NBA odds for individual games are fairly straightforward and resemble odds you might see in most major sports. At its most basic, bettors can wager on an outright winner (“betting the moneyline”); the total points scored in a game; or make a handicapped bet, either giving or getting points. There are also “prop bets," such as a player's scoring total or who will lead at halftime. Unlike futures odds that often see large swings over time, unless there is a significant event (such as an injury) daily NBA odds typically only move slightly based off of where more money is being bet.
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Betting against the spread remains the most popular form of NBA betting. Often referred to as the “spread” or the “line,” a number is set that balances out the difference oddsmakers see between the favorite (-4, -10.5, etc.) and the underdog (+4, +10.5, etc.).
For example, on a game with an NBA line of -5.5, betting on the favorite will result in a win if that team is victorious by six or more points; betting and winning the underdog results if they lose by five or fewer points, or win the game outright.
Because the NBA point spread balances the odds on the game, both teams are typically between -105 and -120 to bet on, meaning wagering $105 on a -105 bet will net a bettor $100. If an underdog is +105, for example, betting $105 will net a bettor $100 if victorious.
No NBA point spreads are used when betting on NBA moneylines. Instead, only the final score is taken into consideration. Because favorites are far more likely to win games outright than underdogs, smaller odds are given to teams expected to win.
For example, an NBA championship contender might be -400 to win at home against an underdog destined for the NBA Lottery, who has +350 odds to win. In this scenario, a bettor would need to wager $400 on the favorite to win $100.
Conversely, wagering $100 on the underdog would yield a $350 win if an upset occurred. More often than not moneylines are used to bet underdogs because of the large payout. It can be costly to bet a significant favorite, and usually bettors will simply bet the favorite to cover the point spread instead.
NBA Over Under
The recent uptick in scoring over the past decade has made over-under betting a more popular form of wagering. The process is easier than betting the spread or wagering on a money line because it’s simply adding up the point totals of both teams.
Oddsmakers set a point total (or just “total”) and bettors wager on whether the two teams will combine for more points –the over – or fewer points – the under – than that total.
For example, if oddsmakers set the over-under at 208.5, a 106-100 (206) total means the under hits; a 110-104 final (214 points) means the over hits. Odds for these bets are similar to point spreads, with an over or under costing between -105 and -120 depending on how the public is expected to bet.