Entertainment / Gambling

How to Read the Odds When Betting on the NBA

Man holding brown and white basketball

Did you know that the 1998 NBA Finals Game 6 of the Bulls vs. Jazz is still the most-watched NBA Finals game of all time? 35.8 million viewers tuned in for this game and saw Michael Jordan win his sixth NBA Finals MVP award after a Bulls win. Back then, betting on sports was more taboo than it is today. Some states are welcoming online sports betting with open arms.

If you want to try your hand at NBA betting, keep reading to learn how to read betting odds.

Reading NBA Betting Odds

An NBA betting line revolves around one game and the two teams playing. For each game, sportsbooks will offer bettors different wager options, such as:

  • Moneyline
  • Point spread
  • Totals (over/unders)

These are the traditional bets common for NBA betting, but you’ll find that sportsbooks go beyond these popular options. You can also find futures, prop bets, and live betting methods.

Moneyline Odds

Payout odds are presented in American odds on U.S. online sportsbooks. For American odds, there will always be a plus and a minus sign.

A minus indicates the favored team and a plus sign refers to the underdog. Here’s an example of what the odds would look like if you wanted to bet on a moneyline:

  • Sacramento Kings +100
  • Los Angeles Clippers -118

American odds are calculated with winning $100 in mind. If you bet the favorite, you have to bet $118 to win $100. If you bet on the underdog, you win $100 for every $100 wagered. Legale goksites Nederland is allowed to operate like this under strict regulations and oversight from the Dutch Gaming Authority.

If your bet wins, you win the payout amount plus the money you wagered. If you don’t want to wager $100+, you don’t have to! Your wager will appear in your bet slip when you click on a line. You can input the amount you want to risk and the bet slip will show the possible payout before you lock in your bet.

Point Spread Odds

Point spread odds work with the same concept, but if you’ve never made a point spread bet, it might look a bit confusing. If you bet the point spread, you are betting on a team to win or lose by a certain amount of points.

Here is what a point spread might look like:

  • Milwaukee Bucks -6
    • -110
  • Charlotte Hornets +6
    • -110

NBA spreads, like the one in this example, generally have even odds or close odds on each side of the bet. When both teams are listed at -110 odds, you have a pick ’em. You make $110 in profit for every $100 wagered.

So, what does the other number mean? -6 and +6 refer to how many points a team can win or lose by. Point spreads might be safer bets than moneylines because it gives the bettor some wiggle room. In this example, the Bucks are the favorites to outright win the game, which is why they have the -6 number. If you bet their point spread, they have to win by seven points or more.

If you bet on the Hornets point spread, they can’t lose by more than six points. If the Hornets lose by exactly six points, the bet is a push and you’ll get a refund on your original wager. The same goes if the Bucks win by exactly six. There are point spreads that have half numbers. For example, if this bet was -6.5, there would be no push if the Bucks win by only six. They have to win by seven or more for the bettor to see any type of money.

Totals (Over/Unders) Odds

Totals, also known as over/under bets, are wagers that payout based on the combined score of the game, and not which team wins the game. These types of bets typically have even odds as well.

Let’s use an upcoming Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors game as an example:

  • O 217.5
    • -110
  • U 217.5
    • -110

The totals line in this example is 217.5. If the combined final score ends up being 218 or more, the over hits. If the combined score is 217 or less, the under will hit.

Since this bet uses half numbers, there is no chance for a push. In either bet, you win $100 for every $110 that you spend if your bet wins.

Futures Odds

Read the Odds When Betting

Photo by TJ Dragotta on Unsplash

NBA futures odds refer to which team wins a conference final, NBA Championship or reaches other benchmarks. You can use Oddstrader to look at game odds and team futures.

Futures odds are typically plus odds until a team starts to separate itself from the pack later in the season. Since the 2023-23 NBA season recently began, this is what the odds of winning the NBA Championship look like:

  • Boston Celtics +380
  • Milwaukee Bucks +480
  • Phoenix Suns +700
  • Golden State Warriors +750
  • Los Angeles Clippers +950

These are just the top five odds for the 2023 NBA Championship winner.

If you bet on any of these and win, you are getting a higher payout because they all have plus odds. However, the odds are higher because there is more risk. It’s going to take a lot of luck to win a futures bet this early in the season.

Betting $100 on the Boston Celtics to outright win the Championship would get you a payout of $380 if the bet wins.

Prop Bet Odds

Prop bets allow bettors to make wagers on statistical outputs instead of which team wins or loses a game. You can find player props and team props. There are also skilled and unskilled props.

NBA prop bet odds function the same way as all other odds. You can tell how likely the bet is to hit by checking if the odds are plus or minus.

Live Betting Odds

Live betting is a great way to get in on the action of a game after it’s already started. Live betting odds are constantly changing as the game goes on. It’s best to live bet during a stoppage or at halftime because a lot of sportsbooks lock live bets as the game is being played. Live betting odds are ever-changing, so if you are paying attention, you might be able to find great odds.

Place Your First Bet Today

Popular U.S. sportsbooks use American odds to create lines for games. Moneylines, point spreads, and totals are among the most popular bet types for the NBA. You can also wager on futures, props, and live bets, which all use the same American odds structure.

Now that you understand NBA betting odds, you can place your first bet today! Don’t forget to come back to this blog for more helpful articles.


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