NBA Odds

An NBA Odds Primer

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Outside of professional football betting, the NBA is far and away the most popular sport to bet on within the United States.  However, betting on the NBA comes with its many challenges and is arguably one of the most difficult leagues (and sports) to wager on in sports betting.

It is challenging to bet on due to the nature of the sport, as basketball is a game that has a lot of scoring runs and droughts and always seems to leave the window open for an excruciating backdoor cover.

With that said though, once you are able to navigate through the many different ways you are able to wager on this sport, you should begin to see more success as a bettor.  With 2,460 games played every regular season, NBA odds are prominent from October to June in any given season.

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NBA Against the Spread Wagering / NBA Point Spread Betting

Point spread betting, (aka betting Against the Spread or ATS for short) is the most common and popular form of sports betting.  The overwhelming majority of sports bets incorporate a point spread thanks to the overwhelming popularity of football and basketball.
Even though this type of betting is the most common, for a new bettor it may take a little longer to understand.  To understand why point spreads are even a thing, one needs to understand why point spreads are used to begin with.  A point spread is often times known as an equalizer for sportsbooks.
As is the case in any sport, all teams are not created equally.  Thus in the same manner as a handicap in golf, sportsbooks came up with a means to have “even” odds no matter the talent discrepancy in any given matchup.  Sportsbooks realized that when a championship caliber team played against a team with more hopes towards securing a lottery pick, that having a simple win or loss proposition would leave most sportsbooks going bankrupt in a hurry.  Sportsbooks realized that that championship caliber team is probably significantly better than their opposition (or vice-versa depending on how you want to look at it) and it’s only fair to bet on a margin of victory as opposed to an outright winner, and as such the point spread was born.

The point spread gives a reason for any given bettor to risk money on either side.  For example, if the 2018 Golden State Warriors were facing the 2018 New York Knicks, most bettors would pick the Warriors as that winning side.  However, when point spreads are involved that same matchup may look something like this:

Warriors -13.5 (-110)
vs. Knicks +13.5 (-110)

So now, if the Warriors have to beat the Knicks by 14 points or more, then more bettors would be inclined to consider betting on the Knicks, as they could lose by 13 points and still win your bet.  
To expand even further, the better team playing in the game is considered the favorite.  The favorite in the game will need to win the game by a number greater than the point spread itself.  

The favorite in any given matchup will be indicated by a minus symbol (-) preceding that point spread. The worse of the two teams playing in any given matchup is referred to as the underdog, or “the dog.”  A bettor wins if the underdog wins the game outright or loses by an amount within the range of that given point spread.  Underdogs are listed as such by having a plus symbol (+) in front of their point spread. 

The “juice” on the game (i.e. the vig) is indicated here in parentheses at (-110).  This is the cut the sportsbook/a bookie takes in order to place your wager.  The scale commonly used in sports wagering is based off the notion that you are placing bets to win $100.  In this instance, when you see the juice has a minus symbol in front of that number, that is the number you would need to risk in order to win $100. 

In again using the above example, if you wished to win $100 and felt the Warriors would beat the Knicks by 14 points or more, you would need to risk $110 to do so.  Conversely if you felt the Knicks could win straight up or would keep the game with a margin of defeat of 1-13 points, you could bet on them to “cover” the spread for that same price.

Another thing of note to mention here is that despite the scale working off the notion of betting to win $100, this can be adjusted to any dollar amount.  If you wish to win $20, you would risk $22.  If you wish to win $5, you would risk $5.50 and so forth.  Always be sure to only gamble what you can afford to lose.

NBA Moneyline Wagering

If point spreads aren’t your thing and half points and minus symbols cause your eyes to zig and zag all over the map, money-line wagering may be more of your thing.  Unlike point spread wagering, money-line wagering is extremely straightforward.  All you do is simply bet on the team you think will win a given matchup. 

The concept itself is incredibly simple, however as with all things gambling related, there is a caveat to this form of wagering.

In the same way sportsbooks looked to even up matchups by introducing a point spread, money-line wagering also carries with it additional cost to alleviate the risk posed by offering a simple win/loss proposition.  In the same manner that “juice” was incorporated in point spread wagering, so to goes money-line wagering.

For example, if the 2018 Raptors were facing off against our 2018 New York Knicks friends, a money line wager may look like so:

Raptors (-500)
Knicks (+400)

What this illustrates is if you felt the Raptors would win and didn’t want to mess with a margin of victory, you could risk $500 to win $100.  Conversely if you felt that not only would the Knicks cover a point spread but they would win outright, you could risk $100 to win $400.

Money-line wagering is a great way to maximize your profits if you are able to identify underdogs that can pull off an upset.

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NBA Over/Under, NBA Totals Wagering

Totals wagering, better known as over/under betting, is where bettors simply choose whether the total number of combined points scored by both teams will be above (over) or below (under) the set total of points to be scored.

For example, using the above Raptors-Knicks example, a total may look like this:

Raptors O220.5 (-110)
Knicks U220.5 (-110)

If you believe the two teams would combine for 221 points or more and wished to win $100 if this happened, you would wager $110 on the over 220.5.  If you believe the two teams would combine to score less than 220 points and wished to win $100, you would wager $110 on the under 220.5.

In the event the combined total is an even number without a half point in the line (i.e. 221 instead of 220.5), and the game ends with that exact total, the bet is considered a “push” and the bettor gets their money back.
NBA Parlay Betting

A parlay is a single bet that involves two or more teams winning/covering a point spread.  Parlay bets carry with them the allure of a large payout with a smaller wager as opposed to picking just one team to win. Parlay bets pay out larger amounts because it is significantly more difficult to get a sequence of bets correctly than it is to bet a single outcome.

Because of this, parlay bets are often seen amongst the more serious/professional bettors as a losing proposition if you continually go that route.  And it’s no wonder why, as a study done by the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV shows that sportsbooks win nearly a third of all parlay bets.  By comparison, they did not win more than 7% of any other form of wagering.

This information isn’t being put out there to fully dissuade you from dabbling with parlay betting however, but rather to inform you of the risk involved with these bets.
With that being said, parlays can be very valuable if you have identified a couple of wagers you really like.  For example, a parlay
may look like so:

Warriors -14
Raptors -8
Rockets -7.5

For this parlay to be declared a winner and pay you out, you will need the Warriors to win their game by more than 14, the Raptors to win their game by more than 8 and the Rockets to win their game by more than 8.  If any of these games go the opposite direction, you lose your bet.
Another variant of parlay betting includes money-line wagering that we touched upon above.  An example of this may look like so:

Bulls +160
Raptors -500
Pelicans -180

In this instance for the parlay to win the Bulls, Raptors and Pelicans would all need to win their games straight up.  A parlay payout from picking multiple money-line underdogs can be quite large. Conversely, the allure of throwing in multiple large money-line favorites into a parlay can be very enamoring, but it should be noted that winning either type of parlay is not as easy as it looks.
NBA Teaser Betting

The teaser bet is the sister of the parlay bet.  Like a parlay, a teaser is a wager made by selecting two or more events to occur. And just like a parlay, each event selected for a teaser must happen in order for your bet to win.

Any multi-event wager has the potential for large payouts, but teasers do not payout the same as a parlay, due to the reason that you are altering point spreads and subsequently getting a more favorable total or point spread than what was originally offered.  The overwhelming allure to teasers, particularly for new bettors, is that they seem much easier to win on the surface.  However, like a parlay bet, you are getting larger payouts for a reason when you win one of these bets – they come with more risk than a singular bet.
The big difference between a teaser and a parlay is that a bettor gets to alter point spreads and totals anywhere between 4 and 10 points depending on the sport and teaser. In terms of NBA betting, the most common amount of points “teased” is 5, but the typical range is anywhere between 4-6.  How this works would look something like this:

Original Lines:  Warriors (-7) vs. Blazers;  Pacers vs. Bucks (-7)

Teased Line: Warriors (-2) vs. Blazers; Pacers vs. Bucks (-2)

Winning multiple wagers, no matter how many points you may have adjusted the line by, is never as easy as it sounds.  With that said, bettors usually feel more confidence betting teaser bets as opposed to parlay bets because of the perceived simplicity with these wagers.  Teaser payouts from the sportsbook usually hover around the 2 to 1 mark, but this also varies based on sportsbook, the points of the teaser and the amount of teams in the teaser.
Here at OddsUSA, our experts have you covered (no pun intended) with the latest news and information to help you profit the most.  Good luck and happy wagering!