Basketball is a great fit for anyone who is new or inexperienced in sports betting. The high-scoring and free-flowing nature of the game will keep you engaged, and it’s also a very simple game to understand.
However, while basketball betting may look easy at first, there’s still a bit of a learning curve that novice bettors need to overcome in order to enjoy any chance at sustained success. In this article, we’ll discuss the most important elements of any basketball betting strategy for beginners.
The number of statistics that you can look at when trying to predict the outcome of a basketball game can actually be intimidating. It seems like there’s a measurement for everything these days, especially with the explosion in popularity of advanced analytics.
However, it’s often best to keep things as simple as possible by boiling your handicapping down to just a few key factors to consider. After all, the bookmaker’s odds for a game are based heavily on each team’s offensive and defensive statistics, so you’re not very likely to find an edge looking at all of those numbers anyway.
Instead, try thinking a little bit outside the box by focusing on these three factors.
It’s pretty commonly known that home court advantage is huge in basketball. 20 of the NBA’s 30 teams had winning records at home in 2017-18 (including four that missed the playoffs), but only 10 were above .500 on the road. And the advantage of playing at home is even more extreme in college hoops, where hosts have won nearly 68% of NCAA basketball games since 1996.
Since everybody knows the value of home court in basketball, you can expect the betting line to be adjusted a few points in favor of the home team. But oddsmakers don’t always adjust the line for home court as much as they should, and they sometimes adjust it too much as well. Those home court stats we referenced above are based on averages of the leagues in general and aren’t team specific. In other words, home floor means more to some teams than it does to others, and it can also mean less.
Look at each team’s home/road records that season to see just how much the location of the game should affect the odds. Sometimes you’ll see a team that struggles to play well at home but thrives when it gets out on the road and doesn’t feel pressure to please the fans. We also often see the exact opposite sometimes, especially with young teams who feed off the energy of playing in their own building but have a tough time dealing with the adversity of playing on the road.
Whenever you find a matchup in which each team’s home/road differential is more extreme than usual, you should be able to capitalize.
The recent schedule of each team is also something that many basketball bettors tend to overlook. The number of games a team has played recently can have a physical effect on the players, while the types of opponents they’ve played lately can impact them psychologically.
Other than soccer and football, there aren’t many sports that put more of a toll on an athlete’s legs than basketball. Not only are they running all over the court throughout a game, but they’re also constantly jumping, and there are a lot of sudden stops and starts as well. Yet while soccer and football often give the players several days off between games in order to physically recover, basketball commonly schedules games on back-to-back days.
Whenever you see a team playing for the second straight night, it’s a huge advantage for their opponent (assuming the opponent didn’t play the previous night as well). The team playing on consecutive nights obviously won’t be as fresh, they probably can’t play their top players as much as usual, and their shooting and rebounding will be impacted by having tired legs. In fact, it’s become almost normal for NBA teams to sit some of their star players entirely when playing for the second straight night out of concern for the potential for injury due to fatigue.
As we touched on earlier, the recent schedules of each team can also play a psychological factor that isn’t always accounted for in the odds. If a team is coming off a big upset victory in its previous game (especially in college basketball, where the athletes aren’t as mature or experienced), they might not be completely focused coming into their next one. And if a team has played nothing but tough opponents in recent action, they might not be as motivated to take on a weaker foe who they’re expected to beat easily.
Looking at how teams match up against each other is one more factor that you should give strong consideration to. Just because the Hawks beat the Bucks and the Raptors beat the Hawks doesn’t mean that the Raptors are going to easily beat the Bucks. Each team has its strengths that will make them more effective against certain opponents, and they also have weaknesses that can be exploited.
A lot of teams in college basketball are extremely reliant on the 3-point shot. That may work really well against most opponents, but it can quickly spell trouble when they go up against a team that excels at defending 3-pointers. The same goes for teams who struggle with committing turnovers and are facing a team that uses a high-pressure defense to get a lot of steals or teams that don’t rebound very well and are facing squads who dominate the glass.
Look at various statistical categories for both teams in a game to see if there are areas where one team is dominant and the other is weak. It’s also handy to look at recent meetings between the teams, which will give you a much better sense of exactly how the teams stack up against each other when they’re on the court.
We live in the information age, which is both a good thing and a bad thing when it comes to betting on basketball.
The good news is that you should be able to find virtually any information you want on an upcoming matchup. Thanks to the internet, television, Twitter, and other news sources, no stone is left unturned when it comes to info about games in the NBA or even most levels of college basketball.
The bad news is that all that information is readily available to everyone else as well, including the bookmakers. When there’s an injury that is going to have an impact on that night’s game, it won’t take long before everyone knows about it. Same goes for when a player comes back from injury or when a player or coach says something that indicates their strategy or motivation for their upcoming contest.
This makes it absolutely critical that you stay on top of news, transactions, and analysis for whatever basketball league you’re betting on. Ideally, you’ll be able to learn of major news within minutes of its development so that you can capitalize on it with a wager before the oddsmakers move their betting lines. Identify a short list of extremely reliable information sources who are great at breaking news when it happens, and set them up for automatic notifications via email, Twitter, or whatever other methods you prefer. Even if the oddsmakers are on top of breaking news themselves, there’s usually going to be a two- or three-minute window in which you can get a bet in before the lines move.
And don’t forget that the best and quickest source of information is your own eyes and ears. Watch as much basketball as you can to see how teams are playing, and listen to the commentary for any nuggets of info you might be able to glean. It obviously won’t be possible to watch every single game, but being plugged into basketball as a viewer will go a long way towards strengthening your comprehension of the sport and making you a better bettor.
In our last point, we discussed how much information about basketball is readily available and how it’s so critical to stay on top of it.
There is another approach that you can use if you don’t feel like you’re always going to be able to be on top of breaking basketball news as much as you’d like: focus on teams and leagues that don’t get as much attention.
Let’s face it. When it comes to the NBA, almost all of the reporting and analysis is about LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, James Harden, and a select few other top players and teams in the league (at least when LaVar Ball isn’t hogging the TV cameras instead). Meanwhile, NCAA basketball coverage is dominated by news and reports on the most prestigious programs and the power conferences. With 24/7 coverage of anything involving those players and teams, it’s always going to be a challenge to stay one step ahead of the bookies.
So instead of beating your head against the wall trying to find betting value on games involving the most popular players and teams, try going off the beaten path. Whether it’s the weaker teams in the NBA, some of the lesser-known conferences in NCAA basketball, international competition, or even the WNBA, you’re going to have an easier time identifying value on basketball games that aren’t as constantly and heavily scrutinized.
For example, an injury to the leading scorer of one of the teams in the NCAA’s Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference isn’t going to make the scrolling ticker on the bottom of the ESPN screen. The return to action of a role player in the WNBA isn’t going to get much media attention, but it could absolutely have a big effect on that night’s contest. And not many people are going to be too excited about an NBA matchup between the lowly Nets and Suns, reducing the amount of coverage those teams get prior to tip-off.
Since most people do the majority of their basketball betting on games involving the biggest stars and most popular teams, oddsmakers pay the most attention to those markets as well. That means they’re not putting nearly as much time or effort into the less-followed basketball games, making those lines a lot easier to beat.
All right, it’s time for a trick question: who is your favorite basketball team?
If you gave the answer of an actual team, it might spell trouble for your chances of making money betting on basketball. The best answer to that question is, “The team that I bet on tonight.”
We’re half-serious here, because it’s perfectly normal to have a favorite basketball team or two. Whether it’s a team that plays in your area, a club that you cheered for as a youngster, your alma mater school, or just a franchise that you enjoy watching play, having certain teams that you always root for is a big part of what makes sports fun.
You’ve just got to be careful not to let it influence your bets.
Wagering on games that involve your team is a delicate balance for anyone looking to make money betting on basketball. Many people struggle to put their bias aside and objectively analyze their favorite team’s chances of winning a game. We’ve even heard of some people who bet against their team in big games, rationalizing it by saying that if their team loses, at least they’ll make some money.
Make sure that whoever your favorite team is has no impact on the bets you place. You should be willing to bet against any team as long as the odds are in your favor. And if you can’t take off the rose-colored glasses long enough to see that your favorite team might not be perfect or invincible after all, you might just want to avoid betting on any game involving them altogether.
Everybody’s got an opinion, especially when it comes to sports. It’s become impossible to count the number of TV shows, radio programs, podcasts, blogs, and websites who love to weigh in on who they think is going to win that night’s games.
In fact, predictions aren’t just limited to who will win the games anymore. With gambling becoming so popular in recent years, especially with the possibility of the government regulating it in the near future, we’ve seen an explosion of point spread, Over/Under, and props projections everywhere on the internet and social media.
Just make sure to remember that anyone can seem like an expert on anything until proven otherwise. A lot of basketball journalists are able to break down various parts of a game and give terrific analysis, but they aren’t any good at actually predicting who will win the game or how many points will be scored. The same goes for the talking heads on TV or even all of the handicappers on Twitter, even though they sound convincing every time they make a prediction.
Before you blindly start “tailing” someone’s picks or placing wagers based on someone else’s advice, take the time to see how their picks have performed in the past. A winning day, week, month, or even year doesn’t necessarily prove someone is a long-term winner worthy of your trust, either. Ideally, you should track someone’s record back over several seasons or a few thousand picks, since a larger sample size is a more accurate measure of their true abilities.
And remember that at the end of the day, you’re the one who’s placing the wager. You’re the one who loses money if it’s wrong. Give yourself some credit and trust your own opinion on a game, especially if you’ve put in some research and feel pretty strongly about it. You don’t want to end up going against your gut because a supposed “expert” is on the other side of the game, then end up losing a wager that you would have won.
That said, we’re not suggesting that you completely ignore everyone else’s picks and opinions. In fact, we post our own basketball picks here on this site, and it’s one of the most popular sections we have. Just be sure to take everything you read with a grain of salt, and don’t make the mistake of assuming everyone else knows more about basketball than you do.
Ever made a bet, thought you won, and then realized you didn’t win because the bet was placed incorrectly? If that hasn’t happened to you, you’re extremely lucky, because it’s happened to most of us.
The incorrect inputting of wagers is something that is most common at physical sportsbooks and casinos like the ones you see in Vegas. Agents booking the bets can be extremely busy, depending on the time of year and how many games are going on that night. They have to rush to get as many bets in as possible right before a game starts or during halftime. The job of keying in rotation number after rotation number seems pretty monotonous, so you can understand why the agent might get things wrong once in a while. And then there’s always the possibility for human error, something that is inevitable on occasion.
Whether you’re placing a basketball bet at a real-life sportsbook or an online betting site, you need to be sure that your wager is entered correctly immediately after you place it. If you realize the error right away and point it out to a sportsbook agent, they should be able to cancel the wager and correct their mistake. And although any wager you made at an online betting site won’t be cancelled, you can at least bet the other side right away to negate your mistake.
The potential for incorrect wager placement is just one more reason to bet online instead of placing wagers at Vegas sportsbooks. When you’re standing in a jam-packed Vegas casino with so much going on, it’s easy to just take your betting ticket and walk away from the counter without double-checking. But if you place your bet online, most sites will show you what your wager looks like before you finalize any bet, and you’ll also be able to hedge off an incorrect wager at any time.
Plus, if you enter the wager improperly, at least the mistake was on you. That’s a lot easier to stomach than having someone else’s error cost you a winning bet.
Whether you’re gambling to make the games more fun or you’re seriously trying to make some money, the importance of comparing betting lines available at different betting sites might be the most underappreciated thing about basketball betting.
As you may already know, odds on point spreads, Over/Unders, and other wagers can vary from site to site. The differences won’t usually be much (for example, Bovada may have the Warriors -5 while BetOnline has them at -4.5, or the Over/Under on a game might be 212 at 5Dimes and 211 at TopBet), and most people don’t think a point or half-point discrepancy between sites is worth worrying about in a sport that is as high-scoring as basketball.
The truth is, every point and even half-point really does matter. Even though pro teams often score 100-plus points, a ton of basketball games are decided very close to the point spread and Over/Under numbers that the bookmakers posted before the game. Heck, many basketball wagers are decided in the final minute, when the losing team starts intentionally fouling and it becomes a free throw-shooting contest.
Just imagine that you bet the Cavaliers -3 when another site was offering them at -2. If the game is tied late in regulation and Cleveland has the final possession, the best you can do with -3 is push. Meanwhile, a 3-pointer by the Cavs would allow you to still win your wager if you’d bet Cleveland at -2, and a 2-point field goal would result in a push.
Getting that extra point or half-point on your wager may only end up mattering a few times out of every hundred basketball bets you place. But winning instead of pushing and pushing instead of losing can be enough to turn a 53% winning percentage into a very profitable 55% success rate instead.
Comparing lines is yet another reason to bet basketball online instead of in Vegas. Before the internet age, pro gamblers had to use “runners” who physically walked/ran from casino to casino looking for the best possible odds. But with the internet, all it takes to compare basketball odds is a few clicks of your mouse.
By now, we’ve illustrated several reasons why online gambling sites are the best way to bet on basketball. To review, they’re more convenient, they allow you to enter your own wagers and double-check your bets, and you can shop around easily for the best number.
But don’t make the mistake of just joining the first betting site you find on Google, depositing money, and starting to gamble. While there are many solid choices out there when it comes to betting sites, there are also many online sportsbooks that prey on uninformed beginners with offers of huge sign-up bonuses and other perks, then don’t pay out when you win.
We’ve got many years of experience using various betting sites online, and we’ve also put a lot of time and effort into researching other sites we weren’t as familiar with. As a result, we’ve been able to narrow things down to a short list of sites we recommend the most, based mostly on their reliability for paying winning bettors but also factoring in other important things such as convenience, bonuses, and odds.
After all, what’s the point of betting real money on basketball if you don’t know for sure that you’ll get paid when you win? As long as you use one (or more) of the betting sites on our recommended list, we’re sure you won’t have any bad experiences betting basketball online.