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A Beginners Guide to Betting on Basketball

Basketball is an internationally beloved sport. The number 23 is globally synonymous with the legendary Michael Jordan, and there are murals of the late Kobe Bryant painted on walls worldwide.  Though there are many leagues throughout the world – the National Basketball Association is considered the

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Basketball is an internationally beloved sport. The number 23 is globally synonymous with the legendary Michael Jordan, and there are murals of the late Kobe Bryant painted on walls worldwide.

Though there are many leagues throughout the world – the National Basketball Association is considered the apex organization, which is unsurprising considering that in the last twenty Olympics – the USA has won the basketball gold medal sixteen times.

One of basketball’s most significant selling points is its straightforward point system and play structure – making it ideal for those interested in sports betting.

In a single NBA season, there are over 1200 games played, with the average points per game being 105-120. This means that there are hundreds of chances to practice betting and hone one’s strategies.

Below are some dos and don’ts of betting on basketball.

Betting Methods

Point Totals or Over/-Under

Point totals, also referred to as over/under, are one of the most accessible betting tactics and are as straightforward as they sound. To place a bet, a wager is made on how many total points will be scored in a game, and you only need to guess if the outcome will be above or below this number.

For example, in a game with the Milwaukee Bucks vs. Chicago Bulls with an over/under of 160.5 points, you only need to predict if the total points will be more or less than 160.5 points.

If the total score is 163 and you have bet that they will exceed the over/under – you would successfully win the bet.

Point Spread Betting

Unlike other sports, where the points per game are pretty low, like soccer which averages between 1.22.8 goals per game, basketball is an incredibly high-scoring game. This means that point spreading is one of the most popular approaches for fans when betting on an NBA game, for instance.

In point spreading, you guess the difference in point totals between the two teams.

The volume of points also reduces the chances of randomness – ensuring an increased level of predictability if you are familiar with the teams playing.

Say the LA Lakers are playing the Utah Jazz, with a point spread of 7 in favor of the Lakers. Those who have bet on the Lakers need the game to end with the Lakers 7+ points ahead of the Jazz – to “cover the spread.”

Alternatively, those who bet on the Jazz would only need them to have won or lost by less than 7 points.

Money Line

Money line is the simplest of the betting strategies. When placing a bet – you only need to state whom you think is going to win a game.

Money lines are designed to consider the odds of a game – so to bet on a “sure thing” will result in fewer winnings than if you were to bet the same amount on the underdog.

Therefore, to win big, you either must take the long shot, like the Orlando Magic, or bet more money on the assumed winners, such as the Miami Heat.

Handicap Betting

To keep games more competitive and interesting to all parties, handicap betting is sometimes utilized in tandem with the above methods.

Before a game begins, the favorite starts with a negative balance of points, or the underdog begins with a surplus. The final score is then combined with the handicap. This new score is used to determine which wagers were successful.

This makes a more engaging game because even the biggest mismatches are still worthwhile.

Common Mistake to Avoid

Make Sure to Research Until Tip-off

In other sports, lineups are announced hours before play, enabling you to place wagers in advance. In football, for instance, the roster is released the morning of the game. However, up until tip-off, a basketball player can be cut from the game bench.

It is vital to avoid overconfidence and to keep a close eye on the lineup until the first whistle, because that star player, who was used in calculating the game’s odds, might not play.

Diversify the Statistics

Though a professional NBA team will play dozens of games in the regular season, their game totals do not even come close to the MLB, where each team plays about 162 games.

However, while there is not the same excess of raw data – there are basketball-specific metrics that can be used to place smart bets.

Many fans place wagers only on points per game, but those who are savvier will include rebounds, successful 3-pointers, and turnover rates in their calculations.

Forgetting Players are Humans

An often-overlooked metric is a simple fact that players are people who can suffer injuries, schedule exhaustion, and travel fatigue.

Yes, they are elite examples of athletic ability and potential – but, they still get joint pain and pulled muscles. It is crucial to be aware of strenuous travel schedules or the number of games a player has played that week.

These details seem negatable but can have a heavy impact on the performance of an athlete.

Media and Highlight Reels

One of the most common mistakes made by beginners, is believing everything they see in the media about a team or being entranced by highlight reels. However, because of the point totals and level of play – the margins are slim, and any edge needs to be monitored closely.

It is easier to just follow big names, listen to the distilled talking points of sports news shows, or watch the highlights.

However, it is far more prudent to do your research and independently review statistics and player data. The only way to truly succeed is to watch the games and do the work.


Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the United States, and with good reason. Between the legendary players and the game itself, we are all indebted to James Naismith, who invented the sport in 1891.

If you utilize the above betting methods and avoid the common mistakes – betting on basketball will quickly become your new favorite pastime.


Daniel Jack

For Daniel, journalism is a way of life. He lives and breathes art and anything even remotely related to it. Politics, Cinema, books, music, fashion are a part of his lifestyle.