner with no strings attached. You see and hear this all the time just talking with your buddies on which team is going to win the game so let’s dive into an example. 

Team Odds
New York Knicks +110
Oklahoma City Thunder -100

Say the New York Knicks are heading to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder and these are the moneyline odds. This is saying that the Thunder are considered to be the better team as the favorites are indicated with a minus sign while the Knicks are considered the underdog and that is indicated with a plus sign. Your goal is to select which team is going to win. It does not matter if it is a blowout or an overtime game, just as long as that team walks away with the win. The odds are simple to understand as well. If you were to bet that the Cowboys were going to win, you would win $110 for a $100 wager. If you believed the Giants would win, it would take $100 to win an additional $100.

In short, bet on which team will win the game outright. 


The spread is what you typically hear in betting circles as their picks. In laymans terms, this is predicting who will win the game but with a little twist. The spread is attempting to make games as even as possible so there will be a point associated with the team. Let’s look at an example. 

Team Point SpreadOdds
New York Knicks +3.5+110
Oklahoma City Thunder -3.5-100

This is the same example as the moneyline but with the 3.5 point spread. This indicates that the Thunder are favored by 3.5 points. If you were to wager on the Thunder, then they would need to win by four or more points. If you decide to wager on the Knicks to cover, they cannot lose by more than four points. If the Knicks lose by three points and you wagered New York +3.5, you would still win the wager despite the Knicks losing the game. 

Bet on if the better team can win by multiple runs or not. 

Over/Under Totals 

Outside of the moneyline, this is one of the simplest wagers that you can make while watching baseball. This wager can happen for each individual quarters, either half of the game, or an entire game but they all have the same premise. The number provided is how many runs that these teams will combine to score when adding their two point totals together. 

Team Runline OddsTotal
New York Knicks +3.5 (+110) +110Over 237.5 (-110)
Oklahoma City Thunder-3.5 (-100) -100Under 237.5 (-110)

This is how the sportsbook would represent the totals for a wager. The total number will change based on how the scoring happens throughout the game, the amount of fouls on each player, and the referees of the game. If the score is 136-100, the under would hit as the teams combined to score 236 points. However, if the score ends up 125-124 then the over would hit as they add up for 249 total points scored. 

Bet on how many runs will be scored.


A parlay is combining your bets and boosting the odds up. The risk is that you need all the wagers to be successful in order to get the cash. If one of the bets on the wager loses, the entire ticket is considered a loser. 

Single-game parlays mean you are betting on two outcomes to happen in the same game (New York Knicks vs Oklahoma City Thunder moneyline and over in the Detroit Pistons vs San Antonio Spurs game). However, this can also be used to cover multiple different games (over in New York Knicks vs Oklahoma City Thunder game and Chris Paul over 20.5 points). The wager does not have to be on the same thing like totals or props as it can be a bit of a mix. 

Bet on multiple wagers to all be successful. 


Futures bets are typically associated with end-of-year statistics and win totals for a team. Instead of wagering on something that will happen instantaneously, you are wagering for something that can happen at the end of the year and lock in whatever odds they are. 

Over 54.5 +100
Under 54.5 -110

This example is the Phoenix Suns win totals at the beginning of the season. The number is at 54.5 so if they ends up with 55 wins, then the over will hit and the odds will remain at whatever you bet them at and not fluctuate as the season goes along. However, the risk you play is the injury bug as if the team underperforms, you are screwed and the ticket will be considered a loss. 

Bet on something that will happen at the end of the season. 

Prop Bets 

Prop betting is one of the more simplistic ways to bet as maybe you do not feel comfortable in the team as a whole but believe that you have found a matchup that you can exploit. This makes it simpler to attack and focus on how an individual player will play in a game compared to the entire team on a single day. 

Over 10.5 -110
Under 10.5 +104

Let’s say you are looking at the Minnesota Timberwolves prop bets for their upcoming game and want to take a snab at Karl-Anthony Towns rebound total. This wager shows that it is more likely

that he will end up with multiple digit rebounds in the game. This typically will be seen a few hours before the game tips off to ensure that you will be getting the best bets. 

Bet on a single-game event to happen for a single player to happen. 

Tips for getting started with basketball betting 

Build-up for the list below. Feel free to include more tips. 

Tip 1: Understand your limits. Make sure you are not betting your entire account on a single bet as that is the way to continue depositing money into your account. Typically bet around 10-20 percent of your bankroll at a time to ensure you have money if your bets fail. 

Tip 2: Understand what the line shifts mean. Sometimes the sportsbooks are reactionary in terms of shifting their betting lines compared to having information before the public. One example was CJ McCollum saying he was only playing a few minutes before sitting out of the season finale. You can attack a line for a few minutes before they adjust. 

Tip 3: Understand injuries. Basketball is the most important sport for individual players as they are more impactful on the game than they would be in any other major sport. Make sure to understand exactly who will be available by following beat writers for the team and following injury reports so you know who to wager on. 

Avoid these beginner mistakes 

Build-up for the list below. Feel free to include more mistakes. 

Mistake 1: Avoid thinking you know everything. Professional handicappers only hit on around 55 percent of their wagers throughout the course of the season. Betting is extremely difficult and there is a reason why these sportsbooks are able to stay in 

business. Make sure to dive a bit deeper with supplemental information from websites to use stats instead of feelings. 

Mistake 2: Don’t ignore injuries. We discussed this already so we don’t dive too deep into this but understanding that injuries and availability of players are incredibly important with a roster of 10-15 players means that will change the scope of the game. Obviously if a guy like LeBron James or Kevin Durant misses a game, it is important but even the role players as teams find a spot for their players to succeed and injuries make it a bit toughter. 

Mistake 3: Don’t overload on one bet. A rule of thumb that I personally use is to save 75 percent of my bankroll in order to ensure if things are going wrong or I have a bad betting day, I still have most of my bankroll available. Do not chase your losses and bet more after a loss, you need to stay focused on building a little and understand there will be some setbacks along the way.

Is there any differentiation between betting on NBA & NCAA? 

The NCAA is a completely different animal to attack, especially during March Madness so it is essentially treating college and professional basketball as two completely separate entities. In college, the best players typically play for a single season, making it more difficult to get a grip on a team and instead have to find a coach with talent and a system. 

Is betting on basketball legal in the US? 

As of this writing, you can legally bet on sports in 30 of the 50 states in the United States of America. However, some states have restrictions on what you are allowed to bet on so please dive into your state to determine the legality behind it and what, if anything, is limited for you to wager on. 

Is betting on basketball profitable? 

Betting on basketball, like all forms of betting, can be profitable if you follow the correct format of how to select a wager and then have the luck of the game going in your favor. Remember that things are outside of your control at that point and to enjoy watching the game but you are not going to become a millionaire overnight. 

What is handicap betting on basketball? 

Handicapping basketball is following along with the spreads of the game and trying to find an advantage. For more about spreads in basketball, please refer to the “Spreads” section of this article to answer any questions about it. 

How to stop betting on basketball? 

Betting on basketball is fun but remember that gambling can become an addiction for some people and it is important to identify if betting on sports in general is good for your situation. If you do not believe so, there are ample amount of resources to help you. One thing I suggest if you are in that situation is to contact customer support at whichever sportsbook you are using and ask them to either temporarily freeze your account or permanently delete it. 

Which basketball betting site is the best? 

There is no best betting site as it goes with personal preference of what you are looking for in a sportsbook. I typically love DraftKings Sportsbook as they give you incredible promotions that will give you odds boosts and their live in-game betting that makes it easier to place wagers at any point. There are many sites so make sure to look around and figure out what is important to you: speed, odds, customer service, promotions, bonuses, etc.