NBA Odds Interpretation: A Betting Guide for Basketball

The first step in basketball betting is determining the sites and methods for placing wagers. There are two options for placing a wager in the US: online or in person.

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You probably either live in a state where online betting is legal or you are close to one where it is. Since 2018, more than half of the states in the United States have made it legal to bet on sports online.

Basketball wagers can also be placed in person, but this method is less effective if you want to check the odds, place a live wager, or take an early payout to protect your investment.

Types of Basketball Bets and Comprehending Odds

While the NBA and NCAA are the sportsbooks that most American sports bettors will be looking to wager on, some sportsbooks also let you wager on international leagues.

Let’s examine the various basketball wagers that can be placed through online sports betting, regardless of the league.

NBA Moneyline

The simplest method of basketball betting is the moneyline. Your wager is on the team that will win by a wide margin.

It is not necessary for the team to win in regulation or even by a specific number of points. A 20-point rout is equivalent to a one-point victory in overtime.

Sportsbooks set moneyline odds for every team according to how likely it is to win in order to even out the handle on both sides.

A favorite is indicated by minus odds, and an underdog is indicated by plus odds.

For example, the Phoenix Suns might have odds of -250 if the oddsmakers strongly favor the Suns against the Indiana Pacers. To win $100 in this scenario, you would need to bet $250 on Phoenix.

If the Pacers are listed by oddsmakers as +300 underdogs, a $100 wager could win you $300.

Spread NBA

Another popular single-game basketball wager that sportsbooks offer is the spread. It stands for the anticipated winning and losing teams’ margins of victory and defeat, respectively.

Even in games where one team is clearly the favorite, the spread helps create nearly even odds (usually around -110) for both teams.

Sportsbooks set a point total that the favorite must “cover,” or win by, in order for the wager to be paid out.

Let’s take an example where the Boston Celtics are 9.5 points ahead of the Washington Wizards. The Celtics would then need to win by a minimum of 10 points in order to cover the spread.

In that case, the Wizards would be rated as +9.5 underdogs. They would cover the spread if they were to win the game hands-down or lose by fewer than 9.5 points.

If you believe a team will win by more or fewer points, you can bet on your own spread as there are usually alternative spreads available for each game.

Point totals for the NBA

An Over/Under, sometimes referred to as a point total, can be team- or game-specific. You can place a wager on how many points one team will score or on the total number of points that both teams will score in a game.

You can wager that the total score will either be more or less than 226.5 points if the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors have a 226.5 point game.

Point totals typically have odds on both sides that are almost equal (-110).

The idea behind a team-specific point total is the same, but you’re speculating on how many points one of the two teams will score by wagering the Over or Under. One could wager on the Heat to score more or less than 112 team points, for instance.

Totals can be changed both upward and downward, just like spreads.


Parlays provide higher odds and a bigger possible payout by combining several markets into a single wager. But for the wager to be paid out, each parlay leg must land.

It’s usually harder to win a parlay because you have to place all of your bets correctly.

There have been cases where bettors have cashed out six figures for little more than pocket change. In 2022, three friends wagered $0.50 to win $130,000 on a six-leg, first-basket parlay, which was one of the most improbable parlays to hit in basketball history.

Compared to straight bets like the moneyline, parlays have a higher hold for sportsbooks.

Props of NBA Players

Player props, also known as propositions, are wagers placed on a particular player to hit or miss a particular statistic.

You can wager on a wide range of statistical categories for player props, such as turnovers, steals, blocks, triple-doubles, double-doubles, points, rebounds, assists, and 3PM (three-pointers made). It is also possible to wager on combinations of different categories, depending on the sportsbook.

First Position

Another simple wager is the “first-basket” wager. You pick the player you think will make the game’s opening basket. It’s a very risky kind of prop bet.

More specialized first-basket wagers include predicting which player will make the first basket of the game and how (three-pointer, two-pointer, etc.).

Those who like long (less favorable) odds and fast action may find these bets intriguing. These wagers are not advised if you’re trying to increase your sports betting bankroll.

Margins/Race To/Game Props

A wide range of wagers, such as margins, the race to a specific number of points in a given quarter, or whether or not a game will go into overtime, can be included in game props.

Compared to betting on the moneyline or spread, margin betting is far more speculative. It asks you to predict the margin of victory (point total) for a specific team.

These bets offer big odds, but it’s very difficult to predict the differential accurately at the end of a game. The amount a team wins by at the end of a given quarter, or the amount a team wins by exactly or within a range, can be included in margin bets.

Stat Heads

While it’s not offered by every online sportsbook, the stat leaders bet can be intriguing. A “stat leaders” wager might be, for instance, “Steph Curry to finish with the most points.”

It wouldn’t be restricted to the Golden State Warriors alone, though. If Curry scored the most points of any player on either team, you would have won the wager.

An alternative way to wager on a player’s point total prop is with this kind of bet.

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