How to Bet the NBA

While the NBA isn’t on the same level as the NFL in terms of popularity, it’s a sport you can make some serious cash in. When it comes to handicapping the NBA, there’s a lot that goes into it.

This article is for those of you who are knew to betting on the NBA and want a better understanding of how it works.

Beating the NBA odds is no easy task. That’s why I recommend you let one of our expert NBA handicappers do the work for you. I’m confident that with the help of their premium NBA picks, you can take your bankroll to the next level.

Point Spreads (Sides)

The most popular kind of bet to make is on the point spread.  The oddsmakers set a number to try and balance the two teams out.  If you bet on the favorite, that team must not only win the game but do so by more than the spread.  If you take the underdog they either have to win the game outright or lose by fewer points than the spread. 

If you bet the point spread you will typically have to lay -110 odds. This means for every $1.10 you bet, you will win $1.00.  To win $100 on your wager, you would have to risk $100. However, at 5 Dimes you can get reduced juice, as low as -105,. It’s a big reason why they are my favorite book.  Let’s look at an example:

Phoenix Suns +8
Los Angeles Lakers -8

If you place a $50 bet on either side you will risk $55 to win $50.  Let’s say the final score is Lakers 104, Sun 94.  If you bet Los Angeles -8, you would have won your bet. Los Angeles won the game by 10 points.

If you took Phoenix, you would be a loser. The Suns lost by 10 points and were only getting 8. They failed to cover by 2 points. For Phoenix to have won the bet, they would have had to lose by 7 or less. If LA would have won by 8, neither team would cover and it would be graded as a push (no bet).

Money Lines

If you aren’t quite confident betting on the spread, you can simply bet on who you think will win the game. To do so, you will make your bet on the money line.

While picking the winner is easier with the money line, there’s a lot of risk involved. Let’s take a look at another example.

Chicago Bulls -350

Milwaukee Bucks +300

If you wanted to bet the Bulls to win the game on the money line, you would have to risk $350 to win $100. At these odds, you would have to win 4 out of every 5 wagers you make. If you placed 4 bets and went 3-1, you would be down money at these odds. You would win $300 on your 3 winners and lose $350 on your 1 loss.

On the flip side of this, you could bet the Bucks to win the game. Here you would have to risk only $300 to win $100. You would have to win just 1 out of every 3 bets at these odds to break even.

Keep in mind that the money line will not be different for each game. The bigger the difference in talent, the bigger the money line will be.

Totals (Over/Unders)

You can also make a wager on the total of any game, which is also known as the over/under. Oddsmakers will set a number of what they think the final combined score will be. You can either bet on the game to finish over that mark or under it.

For example, the total for a game between the Cavaliers and Warriors may be 205. If the final score of that game is 110-96, the over would be a winning bet, as the two combined for 206.

The odds for total wagers is similar to that of point spreads. Regardless of the number set, the standard juice will always be -110 on both sides of the total.


When you bundle your bets together this is called a parlay wager.  If one bet loses, your entire wager loses even if the rest of your games hit.  You can get some massive payouts but you are adding quite a bit of risk since there is no margin for error.  Take a look at the payouts that are available depending on how many bets you select.

Parlay Payouts

# of TeamsPayout*$10 Wager Payout
2 Teams13/5$26.00
3 Teams6/1$60.00
4 Teams10/1$100.00
5 Teams25/1$250.00
6 Teams40/1$400.00
7 Teams75/1$750.00
8 Teams150/1$1,500.00
9 Teams300/1$3,000.00
10 Teams700/1$7,000.00
11 Teams1,100/1$11,000.00
12 Teams1,800/1$18,000.00


Do some bets look too good to be true?  Occassionally you will think that with a side or a total, but nearly all teasers give you that feeling.  A teaser bet is like a parlay in that every game you include has to win for you to profit.  The difference is that in exchange for lower odds you get to move the odds in your favor by a number of points.  Take a look at the following teaser payout chart to see what you can win with a certain number of bets and by moving the line a certain number of points.

Teaser Odds

Points5 pts5½ pts6 pts
2 Team-110-120-130
3 Team+145+135+125
4 Team+300+250+200
5 Team+450+400+350
6 Team+600+550+500
7 Team+800+700+600

I have an entire guide to betting NBA teasers that you might want to look at.  It shows you the profitable numbers that you’ll want to tease up and down on underdogs and favorites.  You’ll also want to open accounts at a couple of different books.  We compared basketball teaser payouts from some of the top choices.  You can see where you get your action in makes a big difference.


It use to be just the biggest games of the season had proposition wagers available. Now almost every game has numerous prop bets listed. Prop bets can be a number of different things. There’s individual player props on the number of points, rebounds, or assists they have.  There are head-to-head props. These would be something like who is going to score more points between two players. There’s also team prop bets, like who will score first.

If you know how a player or team does against a specific opponent, you can take advantage of some soft lines here. These odds do not get a ton of thought from the books because they are not all that popular.  There is a downside to prop bets. Since the oddsmakers know they are vulnerable they offer 30+ cent lines on these options. Most books also have low limits on how much you can bet on these.


The odds on who is going to win the NBA Finalseach conference, and even each division are called futures bets.  You can bet who is going to get the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery and even which player will go first.  All of these longer term bets are called futures.  The downside is that your money is tied up for a significant period of time.  However, if you are a small player, this can keep you interested in a team for a long time.

Season Win Totals

A type of future that I particularly like are season win totals. Oddsmakers set a number of wins for the regular season for each team. You bet whether you think a team will go over or under that mark.

Keep in mind these bets are only offered before the season starts. You also have to be prepared to wait a long time to get paid. Payouts aren’t given until the regular season is officially in the books. 

Halftimes & Quarters

One extra note on sides and totals.  You have more options than just the entire game.  You can also bet point spreads, money lines, and totals for each half and even each quarter. There is opportunity here if you are paying attention. A few years ago the Lakers rested Kobe for the majority of the second quarter. As a result the Lakers were something like 15-67 ATS in the second quarter of those games.

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