How to Bet on the NBA

This is bigger than anything James Naismith could have possibly imagined. Basketball has grown by leaps and bounds since the pride of Almonte, Ontario first nailed those peach baskets to the wall in 1891. The NBA odds board at Bodog Sportsbook has never been busier. Whether you’re looking for the NBA’s best bets of the season, or surfing the NBA Championship odds all year round, this handy guide has everything you need to get started. We’ll even throw in some tips and tricks that the pros use to get the most value from their basketball betting dollar.

NBA Spreads

The NBA point spread has been around since the league’s early days in the 1940s and is the most popular way to bet on basketball. When you bet the NBA against the spread, you’re either betting on the favourites to win by more than a certain number of points, or the underdogs to play well enough to prevent that from happening. Here’s an example of NBA spreads featuring our own Toronto Raptors:

Toronto Raptors +2.5 (–115)

Golden State Warriors –2.5 (–105)

This was Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, when the Raptors won their first NBA Championship. They were 2.5-point underdogs at Golden State. The favoured Warriors had to win by at least three points to “cover” the spread and pay out; otherwise, the underdogs from Toronto would cover – which they did by winning 114-110.

The numbers in parentheses show the “vigorish” for each wager, indicating how much the winning bettors get paid. In this example, Golden State supporters would have been paid $100 for every $105 wagered (smaller and larger bets are allowed), but it was Toronto bettors who won $100 for every $115 wagered.

NBA Prop Bets

NBA Prop bets have really taken off in recent years – even rivalling the point spread in popularity. Prop bets (short for “proposition” bets) allow you to wager on things besides the outcome of the game itself, like how many points a certain player will score.

Generally speaking, NBA prop bets fall under three categories: player props, team props, and game props. NBA player props are the most popular; they include Player Points, Player Rebounds and other statistical categories for a single game.

Here’s a hypothetical example from that magical 2018-19 Raptors season:

Total Points – Kawhi Leonard (TOR)

Over 25.5 (–110)

Under 25.5 (–110)

Player props like this use the standard NBA over under format, where you bet on the player scoring over or under the posted total. In this example, the over would have cashed if Leonard had scored at least 26 points, otherwise the under would have paid out.

NBA MVP betting and NBA Draft betting can also be categorized as player props, although you’ll find them in their own section on Bodog’s NBA odds board – more on that in a moment. Meanwhile, in addition to player props for each NBA matchup, you’ll also find team props, like how many points each team will score, and game props, like whether the final combined score will be an odd or even number.

NBA Futures

Betting on a single NBA game is fun, but you can also bet on an entire season. NBA futures allow you to bet on outcomes that won’t be resolved until a future date – like who will win the Championship, or who will win each of the two conferences, Eastern and Western.

NBA Futures betting takes place throughout the year. The opening odds are posted at Bodog during the offseason, then they change to reflect how people are betting. With the NBA Championship odds, as the season progresses and teams are eliminated from the title hunt, they’re removed from the NBA odds board.

For example, the Toronto Raptors were available as +6000 title underdogs during the 2018-19 preseason, before they acquired Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs. Then they quickly moved into the +2500 range, and were priced around +1100 when the season began. Even before the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals, you could still get Toronto at around +850 on the NBA Championship futures betting market.

NBA Parlay

Here’s another bet type that just keeps growing in popularity. The NBA parlay allows you to combine anywhere between 2 and 16 parlay picks. If you get all of your picks right, your winnings are multiplied together instead of added, giving you a shot at some serious cash – up to the maximum payout of $250,000 at Bodog Sportsbook.

Having said that, if you get even one pick wrong in your parlay, you lose the entire bet. It’s all about risk versus reward; the more “teams” (point spreads, moneylines and totals) you put in your parlay, the bigger your potential prize, but the harder it will be to cash in.

To make winning easier, Bodog Sportsbook is pleased to offer a special type of NBA parlay: the NBA teaser, where you move the point spreads or totals by 4, 4.5, 5, or 6 points, thus making it easier for your chosen teams to cash in. But keep in mind, the more points you tease by, the smaller your payout. Sweetheart teasers of up to 13 points are also available at Bodog.

NBA Moneyline

The moneyline is the original way to bet on sports – just pick which team will win the game straight-up, no point spread involved. Here’s the moneyline from Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals at Bodog Sportsbook:

Toronto Raptors +105

Golden State Warriors –125

Again, the Warriors were favoured at home; they would have paid out $100 for every $125 wagered, but it was the road dogs from Toronto who paid out $105 for every $100 bet. Note: These moneylines are shown at Bodog using the “American odds” format, but if you prefer, you can switch to fractional odds or decimal odds at any time with the drop-down menu.

NBA Buying Points

Remember what we said earlier about risk versus reward? Let’s say you were thinking about betting on the Raptors as 2.5-point underdogs, but you were a bit skeptical about their chances of covering in Golden State. Maybe you would rather have taken them at +3, +3.5 or +4, in exchange for a smaller payout.

That’s what buying points is all about. When you bet NBA spreads at Bodog, you have the option of buying up to three extra half-points. Each one you buy will cost you 10 “cents” in vigorish. Let’s look again at Toronto’s spread for Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals:

Raptors +2.5 (–115)

Here’s how those odds change when you buy 0.5, 1, or 1.5 points:

Raptors +3 (–125)

Raptors +3.5 (–135)

Raptors +4 (–145)

Again, those payouts do get smaller as you buy more points, but if you feel like “hedging” your bet just a little, this is a very convenient way to lower the risk.

NBA Specials

If there’s any type of NBA bet we haven’t touched on yet, you’ll probably find it on our NBA specials menu. This includes betting on the next league MVP, as well as NBA Draft betting, where you wager on which players will be selected by which teams. You can also bet on things like which team will sign a certain impending free agent for the start of the next season.

To add even more spice to your betting experience, try our wide selection of NBA daily specials. These let you bet on the combined performances of players and teams from different games on the schedule – like whether the Raptors, Warriors, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers will each score at least 100 points that day.

NBA Live Betting

Now we come to the hottest item on the NBA menu: live betting. Back in the day, you had to get your wagers in before the opening tip. Now you can place your bets while the game is in progress, with the NBA odds updated in real time. Point spreads, moneylines, totals and NBA props are all available, and you can bet on specific segments of the game in question, including halves and quarters. Just hit the “LIVE” button at the top-left of the odds page to see which games are underway – we even have animated recaps of each play as it happens.

NBA Betting Tips

Now that you know the specific NBA bet types, it’s time to think about how to get the most value out of your betting. First things first, remember that betting on sports should be done primarily for entertainment. There are a few “pro” handicappers who make a living at it, but only a few, and it’s very hard work indeed. Never bet with money you can’t afford to lose – especially when you’re betting live, when it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and lose track of your progress.

You can still use strategy to make sharper bets, though. Do some research before you bet; look at each team’s record and key statistics, injury reports, and any relevant betting trends heading into each matchup. Give extra weight to “advanced” stats that grade teams and players by their efficiency rather than raw per-game numbers like points scored.

When you place those NBA bets, consider using basic “bankroll management” by dividing the amount in your Bodog account into 100 units, and bet only one unit per game. This will keep you in the game longer and take off the pressure, keeping things fun for you.

Congratulations: You’re now ready to hit the NBA odds board at Bodog Sportsbook and bet with confidence. Enjoy the games, and we’ll see you on the hardwood.