While betting on the NBA has never been quite as popular as wagering on the NFL, it does offer one big advantage: near daily action for eight months out of the year, and in many cases, softer better markets than the NFL. In this guide, we go through down the ups and downs of betting on professional basketball, with tips and tricks to make the most of your wagers.
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Advantages of NBA betting at legal sportsbooks
- Peace of mind: Offshore online sportsbooks still exist, but by using them, you are making a huge gamble with your hard-earned cash. There’s always the risk of a “Black Friday”-like event in which US authorities freeze-or worse, seize -monies in these accounts. Additionally, if something should go wrong, you have no recourse whatsoever. On the other hand, all legal US sportsbooks are highly regulated; they must follow strict laws and keep your deposits in segregated accounts, so your money is always available when you request it.
- Easy banking: Prying your winnings from black-market sportsbooks can be a Herculean affair. It can take months to complete a withdrawal with some books, and they clearly hope you stick around and lose it back. Regulated sportsbooks, for their part, can freely partner with trusted and well-known payment processors, like PayPal, and, depending on the method, will often credit your account or make your payment instantly.
- Welcome bonuses: Your local bookie isn’t likely to offer you a welcome bonus when you make your first bet. This isn’t the case with regulated online books, which regularly offer welcome packages that can consist of no-deposit free bets, or deposit match bonuses that can run into the four-figures.
- Hometown team promos: NBA bettors will not only enjoy lucrative online welcome bonus packages, but can also take advantage of recurring rewards. Once, for example, DraftKings Sportsbook offered the 76ers at – and this is not a typo – +76 at home against the Lakers. This was available only to Pennsylvania bettors, and there was a $50 max bet, but still: Fifty bucks is 50 bucks and +76 is about as close to a no-risk proposition as you’ll ever find. Other books will also sometimes offer a bonus on selected “hometown” games if you bet a minimum of $25 on the moneyline and your team wins. Every point your team wins by, you get a $3 bonus.
What’s the juice on NBA betting lines
You’ll find all the basic sports bet types at legal sportsbooks, like point spreads, moneylines, totals, and more. Generally, for these types of wagers -110 is the baseline, meaning that the book will take 10 cents per side as its fee for providing the service. That means if you wagered $110, you wouldn’t win $110, but $100 ($110 minus the $10 fee). Or if you’re a whale, $1.1 million to win a million. You get the idea. Of course, the -110 is just a standard. Almost every day, you’ll see point spreads sometimes drift down to -105 or +100 and up to -115 or even -120.
NBA betting formats
As far as point spreads are concerned, markets in the NBA move with where the action is going. There are no true “key” numbers in the NBA (like 3 and 7 in the NFL) and so if the market demands line movement, the bookmakers will move the line. However, keep in mind how many close-ish NBA games end: With the winning team at the free throw line. As such, it’s worth keeping this in mind when betting either side in games where the spread is in the mid-range. A team getting four points might be legitimately four points “worse” than the favorite, but if they manage to keep the game close, they might lost by seven because they sent the victors to the free throw line a half-dozen times in the last minute.
Also worth noting: Unlike the NFL, if a star player is questionable, sportsbooks will generally hold off on setting the line until later in the day.
Totals aren’t much different. Late-game free throws can push an over to the finish line, whereas blowouts have an easier march to the under. And much like point spread bets, the sportsbooks aren’t keen on posting totals until big news shakes out.
Parlays and teasers
Parlays and teasers, as even novice sports bettors know, should be viewed as a fun way to spend your gambling dollar and not as a core component of how you use your bankroll. Having said that, there are many exotic ways to place NBA parlays and teasers these days. Many sites offer “alternate” lines and totals, allowing you to create your own bets. Additionally, some sites now offer “same game” parlays, where you can choose different elements from the same game – from points and totals to player props – and package them together.
Most books are now offering live or “in-game” betting, where you can make a range of different wagers as the game marches on. Just keep in mind that online sportsbook data feeds are updated much faster than the info you’ll find on TV, the radio or on an online stream, so you might not be betting with full knowledge of the current game circumstances.
NBA player prop bets are a softer market for expert handicappers and can be a very soft market if you catch news at the right time. On the news front, very often star NBA players will get a night off for “load management” or due to an – ahem – injury. Often, these announcements are made in advance, before lines are set. But sometimes – bordering on the neighborhood of “often” – these announcements are made after the player props have been issued.
Some sportsbooks are a little slow off the gun to make the changes, so you might be able to snag a prop before it rockets. For instance, if someone like Joel Embiid is announced out, you can be sure the point props of his teammates on the 76ers will go up by two, three, four or more. If you beat the books to the news, you’ll be getting a much better price – along with the option to hedge later in an attempt to catch the middle.
Another reason for the relative softness of NBA player props is because sportsbooks generally don’t react to news of non-stars. For instance, if a mid-tier player is ruled out, the books don’t usually make adjustments to the other player props. If you follow NBA player usage closely, you should have a good idea of where the points, rebounds, and/or assists of that mid-tier player will land.
Also: FanDuel for one offers alternate player prop bets, with prices ranging from -1000 to +2000 or more. Not only does this allow you to choose your props, it also allows you to take advantage of other sites “odds boosts” on player props. For instance, sometimes a site will boost a player prop from -110 to +150. You might find the “alternate” prop on FanDuel for +120. You bet both sides, you guarantee yourself a profit.
Futures are another staple offered by pretty much all books. Players can bet on things like win totals, conference champion, NBA champion, etc., along with individual player futures (MVP, Rookie of the Year, 6th Man of the Year, etc.).
Making the most out of your NBA bets
If you’re an active NBA bettor, it is more than worth it to make sure you have access to as many sportsbooks as you can. If you like a team, it is always worth shopping around to make sure you’re getting the best price at the best value. A half-point can – obviously – be the difference maker for your evening. Also, being aware of the odds can have a big impact over time.
Timing is moderately important in NBA betting, as discussed earlier. Injury news sometimes comes out like a fire hose, and being quick to take advantage of the news before the sportsbooks have time to react can result in very nice advantages. NBA is so much different than other sports in this regard; news comes out at irregular intervals and as a result can be capitalized on.
Here’s a handful of some more general tips when it comes to NBA betting:
- Back-to-back games in the NBA are the bane of players’ existence, but can be a boon to NBA bettors. Usually, any changes in the point spread are going to be baked in by oddsmakers. But there are a few areas where we can take advantage. For instance, teams coming into the altitude in Denver often have trouble, and even doubly so when they are coming in on the back end of a back-to-back. And when looking at player props, beware of shooters in a back-to-back; those tired legs might lead to a few extra clunkers off the rim.
- Like we said, injury news in the NBA is nowhere near as streamlined as in the NFL. Following beat writers on Twitter and paying attention to the RotoGrinders daily fantasy alerts are some surefire ways to stay a step ahead.
- Be aware of teams playing four games in five nights. Traditionally, these teams do not do well on that fifth night. Also, beware of teams on the very end of a long road trip. They almost certainly have one eye on their bed at home.
- Home-court advantage is real, but since this is a widely known concept, lines will always be set with that in mind.
How to make NBA in-game bets
Sportsbook data feeds operate at lightning speed, allowing operators to continually update and refresh lines throughout a game. This also gives them an opportunity to offer bets on specific actions which might happen in the very near future. Essentially, in-game bets give players the ability to “play along” with the flow of the game.
Some things to consider: The lines generally stay in tune with the pre-game lines in the early going. For example, if Team A is a 12-point favorite and falls behind 18-6 in the first quarter, don’t expect to be able to grab them at even odds. Chances are, you won’t be getting more than a point or two off the original line. Of course, as time ticks by, this will change, and the closer to the end of the game, the more “obvious” the current line will be.
With in-game bets, time lag is definitely a factor. Not only might you not have a complete picture of what’s going on on the court, there is also a strong likelihood your bet may not be accepted immediately.
Betting highlights of the NBA season
With the NBA playoffs lasting over two months, the idea of a “big game” – like the Super Bowl – doesn’t really exist. Additionally, NBA bettors don’t need to wait until Sundays to get a full slate’s worth of potential action.
Truly, every day in the NBA season brings new opportunities to profit. If there is one time in the season when a bettor might have a bigger advantage it would be early in the season when some teams are still playing with their rotations. Player props can be the softest at this time of the year.