Betting on basketball often involves a lot more than just picking the winner of a game. But, many new bettors don’t realize that they have these sort of options. They think you get to pick the winner and that’s it. Well, that’s not the case, and it’s important that you know the different types of basketball bets that are available for you.
While you don’t have to use every type of basketball bet available, you need to know they exist to ensure you’re making the right bet and not leaving free money on the table. In this guide, we’re going to cover all of the different types of basketball bets that are available. We’ll talk about how each bet works, exactly what has to happen for you to win, and any important nuances that you need to be aware of.
Most of these bets will be available regardless of what league you like to bet – NBA, NCAA basketball, Euro League, and more. You won’t see every bet available on every game, but a large portion of these should be available somewhere especially on the higher profile games and when you bet online.
While we preached about the diversity of basketball bets in our intro, we still do need to cover the most popular option out there if we’re going to be thorough. The moneyline bet is the most popular and easiest to understand bet in basketball. In this bet, all you have to do is pick a game winner. It’s really that simple. Two teams are going to play…you pick which one you think is going to win…place a moneyline bet on that team…if they win the game, you win.
It’s important to point out that it does not matter how they win the game or by how many points. The game can finish in regulation or in overtime. It can be a pretty and dominating victory or a hard-fought, one-point victory. As long as the basketball team that you bet on to win walks away with the win, you win.
The one area of moneyline bets that can sometimes confuse people is how they pay out. You are not going to get the same amount of money by picking a massive favorite to win as you would by picking a massive underdog. Why? Well, think about it logically. If the sportsbook were to pay everyone the same amount of money no matter who they picked, how many people would bet on the underdogs? Probably no one. Everyone would bet the favorites, the sportsbooks would lose a ton of money, and they would be out of business.
To counteract this, the online sportsbooks look to balance their action on both sides of the game. To do this, they encourage people to bet the underdogs by offering higher payouts on moneyline bets. To discourage a truckload of betting on the favorites, the sportsbooks pay out less money for a correct favorite moneyline pick. They’ll adjust how much more or less they pay based on how big of a favorite or underdog teams are and what sort of action is coming in.
So, when you make a basketball moneyline bet, you need to pay attention to how much you stand to win on a correct pick. There will be times that you end up not betting on a team that you expect to win because the money you stand to win is not worth the risk. To break things down further, we’ve created a dedicated moneyline betting page for you. We’ll cover everything you need to know about betting moneyline wagers and what you need to know to give yourself the best chance of walking away profitable.
The second-most popular basketball bet available to you is the spread bet. Spread bets usually confuse people initially, but once you understand them, they’re easy to understand and create a great opportunity to bet some games that you normally wouldn’t touch.
For example, let’s say that the Dallas Mavericks are playing the Orlando Magic in an upcoming game. But, let’s also say that the Mavericks are way better than the Magic and are probably going to win the game by 10 points. If you only have moneyline bets to choose from, then you’re not going to want to bet this game. You can’t bet the Magic because they are probably going to lose and if you bet on the Mavericks you’re probably going to get terrible payout odds. You’d have to bet a ton of money just to see a little profit, and that’s really not appealing.
But, this is where spread bets come in. The sportsbook will decide how many points they think that a team is going to win or lose the game by. They will then allow you to bet based on which team is going to outperform that prediction. So, let’s say in this game that the sportsbook thinks that the Mavericks are going to win by 8 points. This is what the spread bet would look like.
Now, you already said that you think the Mavericks are going to win by 10 points. So, in this situation, you would place a spread bet on the Mavericks. Let’s break down why. The Mavericks are -8 in this game. This means the sportsbook thinks they are going to win by 8 points. In order for you to win your bet, the Mavericks have to outperform this expectation. So, if they win by 9 points, that’s better than they were expected to do right? This would be a win. So, the fact that you think they are going to win by 10 points means you think they are going to outperform the expectation of only winning by 8 points.
What happens if you think the Mavericks are only going to win by 6 points? Well, you wouldn’t want to place a spread bet on the Mavericks because winning by 6 points is underperforming their expectations of winning 8. So, even though the Mavericks win the game, you would lose that spread bet because they did not exceed their expectations.
In that situation, you would actually want to place a spread bet on the Magic. The Magic are expected to lose the game by 8 points. So, as long as they lose the game by fewer than 8 points, they are outperforming their expectations. Yes, you heard that correct. The team you bet on can lose the game, and you can still win your spread bet as long as they outperform their expectation.
This is the general idea of basketball spread bets. Typically, they pay out the same (just slightly worse than even money) on both sides of the bet. You’d get the same amount of money if you bet the Mavericks and won as if you bet the Magic and won. Spread bets in basketball are great because they give you the opportunity to bet on a lot more games and even bet on teams that you expect to lose.
If you’d like to learn more about spread bets, we highly recommend you check out our dedicated spread betting guide. We’ll talk about what happens if they win or lose by exactly what the spread is, what it means when you see half point spreads, the few instances where both sides won’t pay out the same amount, and everything else you could possibly want or need to know about spread bets. This is a must read if you’re new to this type of bet and are planning on making one.
The close third in popularity when it comes to betting on basketball is the totals bet. This bet is also sometimes referred to as an over/under bet. While this bet can be applied to multiple things during a basketball game, it is most popularly applied to the total cumulative score of the game.
The sportsbooks will decide and set a line on how many total points they think are going to be scored in the game by both teams. You are then tasked with deciding if you think more or fewer points will be scored during the game. If you think it will be more, you take the over. If you think it is fewer, you take the under. Most of the time in basketball the over/under will pay out the exact same on either side of the bet.
For example, let’s revisit our game between the Mavericks and the Magic. Let’s say the sportsbook thinks that the total number of points scored in the game by both teams will be 214. This is what you’d see as the totals bet in the sportsbook.
If you think that the total points scored in the game by both teams (you add both final scores together) will be greater than 214, take the over. If you think it will be fewer than 214, you take the under. Now, a lot of people will get confused when they see a team name on each of the lines. This is just the way that sportsbooks like to list things to save space.
It does not matter which team scores the points or which team wins the game. It could be 215-0 Mavericks or 215-0 Magic and you would still win the over bet. It does not matter at all which team scores the points. It could be 118-110 Mavericks or 118-110 Magic, and the over would still be the winning side. You are not required to pick who the game winner is at all.
Totals bets are awesome because they allow you to bet on the game flow of a basketball game. If you think it’s going to be a game loaded up with points and not a lot of defense being played, you can bet the over. If you think it’s going to be a game where points are hard to come by, you can bet the under. It’s also a fun way to bet against both teams if you’re just betting for fun and don’t like either team. Take the over and root against both sides every single play!
If you’d like to find out a bit more about totals bets and how to beat them, we do have a dedicated guide for you below that covers all of the nuances that you need to know if you’re going to add totals bets to your basketball betting strategy.
Honorable mention for popularity in the basketball betting category goes to the futures bet. A futures bet in basketball is a wager on something that is going to be decided in the future over the course of multiple games. For example, if you were to bet on who you think was going to be the NBA Champion, you’d be making a futures bet. If you were to bet on who would win the NCAA tournament, you’d be making a futures bet.
Futures bets can be made at any point before the bet is decided. So, you could make an NBA futures bet on the end of year Champion before the season starts, or mid-season, into the playoffs, or even during the NBA Finals series. The odds you get for a correct pick will change based on when you bet, though. The more certainty there is around that team winning, the lower the payout you will get. The lower the degree of certainty there is around that team winning, the more of a potential payout you will get.
For example, if you pick a team that is supposed to be terrible at the beginning of the season to win the NBA Championship, you are going to get an insanely high payout if you’re right. On the other hand, if you make a bet on a team to win the NBA Championship when they are up 2 games to 0 in the finals, you probably won’t get that great of a payout.
If you’d like to learn more about futures bets and how to beat them, we’ve got a dedicated guide that you should check out. We’ll go way more into detail on futures bets and the different types you’ll run into as well as some ways to beat them
As we move into the lesser popular bet types, these are still frequently used by amateur and professional basketball bettors. We’re talking about parlays, teasers, and pleasers. While these bets may seem confusing on the surface, they really aren’t that bad once you break them down one at a time. In the sections below, we’re going to do just that.
A basketball parlay is nothing more than two or more individual bets strung together into one individual bet. It allows to win a larger sum of money for a smaller risked investment. But, keep in mind that this higher payout is only because it is much harder to win more than one bet at a time. In order for you to win your parlay, you have to win every single bet on the slip, or you lose.
For example, let’s say that you think the Suns, Warriors, and Raptors are going to win their games and cover the spread tonight. Let’s say you want to bet $10 on each game. If you were to get paid at (-110) for each bet, you would get about $27 in profit if you were right on all three bets. But, if you took that same $30 and put it on a parlay for all three games, you’d get just over $178 in profit! Even if you only bet $10 on the parlay, you’d get a profit of just under $60.
Now, a lot of people hear that and wonder why you would bet anything other than basketball parlays. You have to remember that in order for you to win a parlay you have to win every single bet on the card. So, let’s say that in our previous scenario the Suns and the Warriors get the job done but the Raptors win but fail to cover the spread. If we were betting $10 a game, we’d end up with a profit of about $8 total. If we bet $30 or $10 on the parlay, we would get $0. You have to win every single game on your parlay in order to win that bet.
There’s a lot more that goes into parlays that we’ll cover in our dedicated guide linked at the bottom of this section. We highly recommend you take a minute and check that out if you’re interested in getting involved with parlays.
A basketball teaser bet is very similar to a parlay bet with one major difference. Let’s talk about what is the same first. With a teaser bet, you have multiple individual bets that are strung together into one. In order to win your teaser bet, you have to win every bet on the card. If you lose one, you lose the entire card.
But here’s the big difference. Basketball teaser bets only work with totals and point spreads, and all of the totals or spreads are shifted by a set number of points in your favor! This means that every one of your bets is now going to be easier to win. Yes, you will get paid less than a regular parlay, but you are going to win more often.
For example, let’s say you were going to do a 3-team 5-point teaser on the following games. These are the lines that you would get if you bet each game individually.
If you were to bet those three games as a parlay, you would have to win each of them by the spreads posted. But, if you were to do these as a teaser, this is what the lines would be for you. They would all be shifted 5 points in your favor.
Notice that each game now becomes much easier for you to win. This is what a teaser is. You do also get the choice to decide on what happens with ties. With a parlay, your parlay will usually just take the tie off as if it never happened. So, if you did a 3-team parlay and won 2 games and tied 1, you would be paid out as a win for a 2 team parlay.
But, with a teaser, you get the option of deciding how ties pay out. You can have them pay out just like a parlay, have them treated as wins, or have them treated as losses. This will affect the payouts as each scenario has a differing degree of difficulty to win.
If you’re interested in basketball teasers, check out the fully dedicated guide we have at the end of this section.
A basketball pleaser is much like a teaser except that the lines all move against you. So, it now becomes much more challenging to win your bets, but as you might guess, the payouts associated are that much better. Again, you do have to win every single bet on your pleaser in order to cash your ticket. If you’d like to learn more about pleasers, check out the guide we have linked below.
The last basketball bet type that we want to talk about today are proposition bets. These bets basically encompass everything else that does not fall into the above categories. The sportsbook will propose something happening in a basketball game, and you will get to wager on whether it does or does not. For example, you might have the option of betting on whether or not a certain player will get more or fewer than 3 blocks in a game. Or, you might get the opportunity to bet whether there will be a technical foul in a game or not.
The possibilities are pretty endless when it comes to basketball prop bets. It usually depends on what the sportsbook feels like offering for that game. We can tell you this. You will get more prop bet options when you bet online. You will also get more options on higher profile games. In other words, you’d probably see a lot more prop wagers on an NBA finals game than an NBA preseason game between two bad teams.
If you’d like to learn more about prop betting and how you can put yourself in a position to make a lot of money betting basketball props, check out the dedicated guide we’ve constructed for you below.
The last thing that we want to talk about before we send you back out into the wild is this. Just because all of these different bets exist does not mean that you have to use all of them. Don’t confuse yourself and complicate your strategy if it’s simple and it’s working. These bets are only being shared with you in case you need them, or they have a good spot in your winning poker strategy.
You do not get any super-secret special odds by using more complex bets or by diversifying the types of bets you make. As long as you are finding value and picking winners, you’re going to be profitable. That can come by using only one of these types of bets, a few of them, or all of them. Find what works for you and repeat it over and over again.