The Ultimate Guide to Betting on Basketball Games


Robert Parish was one of the greatest centers to play in the NBA. During his 21-year career, he won four championship rings and played in nine All-Star games. But, he averaged under 20 points per game for his entire career.

If you’re an NBA history buff, you might have already known this fun fact. Do you know enough about basketball to bet on it and win money? If not, this guide can help you out.

Keep reading to learn about betting on basketball.

Bet Early

To gain an edge when betting on basketball, start betting when the markets open. Bets are available in the morning around 8-9 a.m. ET.

Basketball is a huge market, especially the NBA. This means that lines are often corrected quickly when injury reports come out.

As oddsmakers gain more information throughout the day, the lines will become more accurate. If you notice that the odds of a basketball game change before tip-off, this is why.

Bookmakers adjust the lines based on information that they receive, so bets are harder to win as the day goes on.

Keep in mind that there are times when it’s beneficial to bet later in the day. Sports bettors shape the market with their opinion of winning bets.

Understanding what most of the public and seasoned professionals think about a game will help your reads. You’ll start learning when the best time to bet to get the best value is.

Be Aware of Injury Reports

Injuries to star players and even role players can impact a basketball game. When it comes to NBA gambling, it’s important to be aware of injury reports.

Only five players are on the court at a time so it’s not uncommon for one player to have a high impact on the game.

Injury news typically comes out later in the day, which can affect those that bet early. Luckily, most sportsbooks will void a bet for a player that doesn’t play any minutes, injury or not.

You should still bet early to get the best odds, but continue checking the news before the game begins. Look for games to bet on where an injury could have a significant impact on a game.

Star NBA players also undergo load management. This means they sit out on a back-to-back or just when they feel like they need to rest.

There are slower-moving sportsbooks that don’t react as fast to injury news, so you might get a chance to snag great odds.

Let’s say Luka Doncic is sitting out for the Dallas Mavericks for load management. Since he is the star player, there is a good chance the opponent takes over the game. If you see news like this, react fast before the odds move.

Look for Scheduling Advantages

The NBA has tried to reduce the number of back-to-backs that teams play, but each team still ends up having about 13 back-to-backs per season.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, a back-to-back refers to games played without a day or more of rest in between.

There are teams that have schedules requiring them to play eight games in 12 nights or five games in seven nights. These are large loads to handle, even for veteran players.

Seasoned bettors will look for scheduling advantages like this and utilize them to win more money. Fade the teams going through long stretches of games with little rest because players are likely to have tired legs.

Learn to Live Bet

One of the best gambling tips is to learn about live betting. Live wagers allow bettors to put money on a game or player after the game has begun.

In-game odds are constantly changing based on what’s happening. Bettors watching a game can use the ever-changing odds to their advantage by capitalizing on the volatility of a game.

Some bettors hedge previous bets to make a bigger profit as well.

The models and algorithms that sportsbooks use to move live lines are just as good as the information they receive. There’s a lot of information provided after a game starts that wasn’t given before.

Jumping into live betting can be overwhelming, but these strategies can help you get started:

  • Bet during stoppages or commercial breaks
  • Calculate possessions for live totals
  • Pay attention to the pace of the game
  • Capitalize on pricing mistakes due to bad data
  • Learn in-game rotations

It’s best to live bet games you are watching so you can get a feel for the players and the game overall.

Learn the Different Bet Types

If you don’t know the different forms of betting, you’ll open a sportsbook for the first time and probably feel overwhelmed. There are a lot of different types of bets that you can use for basketball betting and other sports.

Let’s briefly learn about the most popular ones:


Beginner bettors that are only interested in picking the outright winner of a basketball game will bet the moneyline. You’ll simply choose who you think will win a game and win money if you are right.

There will always be +/- odds that will help you understand how profitable a bet will be. The minus refers to the favorite to win and the plus indicates the underdog.

Here’s what a moneyline bet would look like:

  • Dallas Mavericks: -270
  • Detroit Pistons: +220

The Dallas Mavericks are heavy favorites to win the game. To win $100 by betting on the favorite, you would have to wager $270. The bet is more expensive because the Mavericks are favored by a lot.

In contrast, if you bet $100 for Detroit to win and they pull off an upset, you win $220. You win more because the odds aren’t in your favor.

Point Spread

If you bet on the spread in basketball, you are betting on a team to win or lose by a certain number of points. Here’s what a spread bet might look like on a sportsbook:

  • Portland Trailblazers: +6.5
  • Los Angeles Lakers: -6.5

In this example, the Lakers are favored to win the game by seven points or more. If you bet Portland’s spread, you win the bet only if they lose by less than seven points or win the game outright.

Totals (Over/Unders)

Bettors can also bet the over/under on the total combined points scored in a game by both teams. Bettors consider totals to be easier to win than moneylines and spreads, but a lot needs to go right to win.

This is an example of an over/under you’d see when betting on the NBA:

  • O 221.5
  • U 221.5

To win the over, both teams would need to score a combined total of 222. If you bet the under, you win if the combined score is 221 or less.

Prop Bets

There are prop bets based on skill and others that aren’t based on skill. Proposition bets can cover a variety of categories and sometimes have higher odds depending on what you are betting on.

Some of the most popular prop bets are player props, which means betting on a specific player to have a certain amount of points, rebounds, assists, blocks, or steals. A player prop could be any of the following:

  • Will LeBron James score over 25 points?
  • Will Luka Doncic have over 9 assists?
  • Will Rudy Gobert have over 10 rebounds?

There are also unskilled prop bets that could go either way. Some examples include:

  • What team will win the tip-off?
  • Which player will score the first basket?
  • How many fouls will there be in the first quarter?

Seasoned bettors tend to stay away from unskilled prop bets, but they are fun wagers to make if you find something interesting.

Shop the Best Lines

There are different sports gambling websites and apps available for bettors. If you want the best odds every time make a bet, have access to multiple sportsbooks.

Most of the popular sportsbooks will have similar lines, but even the slightest difference can make you a lot more money.

When using multiple sportsbooks, make sure you are only giving your information out to licensed and reputable betting sites. You can find reviews of state-by-state betting sites with this sports betting guide.

If you are brand new to betting, look for different sportsbooks with signup offers. A lot of sportsbooks offer free money for newcomers to bet with.

This also gives you a great opportunity to see which betting sites you enjoy using most without wasting your own money.

Track Your Bets

Every profitable bettor tracks their bets. Some sportsbooks will track your profits and losses for you, but there are also third-party sites and apps made for this exact reason.

Track everything from a point spread to a moneyline to a prop bet. For the best results, find an app that tells you what your return on investment (ROI) is for every type of bet.

Over time, you’ll be able to recognize winning patterns and use the information you gather to your advantage.

Start Betting on Basketball!

There are a lot of things to learn before you should start betting on basketball, but this guide covers most of it.

Bet early, consider injuries, and look for scheduling advantages. Newbies should make it a point to learn about the different types of bets, including live betting.

Shop around for the best odds on various reputable sportsbooks and always track your bets.

For more tips like these, check out the other posts on our blog.