How to Bet on the NBA

The only thing that’s better than watching your favourite NBA team dominate an opponent is when you had the foresight to bet on them before tip-off. Basketball is the second most popular sports league in North America for betting, and its popularity continues to grow on both sides of the border. If you’re new to NBA betting, this article will provide you with several basic betting options as well as some NBA betting tips to help you get started on the right foot. When you bet on the NBA with Bodog Sportsbook, you have a chance to win alongside your favourite team and players—only your win comes from the virtual betting window.  

NBA Moneyline

If you’re just starting to learn how to bet on NBA basketball, the simplest way is through the moneyline. With this type of wager, you’re betting on which team you think will win, and if you choose right, you get paid based on the NBA odds that you took at the time of your bet. At Bodog Sportsbook, American odds are always used for the moneyline. Here’s an example of how moneyline odds look:

Matchup Moneyline

Golden State Warriors –150

Dallas Mavericks +200

As indicated by the negative moneyline odds, the Golden State Warriors are the favourite in this game. Since the odds are in their favour, the payout is lower than what you’d get with a Dallas upset. For every $150 bet, you’d win $100 on the Warriors. Meanwhile, with the underdog Mavericks, a $100 bet would net you a $200 payout.

NBA Spread

The spread is a popular choice among NBA bettors because it makes the underdog option more enticing than the moneyline, and also makes it possible for the favourite to pay more. That’s because the spread requires the dominant team to beat their opponent by a certain number of points; unlike with the moneyline, it’s not enough for them to win straight up. Let’s illustrate the spread with an example:

Matchup Spread

New Orleans Pelicans +5.5 (–110)

Toronto Raptors –5.5 (–110)

The spread is negative for the favourite and positive for the underdog, so in this example, the Toronto Raptors are favoured to beat the New Orleans Pelicans by a 5.5-point spread. Toronto bettors get paid if the Raptors beat the Pelicans by six or more points. New Orleans supporters, on the other hand, get paid if the Pelicans win straight up, or lose by five or fewer points. 

The numbers in the brackets tell you how much you’d win if your bet comes through. For both teams in our example, you’d win $100 on a $110 bet ($10 is charged as a commission to the sportsbook for processing the bet in what’s known as vigorish). 

NBA Buying Points

With point spreads, you get the option of shifting them in your favour by buying points. That means the favourite would need to score fewer points in order to cover the spread, while the underdog could lose by a greater number of points than what’s set by the spread. In basketball, you can buy a half-point, full point, and point-and-a-half; the cost of each increment is an extra 10 cents added to the juice. Here’s what it would look like if you bought points on a team that was listed as a 10.5-point underdog:

Original Spread Half-Point One Point 1.5 Point 

+10.5 (–110) +11 (–120) +11.5 (–130) +12 (–140)

If you buy points on the favourite, the spread moves in the opposite direction.

Original Spread Half-Point One Point 1.5 Point 

–10.5 (–110) –10 (–120) –9.5 (–130) –9 (–140)

NBA Futures

With NBA futures, you can bet on an event that won’t be resolved until the end of the regular season. Examples of futures bets include the NBA championship, the division winners and the conferences. For these bets, the picks are assigned odds of winning (displayed as American odds at Bodog Sportsbook), and when these odds are displayed as a positive number (+1000 for example), they’re showing the amount of money you’d win on a $100 bet.  

NBA Props (Team, Player, Season)

Not all bets focus on picking the winning team for a game or major title; with props, you can bet on side events, such as team or player accomplishments. These could be focused on a single game, or could be a season-long wager. An example of a popular season-long team prop are the regular season win totals. Oddsmakers post a total (say 39.5 wins), and bettors go for Over if they think the team will exceed the posted total, or Under if they think the team won’t reach it. 

NBA Live Betting

Through the Bodog Live Betting portal, you can make bets in real time while the action is unrolling. This is the most exhilarating way to bet and oftentimes, you can catch great value if you’re good at predicting teams that are capable of come-from-behind wins. Moneyline bets, spreads and props are all available in live betting.  

NBA Specials

Major events, like the NBA Finals, calls for extra bets that aren’t available during the regular season. These are essentially prop bets that pop up to provide people with extra ways to get invested in the action when the stakes are high. An example could be who will score the most points during the Final? The available betting options will each have a set of odds that dictate the payout should they win. 

NBA Betting Tips

The NBA is unique among North American team sports in that there are just five players on the court (per team) at a time. As a result, the impact of each player’s contribution is more significant than in football, hockey or baseball. In the NBA, an injury can completely sideline a team that seemed to be a lock for the championship, which is why people aren’t afraid to put their money further down on the odds board for greater value. For example, the Toronto Raptors were long shots prior to their acquisition of Kawhi Leonard in 2018, but after picking up the Finals MVP, their odds to win the NBA championship rocketed up to +1400 and they eventually captured the title in thrilling fashion. The top teams offer the least value and come with risk should their star players go down with an injury. It also means that when a team doesn’t gel, even the most talented players may not fulfill their expectations.  

Another thing to consider after the 2018-19 NBA season is the trend of “load management” and how that will ripple through the league and affect the NBA Vegas odds. After the Toronto Raptors limited Kawhi Leonard’s time on the court during the regular season to optimize his long-term performance in their bid for their first championship, more and more teams may look into resting star players in hopes of keeping them fresh for the postseason. If this happens, it will likely impact individual game lines, while strengthening the team’s futures odds—as long as the team doesn’t overdo it and fail to make the postseason. Before placing bets, scroll through the Injury Report to see if there are any players unexpectedly resting. Beyond that, have fun with your basketball bets this season. Celebrate the wins and don’t get bogged down by any losses—no one can’t predict the outcome of every game.

*Bet on NBA odds all season with Bobodog and receive a $200 Welcome Bonus. We've got NBA vegas odds, props and live betting to keep you rolling all season. Also learn more about the odds to win the NBA Championship with our NBA Betting page