Betting on the NBA
Betting on NBA basketball is a marathon, not a sprint.
With an 82 game schedule plus 4 rounds of playoffs in a best of 7 format, played by 30 teams, it is one of the most grueling seasons for players and punters alike.
If you’re serious about NBA betting we’ve got one word for you…Bankroll (we’ll explain Bankroll management for NBA below).
Listed below are the most common NBA bet types along with a few tips for NBA betting.
If you’re a daily bettor, why not visit our sister site for some NBA free picks.
Take a deep breath, NBA betting is not for amateurs
Before you get a rush of blood leading into the NBA season, pour yourself a whiskey and stare into the horizon for a good hour. It’s a long season, and composure is key.
NBA is one of the most difficult sports to wager on, and with sub .500 teams often playing it out until the final whistle and winning teams resting their stars in junk time, there is a 5-10 minute period of games where things can go from joy to sadness. It’s these last minutes of games where line/spread betting can go wrong, and bets are won and lost.
In saying that, NBA betting is a true love of ours, and it’s the ones you love that hurt you the most.
NBA betting can probably be summed up in one GIF…
NBA Betting Types
Now that you’ve decided to throw your hand into the NBA betting ring, it’s time to learn the most common bets to be taken on the NBA.
Below is a list of the most common NBA betting types (we will also list the US name equivalent for each type) –
Line Betting (Point Spread) –
Betting on the ‘Line’ is the most common wagering option in the NBA, and usually offers more value than a straight up Head to Head bet. The Line is basically an educated guess from the bookmakers as to how much each team will win/lose by in any single game. Bookmakers will try and get around 50% of bets on each side of the Line, hence why it’s even.
The Line is represented in the books as either a (+) or a (-) symbol, with the favourite given a handicap of points that they must overcome for the wager to be a winning bet.
A Line bet will have odds ranging from $1.90-$1.95 for each team in the game. ( The higher the odds, the less “Juice” (percentage of takings from each bet) the bookmaker skims.
An example of a line bet –
Chicago Bulls __ -8.0 ($1.91) | Dallas Mavericks__+8.0 ($1.92)
In this example, the Chicago Bulls are heavy favourites, and must win the game by 9+ points for an outright win, and 8.0 points for a Push (money back).
In the same example, the Dallas Mavericks must win the game, or lose by 7 points or less for a winning bet. A loss of 8 points will make it a Push.
Head to Head (Moneyline) –
A Head to Head bet requires the bettor to simply select and bet on the team they think will win a game.
Head to Head betting in NBA is a little riskier than a Line Bet, as there is no room for error if you happen to go for an underdog. Likewise, if you bet on a favourite, you will generally getting pretty low bang for your buck.
If you do happen to fancy an underdog, there is certainly value in your bet, with odds ranging anywhere from $2.00 to around $10.00. One great thing about NBA betting is that it’s not unusual for long shot underdogs to gets up. After all it’s a 5-on-5 game with the best players in the world on the court and sometimes a shooters luck pays off.
An example of a Head to Head Bet –
Chicago Bulls__($1.56) | Dallas Mavericks__ ($2.42)
Over/Under (Total Points Over/Under) –
The Total Points Over/Under Line has the bettor place a bet on whether the total number of points in a game (both teams combined) will go over a number determined by the bookmaker.
An example of a Total Points Over Under Bet –
Total Points Under 201.5__($1.91) | Total Points Over 201.5__ ($1.92)
Futures Bets (Propositions) –
An NBA Futures bet is a bet placed that will have it’s outcome determined generally at the end of the NBA season. An example of NBA Futures bets include the NBA Championship Winner, NBA MVP Winner and NBA Rookie of the Year Winner.
As the name suggests, they are determined in the Future, and not the upcoming next day of NBA action.
NBA Betting Advice
- Recent matchup – Certain teams match up well against others and there are also cases where sub .500 teams match up well against those at the top (these are cases when there may be ‘value’ in the market). Generally it’s best to pay attention to the last 5 match-ups, as lineups and rosters would likely be the same as the previous season.
- Previous 5-10 game results – Teams often go on both winning and losing streaks. Checking a team’s form over the previous 5-10 games can be a good indicator of cohesion and confidence coming into a game.
- Player injuries – Injuries to players on either team can cause a dramatic adjustment in the lines. Being a 5-on-5 game, the loss of a star player can be the difference between a win or loss, more so than any other league. Keep an eye on pre-game reports for injuries and “personal leave” of players, and you could spot a bargain in the markets.
- Back to backs and travel – No matter how good a team may be, if they are playing back to back (or sometimes back to back to back) games, they will be tired, mentally and physically. In the same vein, if a team is on a road trip, they will be tired from travel. If a team has rested for a day or two, they should have ridded themselves of niggling injuries, and have freshened their bodies and minds. Keep an eye on a team’s history over these phases, as some teams perform poorly following multiple rest days, while some teams play great back to back. Study, study,study.
- Home and Road performance – It’s simple to find team stats on their performance on the road and at home (usually just look at the NBA ladders). Most teams perform better at home, but there are also teams that perform well on the road. You may find value when two similarly matched teams play, with the travelling team having a positive road record. Take the away team.
For daily NBA picks and parlays visit The Midfield.
Managing an NBA betting Bankroll
It’s an accepted notion that NBA bankroll management is simple to explain and impossible to adhere to.
To put it simply, if you are not able to stick to strict bankroll management, you’re going to end up a losing punter at the end of a long NBA season. Long term investment should be the name of the game, and keeping a level head is key.
The main thing with NBA bankroll management is to stick to a plan, and to not steer from this plan if you lose, win or have too many beers on a Friday night.
Don’t chase losses, and don’t increase the amounts of your units should you hit on a few winners.
The most popular and followed method of NBA bankroll management is to have a “unit” or a “star” system.
What are star and unit systems in Bankroll management?
This is when punters allocate a sort of rating for their bet.
To put it simply, allocating a specific star or unit to a bet indicates your confidence in that particular bet. An easy way to do this would be to have three confidence levels.
- i.e 1 star/1 unit, 2 stars/2 units, 3 stars/3 units. (More experienced bettors may go up to 4 and 5 star/units)
Following on from that, each star or unit has a dollar value attached to it, depending on the total amount of your bankroll… for example –
- 1 star/1 unit ($10 bet), 2 stars/2 units ($20 bet), 3 stars/3 units ($30 bet).
Regardless of the value that you see in a market, you must not deviate from betting within your set bankroll.
There are different theories for bankroll management but the general rule is to never bet more than 2-3 % of your total allocated bankroll, per bet.
Let’s say the NBA season starts and you decide to allocate $1,000 as your NBA betting bankroll.
Total Bankroll = $1,000
1% = $10.00 | 2% = $20.00 | 3% = $30.00
After the first week of the NBA, your Bankroll has gone up to $1,150, now it’s time to adjust –
Total Bankroll = $1,150
1% = $11.50 | 2% = $23.00 | 3% = $34.50
Should your bankroll grow, don’t get excited, stick to the plan! If you should lose during the first week, you will need to adjust your star and unit sizes accordingly also…
Total Bankroll = $800
1% = $8.00 | 2% = $16.00 | 3% = $24.00
Follow your system through good and bad and you’ll have less chance of busting your total bankroll. You’ll also have a more fun, less stressful NBA betting season.
If you are just starting out betting on the NBA, we perhaps suggest ‘Flat Betting’.
What is Flat Betting? NBA Betting for beginners.
Flat Betting means placing identical dollar amount bets on each NBA bet, no matter how strongly you may feel about a market.
We recommend this to new NBA bettors, or those that don’t have the time to put in the research required to understand when a market deserves more units than another.
Should you become more knowledgeable of NBA betting further down the line, the star or unit system is a great way to build your bankroll. Following on from the 3 and 4 star and unit systems, more experienced bettors may introduce a 4 and 5 star/unit system.
Never start your NBA bankroll with more than you can afford to comfortably lose, and never create a new bankroll during an NBA season.
Do this, and you’ll have a good time.
Final thoughts on NBA betting
NBA betting may be one of the most difficult sports to navigate, but hot damn do we love it.
Daily games, constant lineup adjustments and so many ways to find an edge, NBA is one of the most exciting sports to bet on.
Keep a bankroll. Not only will following a bankroll enable you to accurately follow your wins and losses, it will also save you from the stress and worry of betting beyond your means.
Start a bankroll, create an account below, and have fun!