Intro to betting on Basketball

Interested in learning more about how to bet on NBA basketball? Bovada's guide covers all the basics!

Guide to Betting on NBA Basketball

A close NBA basketball game will have you out of your seat as both teams race to be the last to score before the final buzzer. Basketball betting at Bovada cranks up the fun even more, and there’s so many different kinds of bets: moneyline, spreads, totals, props, parlays, teasers, futures…

But if you don’t know how these bet types work and how to read basketball odds and basketball lines, you’re going to wind up warming the betting bench all season.

Let’s get you up to speed and out on the floor. The next bets may be tipping off right now!

Basketball Spread

Almost everyone has heard about betting the spread and has heard dads and uncles wondering if a team will “cover the spread.” Here we’ll break down exactly how basketball betting works when you’re wagering on the spread.

You’ll find the spread in the first column over on the right side. The top rows have the overall game spreads, while the others below have first half and first quarter spreads you can bet on. 

These NBA basketball odds are split into two sets of numbers. The first thing to know is that minus signs indicate favored teams and plus signs indicate underdogs. Here, the Celtics’ row has a spread of -3 points. If you bet on the Celtics to cover the spread, they need to win by 4 points or more for you to win money. If the final score has the Celtics winning by 98-96, they did not cover the spread and your wager would lose. 

But let’s say the final score had the Warriors blown out 104-82. In that case, you’d want to know how much money you won, right? That’s what the (-115) next to the Celtics’ -3 is telling you. A bet of $115 wins you $100 here.

It’s a basic sports betting concept:

Minus sign? Bet that dollar amount to win a hundred.

Plus sign? Bet a hundred to win that dollar amount.

With that in mind, let’s say you bet on the Warriors at +3 (-105) and they actually pull off a one point win at the buzzer. They didn’t lose by three or more points (in fact, they won), so your bet was correct. Your $105 bet wins you $100. It was almost even money with these basketball lines.

Speaking of which…

Basketball Moneyline

Basketball betting on moneylines at Bovada is a little simpler. Here you’re looking at the odds and picking a winner. The main thing to learn is how the bets and payouts work. Let’s go back to our example.

As you can see, the Celtics are favored in this game, and are more likely to win than the Warriors. For that reason, the basketball lines in the “Win” column show them as a -155 favorite. The Warriors are a +135 underdog. Using our little rule from above, we can figure out what each bet pays according to Bovada’s basketball odds.

A $155 bet on the Celtics to win pays you $100 if they manage to top the Warriors. On the other hand, a $100 bet on the Warriors gets you $135 if they earn this win at home.

Underdog bets are riskier, and so the payout is larger. Betting on favored teams is less risky, and so the payout is reduced. Also, one important thing to note is that you don’t have to bet the amount listed. Instead, it’s just a simple way to calculate your payout. A correct $200 bet on the Warriors would get you $270, for example.

Now let’s cover totals.

Basketball Totals

Bovada offers basketball odds on totals as a way of letting you bet on the combined score of the two teams playing the game. 

The above NBA game example has an over/under of 224.5, which means that you’re betting on whether the Celtics’ final score, plus the Warriors’ final score, will be over or under 224.5 points. Let’s say you think no one will be playing defense in this game and it will be a total shootout. In that case, you take the over from these basketball odds at (-110), and the final score comes in 113-112. Looks like you just made it, because 113+112 is 225, a half-point more than 224.5. Your $110 bet would win you $100, or your $55 bet would get you $50.

Basketball Props

Props let you bet on lots of different things in an NBA game: the player with the most points, how many blocked shots a player will have, total rebounds, steals a team will get, and tons of other things. No matter what part of the game you like best or are most knowledgeable about, proposition bets give you a way to get action on it at Bovada.

In our example game, you can open the Head-to-Head section of the prop bets and bet on whether Wiggins or Tatum will have more points:

By the way, if you want to know our exact rules for NBA basketball betting, you can find them here.

Basketball Parlays

Parlays are combination bets. If you are feeling confident that your next four picks for NBA game winners will be correct, you can combine them into a parlay. If all picks are right, you win a lot more than you would have by betting the events individually. But if a single pick is wrong, the whole parlay fails. 

With great risk comes great reward! The legends of basketball betting usually have a story about a crazy 10-item parlay bet that came in and paid them a ton of cash. More often, they have stories about the times where 8 games were right on and the 9th pick screwed them.

Basketball Teasers

Teasers are a kind of parlay where you get to adjust the basketball lines on your NBA games to make things more favorable. This takes away some of the risk and also some of the potential payout. In our example game, what if you included the game in a parlay but wanted to bet on a spread of 2 instead of three? You’d tease the spread down a bit. This isn’t always available for all games, but it can be a good way to improve your parlay’s chances of success.

Basketball Futures

The last NBA basketball betting wagers at Bovada to discuss are called futures. Futures are events occurring on a longer time frame than today’s games. The most traditional futures bet is to check out the basketball odds at the beginning of the season and make a bet on who will be the champion at the end of it all.

As of this writing, LeBron’s 2020-2021 Lakers are getting the best odds, while a bet on the Timberwolves would pay you an insane 500x your money! Here are all the NBA teams and odds available:

To say you need a miracle for your Timberwolves bet to pay off would be an understatement.

Head to Bovada’s NBA basketball betting section and find your next wager today!